Feb 15 08
by cara
at 10:19 PM
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Valentine’s Dinner

The Picky Apple and I are not the type to go out to dinner for Valentine’s.  In fact, we normally don’t really celebrate at all, which is a little strange considering that Valentine’s day is also the “anniversary” of our very first date.  That’s right.  Our first date was on Valentine’s Day.  Ten years ago, when I was a freshman in college and The Picky Apple was a sophomore, I asked The Picky Apple out to dinner for Valentine’s day.  Up until then, we’d just been friends, but I developed a crush on him.  I wasn’t sure if he liked me or not, so I just mentioned a casual dinner at Bennigan’s.  (Not very crowded on Valentine’s Day)  I never mentioned the word “date” in this conversation.  When I showed up at his apartment that night, two of his roommates were sitting on the couch dressed and looking ready to head out the door, one of them tying his shoes.  My initial thought was that The Picky Apple misread my invitation, and invited his roommates (who are my friends too) along for dinner.  Luckily, they were headed somewhere else, and so off we went on our very first date.  It really doesn’t seem like it has been ten years already, but here we are…

So in honor of this anniversary of sorts, I wanted to make more of an effort to have a nice Valentine’s Day and cook a quasi-special meal.  It definitely wasn’t the most creative menu, but I wanted to cook a few things that I knew The Picky Apple would eat….not too many experimental or new dishes for this special night.  We put The Littlest Apple to bed, and I brought out the china that we only use about once a year, as well as candles and music.  Our menu consisted of:

valentines-dinner.jpg

Here’s a brief rundown of each item….

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Raspberry Chipotle: I know I just cooked the pork tenderloin dish a few weeks ago, but The Picky Apple really likes it, so i figured I’d play it safe.

Roasted asparagus is an easy, beautiful side dish.  I just spread out the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzled with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.  Baked at 325 F for 15 minutes.

The Hasselback potatoes are something we saw prepared on the Food Network late last year and thought they looked good.  They turned out great, but took a looooooong time to cook, and were somewhat “needy.”  It takes some fancy knife skills to make all of the required slices in the potato without slicing all the way through.  I clearly lack these skills.  Additionally, for the first 30 minutes, you’re supposed to be basting the potatoes every 5 minutes with a chicken stock and butter mixture.  Well, The Littlest Apple is “needy” too, particularly so while I was preparing this dinner, so the potatoes didn’t get all the basting called for in the recipe.  I maybe did it 2 or 3 times, but luckily, they were still plenty tasty.  Recipe below.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting:  For as long as I’ve been with my husband, he’s requested a strawberry cake with strawberry frosting for his birthday.  The box kind.  (Some of us refer to this as the Barbie/Princess cake, but it hasn’t deterred him from requesting it year after year.  He’s secure in his manhood, I suppose.)  Since I enjoy baking so much, I’m a little hesitant to use box mixes.  I guess I’m a little bit of a cake snob, but so far I’ve just played along and made the box kind for him.  Recently I’ve been on a cake/cupcake kick, and The Picky Apple specifically requested strawberry cupcakes.  This was my first attempt at strawberry cupcakes, and it definitely wasn’t successful so I won’t post the recipe.  They tasted more muffin-y than cake-y, and just weren’t what we wanted.  Therefore, the search for the perfect strawberry cake/cupcake continues.  Let me know if any of you have a good recipe.  I’ve got another one that I may post about in a few days if it turns out decent.

Last but not least, the wine.  Banfi Rosa Regale 2007.  I am not a big wine drinker normally, but I love sparkling wines, particularly those that are slightly sweet.  When I saw the display in the store with this sparkling, sweet red wine, I knew I wanted to try it.  The wine was good, but I only had one (or one and a half) champagne flutes of it (nursing mother, and all that).  It was so good that I made a note last night of exactly what it was so I could buy it again.  And then I woke up this morning.  I woke up at 5 am with a pounding headache and vomiting.  It definitely felt like a hangover, but how could a measly glass do such damage?  I haven’t had much to drink lately (pregnancy and now nursing my son), but I had two margaritas last Saturday night for Girls Night Out and no ill effects.  The tannins maybe?  I’ve never had a problem with red wine before.  Maybe I’m getting sick?  Let’s hope not.  Besides, I’m feeling better now.  Whatever it was, it was a rude awakening for the morning after Valentine’s Day.

hasselback-potatoes.jpg

Hasselback Potatoes

from Emeril Lagasse, via The Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 2 small baking potatoes, about 3/4-pound total
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon fine dry bread crumbs  

Directions:  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Peel potatoes. Cut each potato not quite through in a series of crosswise slices about 1/4-inch apart or closer so that they are still joined together at the bottom. Brush the potatoes with the melted butter and place in a small baking pan. Pour the chicken stock around the potatoes and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until the potatoes are half cooked, 25 to 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes with the butter-chicken stock mixture.

In a small bowl combine the grated cheese and bread crumbs and divide the mixture evenly between the tops of the 2 potatoes. Continue roasting without any further basting until the potatoes are crispy on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

*Note: Exact cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes.

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