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New Year's Food To Keep Your Party Munching Past Midnight

Oysters with creamed spinach and Parmesan-panko crust, by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Oysters with creamed spinach and Parmesan-panko crust, by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Looking to throw a last-minute New Year’s Eve party? Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst has a few quick hors d’oeuvres ideas, which she shares with host Robin Young.

New Year’s Eve means it’s time to celebrate — and eat.

If you’re planning a gathering with friends or family, keep it simple: A collection of favorite cheeses, these luscious oysters, crab cakes, spiced nuts and olives will get you started. Pop a few bottles of bubbly and cut up some winter citrus and toss with arugula and winter greens, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a great party.

Oysters With Creamed Spinach And Parmesan-Panko Crust

This is the definition of celebratory: my take on the classic New Orleans dish, oysters Rockefeller. If you’re not great at shucking oysters ask your fish store to shuck them for you and keep all the juices and the shells. A creamy, garlic-laced spinach mixture is placed in the empty shell, topped with the raw oyster and then with the Parmesan-panko topping and any oyster juices.

If you want to get fancy, bake the oysters and serve them on a bed of kosher salt — it looks like a bed of snow, and also mimics crushed ice, the traditional bed for serving fresh oysters. The salt can be reused for baking fish or vegetables.

Serves 4 to 6.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 8 ounces baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 to 3 cups kosher salt (optional)
  • 12 large oysters, shucked, lower (deeply curved) shells reserved
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces


  1. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and garlic and cook, stirring, for 10 seconds or so. Add the spinach a handful at a time, stirring until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the spinach is wilted, add the cream and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring, until thickened. Taste for seasoning. Set aside to cool. Can be made ahead of time and covered and refrigerated.
  2. Make the breadcrumb topping: Mix the panko and Parmesan together.
  3. Heat the broiler. Fill a rimmed baking sheet with the salt, if using, about 1/2 inch deep. Nestle the curved bottom oyster shells into the salt. Divide the warm spinach mixture (if you made it ahead of time reheat in a skillet) between the 12 shells and top each with a raw oyster and any oyster juice. Divide the topping between the oysters and dot each oyster with a piece of the butter.
  4. Broil about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the topping is browned. Serve immediately.

Indian-Spiced Nuts

For this recipe, use a combination of cashews, almonds, walnuts and pistachios — or your favorite nuts. Add a bowl of these nuts to your cheese board or serve with cocktails.

Makes 1 cup.


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup mixed nuts
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Coarse sea salt


  1. In a medium skillet, heat the oil and butter over low heat. Add the cumin, turmeric, curry, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the nuts and stir well, making sure to coat the nuts with all the spices. Cook 2 minutes. Add the honey (or maple syrup) and stir well to coat the nuts; cook for 2 minutes or until the nuts are golden brown and glazed.
  2. Pour the nuts and all juices and spices from the skillet onto a sheet of parchment paper or foil, spreading them out so they don’t clump. Let cool and remove from the paper. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Lime-Ginger Crab Cakes

These bite-sized crab cakes are a perfect accompaniment to Champagne or sparkling wine. You can make the cakes a day ahead of time and chill until serving. The lime-ginger sauce that goes along with them takes 5 minutes to put together. If you’re hosting a crowd, double or triple the recipe.

Serves 6.


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 scallions, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen thawed crab meat
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup panko or breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tablespoon canola oil


  1. In a small skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil and sauté the scallions and ginger with plenty of salt and pepper for 3 minutes over low heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, gently mix the sautéed scallions and ginger with the crab, beaten egg, lime zest, lime juice and only enough panko or breadcrumbs so you can take a small amount of the mixture and make a small pancake and it will hold together. Form 14 small, 1-inch cakes. If not cooking right away, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
  3. To cook: Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the 1/2 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Let the oil heat up. Cook the crab cakes about 6 at a time — being careful not to overcrowd the skillet — for 3 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through. If made ahead of time keep warm in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes. Serve with lime wedges and the lime-ginger sauce.

Lime-Ginger Sauce

This sauce goes beautifully as an accompaniment to the crab cakes, or it can be served with raw vegetables.


Mix 1 cup sour cream with 1 teaspoon lime zest, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped ginger, 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion, and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 1 cup.

Pear Relish

This is a great addition to a cheese plate, as the sweet fruit breaks up the richness of many cheeses.

Makes about 2 cups.


  • 2 pears, ripe but not too ripe, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rum (optional)


  1. In a medium saucepan mix the pears, olive oil, salt, pepper, butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rum if desired and cook another 2 minutes, until the pears are softened and the liquid has reduced. Taste for seasoning. The relish will keep for 4 days. Chill and serve with cheese.

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