For many folks in South Jersey, New Year's Day is reserved for rest and recuperation.
New Year's Eve brings a 12- to 16-hour shift for those "industry" workers who keep the bubbly flowing in clubs and restaurants along the shore. Hostesses and caterers may spend as much time prepping fancy canapes and counting out grapes for a family soiree. There are all those "final toasts" to the last year, and then it's time to clean up.
Simply put, says chef Jon Davies, lots of people are looking for simple fare to aid their recovery from recent activities - and maybe a little hair of the dog to cure a hangover from last year's mistakes. For cold winter weather, Davies likes to keep a jar of his hot buttered rum on hand in the fridge.
"It definitely warms you up on the insides, and in olden times, it was considered a medicinal drink. It certainly helps if you're nursing a hangover on New Year's Day," he says. "Warm rum drinks and hot spiced wines were often considered medicinal by the Colonial Americans and the English. The alcohol opens the sinuses and olfactory senses; it kind of clears the head … before it clouds."
Davies began serving his hot buttered rum at ski resorts, where guests would drink it to warm up from a cold day on the slopes, or pack it with them for a cross-country ski trip. He says he can hardly remember a year when he didn't work on New Year's Eve, then spend the first day of the year cleaning and doing inventory in a commercial kitchen.
Even while working as a chef-instructor at Atlantic Cape Community College's Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, he always has moonlighted as a consultant for restaurants such as the Mad Batter and The Merion Inn in Cape May. This year, he decided to skip the extra work and start the year by enjoying some time to himself - maybe with some hot buttered rum for company.
Chef Bruce Johns is a hot-foods instructor at ACA. But the hard stuff, such as baking his mom's extra-smooth pecan pie, he leaves to his nursing-instructor wife, JoAnna.
"It's a custard pie, so a lot of times it gets pretty firm. But my mom's, hers was just always lighter and softer," he says. "I don't know how; you're asking a hot-foods guy. I could probably get one of the baking instructors to tell you why. It's just one of those things I grew up on; it's what I like."
It's a good thing he liked it, because mom's pecan pie was served at every holiday from Thanksgiving to Easter to Fourth of July. And Johns isn't the only one in his family who liked it, one niece loved it so much, "it was her birthday cake from my mother every year."
When Johns' mother died about 4 years ago, JoAnna made sure the pie still appeared alongside the roast pork her husband serves at New Year's. And that, Johns says, proves it's no a complicated recipe to follow.
"My wife, who doesn't cook at all, has taken on making it for the holidays," he says. "If my wife can do it, anyone can do it."
Johns says he and JoAnna gave up running their own restaurant (JoAnna stayed out of the kitchen, running the front of the house) to have kids 18 years ago. And now he enjoys spending the holidays passing down his family's traditions to them.
For example, this old family recipe is so easy, you don't even have to whip the cream the old fashioned way.
"Believe it or not, we normally use a traditional can of whipped cream," he jokes. "It's our tradition to have canned whipped cream."
Contact Felicia Compian:
Hot Buttered Rum
•2 sticks butter
•1 cup dark brown sugar
•1 cup granulated brown sugar
•1 teaspoon cinnamon
•1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
•1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
•1 shot dark rum
In saucepan, melt butter and stir in sugars. Cook until sugars dissolve and mixture caramelizes, stirring constantly.
Add spices. Fold in ice cream and stir until it dissolves. Refrigerate mix. (It will hold for 2 to 3 weeks in fridge.)
To serve, heat glass coffee mug. Stir in 3 tablespoons mix plus one shot of dark rum. Top with boiling water.
Garnish with cinnamon stick.