February 14, 2014

Stay Home: Three-Course Valentine's Day Dinner

There are three days in the year you should never go out to dinner: Mother's Day, New Year's Eve, and Valentine's Day. The food is overpriced, the restaurant is crowded, and absolutely nothing will live up to your expectations, no matter how smoothly the meal goes. In the four plus years Dan and I have been together, we have never been out on February 14th. Cooking at home is cheaper, relaxing, and much more fun in my opinion.

Here's a low-stress, incredibly delicious, and romantic three course meal that will transform your kitchen into a four-star restaurant, minus the obnoxious lovebirds and pissed off waiters.

French Peasant Beets
Recipe modified from The Food52 Cookbook
Serves 4 first course portions

Ingredients:
  • 4-6 beets with greens
  • 1 bunch Rainbow Chard
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp white wine
    • You can substitute champagne if you're also making the risotto below 
  • 1/2 lb Bucheron cheese, cut into wedges
  • Crusty bread (a simple baguette works)
French peasant beets | hardparade.blogspot.com
Directions:
  • Scrub and peel the beets. Cut a few thin beet slices on a mandolin and set aside for the second course risotto. 
  • Slice the beets into 1/4-inch rounds and set the beet greens aside. Remove the chard's ribs (the center stalk) and coarsely chop. Put chard ribs and leaves aside with the beet greens.
  • In a large sauté pan on medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the minced shallot until soft and translucent. Add the beets to the pan with a pinch of salt and some pepper. 
  • Reduce the heat and sauté, turning them over so they cook evenly until they begin to glaze and become tender (about 15 minutes).
French peasant beets | hardparade.blogspot.com

  • Add the beet greens, chard and chard ribs to the pan. After about 5 minutes, add the champagne and cover. 
  • Cook until the greens are wilted, allowing most of the liquid to be absorbed
  • Serve the beets and greens with Bucheron cheese and bread
French peasant beets | hardparade.blogspot.com

Champagne Risotto with Pan-Seared Scallops and Beet Chips
Recipe modified from Bon Appétit
Serves 2

Ingredients:
  • Risotto
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1/4 cup minced shallots
    • 2/3 cup arborio rice
    • 1 cup dry champagne
    • 1 14 oz. can low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Scallops
    • 1/2 lb fresh bay scallops
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 tbsp butter 
  • Thinly sliced beets (reserved from above)
    • Fresh thyme
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 375f. Season scallops with salt and pepper and set aside
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for about 1 minute then add the rice and sauté for two more minutes. 
  • Pour in the champagne, stirring continuously until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, simmering and stirring often until all the liquid is absorbed and the risotto has a creamy texture, about 30 minutes. 
  • While the risotto is absorbing the liquid, toss the thinly sliced beets with olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme. Spread them around a baking sheet so none are overlapping. Roast the beet chips until they are crispy. Set aside.
  • When the risotto is nearing completion, pan-sear the scallops. Add vegetable oil and butter to a pan over medium-high heat. 
  • Arrange scallops in the pan and let them caramelize, flipping after about 2 minutes. Cook on other side for about 1 more minute. Take them out of the pan and set aside.
  • Stir the Parmesan cheese into the risotto. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place scallops on top of the risotto and garnish with beet chips and fresh thyme sprigs.
Champagne risotto with pan-seared scallops | hardparade.blogspot.com
Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes
Recipe from Epicurious
Makes 8 four oz. servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • Plus extra for greasing ramekins
  • 3/4 cup sugar
    • Plus extra for dredging ramekins
  • 6 large eggs plus 6 large eggs yolks
    • Store leftover egg whites in a freezer-safe container
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Powdered sugar for decoration
  • Fresh berries and ice cream for garnish
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 375f. Grease the ramekins with butter and dredge the inside with sugar. Line the ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (if you're lucky enough to have one - I'm not) or using a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar on medium-high speed until mixture turns very pale and has tripled in volume, about 10 minutes. 
  • While the eggs are whipping, create a double boiler and melt the chocolate with the cut up butter
    • If you don't have a stand mixer, you will need a buddy to help you with this part or do one at a time but keep an eye on the eggs as they may begin to deflate
  • Add the chocolate to the whipped egg mixture (it will look like foam) and gently fold it in until it's almost completely combined. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and fold until completely blended. 
  • Divide the batter into the prepared ramekins, filling them almost to the top. Bake until the edges are set, about 10 minutes.
    • If you overbake, they will no longer be "molten"
  • Remove cakes from the oven and loosen the edges with a small knife. Invert each one onto a plate, dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh berries and ice cream.
Molten chocolate lava cakes | hardparade.blogspot.com
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