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Repas de Saint-Valentin (Okay, A Valentine’s Day Meal)

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone out there. There’s nothing more romantic than a quiet dinner with your sweetie, whether it’s out at a restaurant or at home.This dinner menu, which I got from Williams-Sonoma, is French-themed and requires a little more work than what we have cooked lately, but not much, and the rewards will be worth it. I have also included a dessert today, which I don’t normally do, but heck, it’s a special day, so why not?

The first course is a Riesling onion Soup with Herbed Croutons. It’s a variation on the classic French Onion Soup. It takes a little bit (about an hour in total) to prepare and cook, but it’s a nice touch to start off the meal and you could always make the soup a day ahead of time and re-heat it when you are ready to serve it for your meal.

Riesling Onion Soup with Herbed Croutons

3 tablespoons butter

4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 leeks, including pale green tops, sliced

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups Riesling (use a dry Riesling, not “late harvest”) 6 cups chicken stock (I am using homemade, find my recipe here)

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Herbed Croutons:

1/2 baguette, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs, such as tarragon, parsley, thyme or rosemary, in any combination 1/2 pound of Italian fontina cheese, cut into small cubes

In a large, wide saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, leeks, garlic and tarragon and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes more. Pour in the wine, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock and return to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, until reduced slightly, about 45 minutes.

To make the herbed croutons, preheat an oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, butter and herbs. Lightly coat each bread slice on both sides with the oil mixture. Toast the bread in the oven, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. (The croutons can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored, tightly covered, at room temperature.)

Preheat a broiler. Arrange individual ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet and ladle soup into the bowls. Top each serving with 2 or 3 croutons and an equal amount of the cheese. Place the baking sheet under the broiler 7 inches from the heat source and broil until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Remove from the broiler and serve immediately.

This recipe is for a service of 6, so you may want to cut it 2/3 if you are only making it for 2.

For the entrée, I am making Steaks with Shallot-Red Wine Sauce. I have made this before and posted the recipe in an earlier blog, so if you want to check it out, just click here and you can see the recipe for it. It’s very tasty and the only difference this time is that I am using bone-in ribeyes instead of boneless, but you can whatever cut of steak you like best.

I am making two sides with tonight’s meal. The first is Sautéed Spinach with Pine Nuts. I am making a slight variation of this, as pine nuts are quite expensive and I won’t use them very often. A good, cheaper alternative is slivered almonds, so I am going with those instead.

Spinach Sautéed with Pine Nuts

1/4 cup pine nuts (I am using slivered almonds instead)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 pounds spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves well rinsed (this sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. Spinach cooks down significantly when you saute it)

Salt and pepper to taste

If desired, toast the pine nuts (or almonds) by heating them gently in a dry, small, heavy fry pan over medium heat, tossing them every so often as they become golden and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Watch the nuts closely as they can burn very easily. When toasted, immediately pour them onto a plate.

In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and saute lightly until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Put the spinach with just the rinsing water clinging to the leaves in a saucepan over medium-high heat, cover, and cook until the spinach is bright green and wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well in a colander, pressing the spinach with the back of a spoon to remove excess moisture. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, chop it coarsely.

Add the spinach and nuts to the onion and garlic in the fry pan and return to medium heat. Stir until the spinach and onion are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

To go with the steak and spinach, I opted for Twice-Baked Potatoes tonight. You could easily go with roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes, but the twice-baked sounded like something different to try and you can use a variety of toppings, if you like.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

russet potatoes (7 to 8 ounces each), scrubbed, dried, and rubbed lightly with vegetable oil

2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoons butter , room temperature

2 medium scallions , white and green parts sliced thin

1/4 teaspoon salt

 Ground black pepper

 Put an oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the potatoes on foil-lined baking sheet until skin is crisp and deep brown and skewer easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour. Setting the baking sheet aside, transfer the potatoes to a wire rack and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Using an oven mitt or folded kitchen towel to handle the hot potatoes, cut each potato in half so that the blunt sides will rest on work surface. Using a small dinner spoon, scoop the flesh from each half into medium bowl, leaving a 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness of flesh in each shell. Arrange the shells on a lined sheet and return to the oven until dry and slightly crisped, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the potato flesh with fork until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients, including pepper to taste, until well combined.

Remove the shells from the oven and increase the oven setting to broil. Holding the shells steady on a pan with an oven mitt or towel-protected hand, spoon the mixture into crisped shells, mounding slightly at the center, and return to the oven. Broil until spotty brown and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

You can always use a different cheese instead of cheddar to change things up for yourself and the shells should come nice and crispy, not soggy, in this recipe.

Finally, on to dessert. I am not a dessert person and very rarely make them myself, but tonight I will give it a shot and this recipe is pretty easy to use and great for the chocolate lovers. You need to use a double boiler for this recipe, but if you don’t have one(and I don’t) you can use a makeshift one. Choose a saucepan and a heatproof bowl(preferably glass) that rests securely in the top. Fill the saucepan with water to a depth of about 1 to 2 inches. Once the bowl is placed atop the pan, the water must not touch it. Remember that boiling water bubbles up, so check the water level before setting the bowl in place. Bring the water to a boil, set the bowl in place, and reduce the heat so the water simmers gently. If the water bubbles up and is hitting the bowl, you’ll get condensation in the bowl, your chocolate will end up seizing, and you’ll end up having to start over.

Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)

3 egg whites, at room temperature

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly butter six 3/4-cup ramekins and dust with cocoa powder. Set the ramekins on a small baking sheet.

In the top pan of a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the pan over, but not touching, barely simmering water in the bottom pan and melt the chocolate and butter, then whisk until the mixture is glossy and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the cocoa powder and the orange zest on medium-high speed until thick. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and beat until well blended. The mixture will be very thick.

In a bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they are very foamy and thick. Sprinkle in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and increase the speed to high. Continue beating until firm, glossy peaks form. Spoon half of the beaten whites onto the chocolate mixture and whisk in until just blended. Add the remaining whites and stir gently until just blended. Spoon into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly.

Bake the cakes until they are puffed and the tops are cracked, about 13 minutes. The inside of the cracks will look very wet. Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the ramekins. Or run the tip of a small knife around the inside of each ramekin to loosen the cake, then invert the cakes onto individual plates.


You could serve these with a little dusting of powdered sugar and some raspberries or strawberries and maybe a dollop of whipped cream or creme anglaise (which I’m not adventurous enough to make, but some might be), or even a little vanilla ice cream with some shaved chocolate.

Okay, that’s it, my Valentine’s Day meal. It’s not as hard as it may seem, trust me. It’s just a matter of organizing your time and space so everything is done on time. You could even have everything set up to make the dessert and make it after you finish eating the dinner if you want. Enjoy your meal and your time with your special someone, have a nice glass of wine and snuggle by the fireplace. Tomorrow’s meal is back to simplicity with Cream of Cauliflower Soup. It’s our meat-free meal of the week so feel free to check it out. If you have any questions, comments, would like to let us know what you are making or eating tonight, please do! Have a great day everyone!

 

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This Week’s Meal Plan

We made it home from Saranac Lake. Winter Carnival was lots of fun and we had a great time visiting everyone, but we are all pretty tired tonight, so they’ll be no cooking tonight. Tonight we rely on the delivery of Planet Wings to feed us. They have good wings and burgers and we don’t have to leave the comfort of our home to enjoy it, so that’s what we are going with today. if you want to check out Planet Wings, you can visit their website here. We did, however, go shopping and have the meal plan in place for this week. Since it is going to be a bit chillier this week, we are going with two soup dinners for the week to war us up:

Monday: Chicken and Rice Soup

Tuesday: A special Valentine’s Day meal: Riesling Onion Soup with Herbed Croutons, Rib Eye Steak with Red-Wine Sauce, Spinach Sauteed with Pine Nuts, and Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes (I know, a dessert! Well it’s a special occasion)

Wednesday: Cream of Cauliflower Soup (our meat-free meal of the week)

Thursday:Oven-Fried Catfish with Potatoes and an Herb Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Friday: Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Saturday: We have down as a leftovers day.

Sunday: Roast Leg of Lamb, Roasted Potatoes, Carrots

You’ll need a few things that you may not normally buy to make some of these recipes, like the Riesling wine for the onion soup, cocoa powder for the chocolate cakes, pine nuts for the spinach, champagne vinegar for the vinaigrette, catfish, and leg of lamb. We’re doing some entertaining this week since Sean is off on Friday, we’ll entertain for Sunday dinner, and Valentine’s Day will be a special weeknight meal, so we do have some more labor-intensive recipes this week, but none of them are very difficult or time consuming. Even though the pot roast takes several hours to cook, once it’s prepared, it pretty much takes care of itself, and you could do it in a slow cooker if you prefer. You’ll also need lots of chicken stock this week since we are really making 3 soups, so if you had a chance to make some of your own stock, you’re in luck. I’ll have to make some more stock of my own to cover everything for the week.

Well, sorry, it’s a short post today, but I am tired from all the driving (it’s a 4 hour trip back from Saranac Lake) and I am going to eat some wings 🙂 Tune in tomorrow to start off the week with a nice, simple recipe of Chicken and Rice Soup. if you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, please do! I look forward to any input at all. Have a great night and we’ll start cooking again tomorrow!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Meal Plan Menu

 

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A Nice Sunday Dinner

It’s another nice day here in New York. So far I am loving this mild winter with warmer temperatures and no snow. I don’t get around too well in the snow and cold anymore, so this makes things a lot better for me as far as doing things outside and getting to go places. Since today is Sunday, we are relaxing at home, reading and listening to music, and it’s a great day to cook a nice family meal. While this meal is probably better in the summertime when you can grill outside, it’s still a good one and one of my favorites. Today we are making Pan Seared Steaks with a Red Wine Pan Sauce, Sautéed Mushrooms, Mashed Potatoes, Shrimp Scampi and Asparagus. It seems like a lot, but it really isn’t. You’ll probably spend more time peeling potatoes and shrimp than you will actually cooking, so if you can do some prep work ahead of time, your evening will go smoothly.

Pan-Seared Steaks with Red Wine Pan Sauce

Steaks

4 boneless beef steaks, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick, trimmed (I am using boneless ribeyes, but you could easily use any type of boneless steak for this one, Check and see what’s on sale)

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Red Wine Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 shallot, minced

3/4 cup chicken broth (use your own or store-bought)

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 teaspoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces and chilled (it does make a difference if it’s chilled)

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper

For the steaks: pat the steaks dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the steaks on the first side, about 4 minutes. Flip the steaks over and continue to cook until the desired doneness (I prefer medium), another 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a clean plate, tent with foil, and let them rest for 5 minutes.

For the sauce, add oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, wine and brown sugar,  scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in any accumulated meat juice. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time. Off the heat, stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the steaks before serving.

It’s a very easy recipe to use. A couple of notes about cooking the steak. If you’re using larger steak and have more than one, cook only one at a time. Crowding them into the pan won’t sear them, it will only boil them and you won’t get a nice crust on them. Make sure you get your pan REALLY hot before putting the steaks in. If the oil smokes when it’s in the pan, it’s hot enough. Also, make sure you pat the steaks dry before you put them in the pan. If the steaks have been sitting in their own liquid before they are cooked, their exterior won’t brown nicely; they are just going to steam. Finally, use a conventional surface skillet for this one to make sure you get the nice browned bits for the sauce.

Now that the steaks are done, let’s move on to the shrimp. I love shrimp, made just about any way, and scampi is one of my favorites. This is great as a meal on its own served over white rice, but today we are using it as an accompaniment to the steaks.

Shrimp Scampi

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley

1/2 tablespoon dry white wine or vermouth

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, then season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and the sugar. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half the shrimp to the pan in a single layer. Cook until the shrimp are curled and pink on both sides, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl and cover with foil. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.

Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds (garlic burns fast, you need to watch it!) Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice parsley, wine and cayenne. Whisk in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the shrimp with any accumulated juice to the skillet. Toss the shrimp until they are well coated with the sauce.

The shrimp takes next to no time to cook, so you could do this while your steaks are resting. Don’t cook the shrimp too long, they will be rubbery and you’ll regret it. Also, I often buy shrimp in the shell and save the shells when you are peeling; they can be used to make some fish stock for future recipes.

Okay we have our steak and our shrimp. We have made mashed potatoes before, but if you missed them, here’s my technique for making them from a past blog. Now we can move on to our other sides for the day. The first is sautéed mushrooms. They aren’t hard to cook, but take a little longer than the steak or the shrimp, so you may want to start them earlier.

Sautéed Mushrooms with Shallot and Thyme

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, halved if small, quartered if large

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/8 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the shallot and cook until the shallot is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Leave the mushrooms in chunks instead of slicing them thin, They give you a more meaty, substantial texture this way and don’t dry out like the thinner slices can.

They are lots of ways to cook asparagus (steamed, sautéed, boiled) but I am going to broil them today. I like the way they taste, and frankly I don’t have room on the stove top today with all the other dishes going on, so it works out well. You can serve the asparagus fresh from the oven, room temperature, or even chilled if you prefer.

Broiled Asparagus

1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed off

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh lemon juice (optional)

Adjust an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler. Toss the asparagus with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay the spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil the asparagus, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice (if using) before serving.

You could dress these up if you want with some Balsamic Vinaigrette like we made in an earlier recipe or sprinkle on a little Parmesan cheese or fresh herbs instead of the lemon juice. Even just tossing with some sesame seeds and a little soy sauce would be good.

Wow, we made a lot of food today and none of the recipes were difficult. I don’t normally make dessert, and it is Sunday, when we usually have dessert, but Julie is bringing dessert over today and she is a much better baker than I am, so whatever she brings would be better than what I could put together. At some point I’ll post dessert recipes on here if anyone asks for one, but I know a lot of family members who are much better at baking, so maybe they would like to provide us with some good dessert recipes (subtle hint). Enjoy your Sunday dinner and relax before the rest of the week begins. Have a glass of wine or a martini and kick back, listen to some music and start thinking about all the snacks we’ll make for Super Bowl next week (I have some good recipes I will post on Thursday!) Have a great day!

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Potatoes, Produce, Sauce, Seafood, Vegetables

 

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Jennifer Probst

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Laissez Faire

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