For whatever reason, if you didn’t think about what you might be eating and drinking on New Year’s Day, you don’t have to resort to sad leftovers. That’s no way to start the year!
With a few pantry staples and fridge finds, you can make an all-day brunch menu that lets you ring in 2021 the way it deserves to be celebrated — with comforting carbs and quality couch time at home.
A light-bodied beer, like a pilsner or Mexican lager, is the ideal base here. Stir a can with tomato juice, if you’ve got it, plus lime juice, hot sauce and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. It’s refreshing, tangy and just spicy enough to wake you up.
More than mimosas
Similarly, if the idea of popping yet another bottle of prosecco is more than your belly can handle on New Year’s Day, go easy on yourself with another beer cocktail that’s as easy-drinking as a mimosa.
As thirst-quenching as a shandy might taste in the heat of summer, it’s ideal in any season as a brunch or midday drink. Avoid darker beers like stouts and Belgian tripels, but otherwise, play around with wheat beers, lagers and even IPAs to make your own custom blend.
Fakels — that’s fake bagels
Unless you’re a serious baker or biscuit maker, you may not have self-rising flour in the pantry. Don’t worry, you can still make these, but you’ll need a few more ingredients: Whisk 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt into 1 cup of flour as a substitute.
And not to worry if you don’t have a stand mixer, either. The dough can be easily mixed and kneaded in a bowl with your own two hands.
Na-cho usual breakfast
Traditionally made by frying stale corn tortillas, you can also use regular tortilla chips. Simmer them with your favorite salsa until they’ve softened a bit, then add eggs — scrambled or baked in the skillet, your call.
Top with cheese and whatever fixings happen to be in the fridge for a filling snack meal.
French toast time
Here’s a little language lesson: The French don’t call this dish “French toast.” They call it pain perdu, or “lost bread,” because it has historically been a way to use up all the leftover slices of bread that are on the verge of being too stale to eat. Sound like something you might have in your fridge?
You don’t need a full recipe to make French toast. Just whisk 1 cup milk, nondairy milk, half-and-half or cream — or any combination that gets you to 1 cup’s worth of dairy — with 3 large eggs to make the basic batter. This will get you enough for about 1 dozen slices of bread.
Flavor it with a few shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice or allspice, and add a splash of vanilla extract if you’ve got it. Then dunk the bread and cook it up in a pan. Finish with maple syrup, powdered sugar, whipped cream or anything else Buddy the Elf might approve of.
For a savory Monte Cristo-style French toast, skip the vanilla and sweeter spices. Top each cooked piece of toast with a slice of deli ham and sprinkle shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese, then broil until the cheese melts. Or if you’d like, you could also just whip up a regular Monte Cristo or two in the skillet.
A French fry finale
After a full day of lounging under blankets, you might want to step outside the house for a minute or two when the late-afternoon snack craving hits.
But you don’t have to go far — just a few steps to the car if you’d like to piggyback on our family’s New Year’s Day tradition: a trip to the McDonald’s drive-through for fries and lots of packets of BBQ sauce and ranch dressing for dipping.
We bring the bag back to the couch, eat the fries on real plates and savor each bite. It started out as a silly hangover fix, but now those hot, crisp fries are part of our way to wipe away the past year and start the New Year fresh.
Sure, we’ll go back to grain bowls and salads come January 2, but in this moment it’s our once-a-year, guilt-free chance to eat a beloved fast food indulgence that simply cannot be replicated at home.
And New Year’s Day just wouldn’t be the same without them.
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Casey Barber is a food writer, photographer and illustrator; the author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats”; and editor of the website Good. Food. Stories.