Monday, February 28, 2011

Simple Valentine's Dinner*

Well, at the risk of being annoyingly food blog-y and annoyingly relationship smug, this is the very simple Valentine's Day meal I prepared with my Special Person. The idea was that the most romantic thing to do on Valentine's Day is spend time together and since SP (oh God, that's really awful) works the very worst shift imaginable (9pm to 6am), our window of time together was somewhat small. Going to a restaurant was out since I am a high-strung, demanding patron on a normal day and Valentine's crowds and menus always breed incidents. We talked about the menu in advance and cooked together and it all just went very smoothly. It's really a great idea for a date night at any time of year.

I began to prep a bit the night before. Dessert was a sort of special surprise. In accordance with our theme, it couldn't be fancy or too rich. Chocolate is the obvious V-Day flavor (though does anyone actually feel erotic stirrings from eating chocolate?). But it couldn't be over the top or S would fall asleep after we ate and miss work and generally ruin his life forever (which would be a terrible thing to inflict on a loved one on Valentine's Day). I saw this recipe and decided that it would be easy enough to be-Valentine it by forming the dough into a heart shaped log before cutting the cookies. It seemed a bit rough at first, but the cookies looked great in the end.

Cookies on the sheet.

They were sort of dry tasting (a bit overcooked- whoops!), so I melted a very small amount of bittersweet chocolate and smeared it across the top of each one. In the end this was delicious, but terribly rich.

During the day I had to work a bit, but I put together a short playlist of songs for our meal. I also got some mustard and ice cream that S particularly likes. I share my apartment with three other people, so it's not exactly the most romantic mise en scene but I spruced it up a bit and even managed to figure out candles and cloth napkins.

I am aware the the pet names written on our glasses only increase the appearance of smugness. Sorry.

S came over in the afternoon and since it was a gloriously warm day we went for a walk to get the chicken and some bread. Our destination was one of those fancy Brooklyn food stores and we impulse bought two kinds of cheese (sign number two that this was not going to be the lightest meal imaginable). The main event of the evening was a simple roast chicken. One of my roommates had alerted me to this very extraordinary recipe a few weeks earlier.** It was divine. And shockingly easy. I decided to risk one very small substitution and switched the thyme for tarragon, (because tarragon is really the sexiest herb, right?) but we basically just salted the bird and stuck her in the oven for an hour.

While our chicken crackled away we broke off pieces of french bread an spread them with our cheeses- a sort of domestic camembert and a very spicy blue. As the sultry scent of crisping skin filled the air, we danced around the kitchen. Sigh. It was really just so much nicer than any Valentine's day has been before. And then we got to eat!

She was so beautiful. I swell up with pride just looking at her.

We decided that side dishes were unnecessary and just had some simple greens to satisfy my manic need for vegetables.

I wouldn't say it's a flaw exactly, but it is sort of sad that S and I both like the legs best. I was eyeing the other one for lunch the next day.

As you might have guessed, bread and cheese followed by delicious, salt-covered chicken left us feeling pretty full. But we managed to squeeze in dessert.

Strawberry ice cream from Van Leeuwen.

We had seltzer water and a bottle the Goose Island Madame Rose (pretty great name!) rather than wine. This was mostly because S couldn't have much wine before working, although the pairing ended up being quite nice. The beer could use a bit more time in the bottle, but it has a really pleasing sourness in the finish. Apparently it is cask aged with sour cherries.

And that's all! I mean, it took a long time to explain, but basically this meal requires about 20 minutes of active time, tastes great and feels special. And if we hadn't bought the cheese the whole thing would have cost about $20 (Brooklyn ice cream is pricey!).

*So I'm gonna write about food here more lately, I think. Not because anyone reads it. And certainly not because the Internet needs another person writing about what they cook (in their Brooklyn apartment- oh gag!). But because it gives me the sense that I am doing something.

**Guys, can I just take a moment to express that, based solely on this recipe, Thomas Keller deserves every bit of praise people give him?