Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Scott and I celebrated Valentine's Day part II with a delicious dinner at home with some bubbly, vino, and one of my all time favorites...lamb chops! I don't know what it is about lamb chops, but I love them. However, the downside is that most restaurants just don't make great lamb chops, the ones I make at home are much tastier. Exceptions to this are Ousie's Table and Da Marco which have the best lamb chops in town.

We kicked off our evening with some Champagne since it was a special occasion. We like to drink while we are cooking, so of course that meant the Champagne wasn't going to make it through dinner, even though it was the recommended beverage for the menu. Our wine with the meal was a Cabernet. Both of these bottles are what we refer to as Ike wines, which means they survived the hurricane. Ike taught us a lesson about wine storage. We have a wine chiller, and since we were without power for a week, and our wines came up to temperature, the wines were affected...which meant they just weren't the same. If we had never put them in the chiller to begin with they would be just fine. Luckily these two tasted just fine.

The inspiration for our menu came from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining cookbook's Valentine's Dinner for Two. The Williams-Sonoma recipes are always delicious and I have yet to be disappointed.

Crab, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad with Chive Vinaigrette
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining
serves 2

Chive Vinaigrette
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1 Tbsp creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar
1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

  • Combine the EVOO and chives in a blender and process until smooth, then set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the cream fraiche/sour cream, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice.
  • While whisking slowly add in the chive oil.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

1/2 lb Dungeness jumbo lump crab meat, picked for shell fragments (or regular crab meat)
1 Tbsp finely chopped celery
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pink grapefruit, peeled, sectioned (no membrane) and excess juice reserved
salt and pepper
2 cups mixed torn frisee and radicchio leaves
1/4 cup fresh chive pieces

  • In a bowl combine the crab meat, celery, and 3 Tbsp of the chive vinaigrette, and excess grapefruit juice.
  • In another bowl toss the avocado with lemon juice to prevent browning.
  • Then combine the crab mixture with the avocados, grapefruit sections, and 2 Tbsp of the chive vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divide the salad greens onto each plate, and top with the crab, avocado, grapefruit mixture. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.

The great thing about salads is that if you are missing a few ingredients or can't find them you can easily improvise. I couldn't find Dungeness crab (and I went to two grocery stores), and while I could have just purchased regular crab, I have to buy it by the pound and I only needed a half instead I omitted the crab from the recipe. Also I only found one sad looking piece of frisee in the produce dept at Central Market (very unlike them) so I substituted my greens for a mix of arugula and radicchio.

Pink Peppercorn Rack of Lamb
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining
serves 2

1 rack of lamb, frenched with 6-8 ribs
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fine dried bread crumbs
1 Tbsp pink peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup EVOO
1/3 cup dry white wine*
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Rub the fat side of the lamb with mustard and set aside.
  • In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, peppercorns, rosemary, garlic, and salt.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mustard and lightly pat it, so it adheres to the lamb.
  • Place a nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium heat and add EVOO.
  • Sear lamb on both sides for about 3 minutes per side or until lightly golden.
  • Place skillet with lamb fat side up in the oven and roast until cooked to your liking. Medium Rare: 13-15 minutes.
  • Remove lamb from oven and transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let lamb rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile place the skillet back on stove top over medium heat (don't forget the oven mit, the handle will be hot from the oven).
  • Add wine to skillet, scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom. Pour the pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl, and discard solids.
  • Carve the chops and spoon the pan juices over the chops.

*Since we already had the bubbly open, we used Champagne instead of a dry white wine. If you were drinking red wine that could be used as well.

These lamb chops were so tender and flavorful, I even nibbled the remaining meat off the bone when I through eating. So yummy and so easy to make.

Cauliflower Gratin
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining
serves 8

2 heads cauliflower, separated into florets
5 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup+ shredded Gruyere or white cheddar cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Steam cauliflower in a steamer basket over boiling water for 10 minutes or until barely tender.
  • Spray gratin dish with Pam and arrange the florets tightly in one layer.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbsp butter, heat until the butter foams and then remove from heat and stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Return the pan to medium-high heat and while constantly whisking slowly drizzle in the milk. Reduce heat to low and simmer stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and half the cheese, stirring until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
  • Pour sauce over cauliflower florets, top with remaining cheese, and dot with remaining butter.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is browned and sauce is bubbling.
  • Serve immediately.

We scaled this recipe down to 2 servings, but it was so tasty and a nice alternative to the standard potato. Roasted Yukon Gold potatoes were the suggested side for this menu, but I wanted to try something different and was very glad I did. I will have to member to add this dish to my Christmas 2009 menu.

I had also made some Rosemary Popovers from this cookbook for New Years Eve and had planned to make them for V-day because they were so good...but we got distracted and forgot.

Chocolate Raspberry Fondue
suggested by my friend Courtney on her blog
adapted from Betty Crocker

1 container chocolate frosting
1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves
brownies cup into 1 inch cubes
dried apricots
  • Combine frosting and preserves in a microwave safe bowl and zap it on high for 20-30 seconds.
  • Stir to full incorporate ingredients and transfer to a fondue pot to serve.

This dessert is so quick, easy, and sinfully delicious. But if you have some fruit with it you can pretend its healthy.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Looks like you all had quite a feast! Love the pictures!