Monday, February 19, 2007

Valentine's Day Part II

So I failed to mention that Jusytn and I have been doing a competition to see who can cook a better Valentine's Day dinner. In an earlier post, you'll see that he made risotto & homemade meatballs. He also got me flowers & a balloon which was a suprise since he got them after I went to bed on Tuesday night. I woke up on Wednesday (14th) to a beautiful bouquet in the bathroom & the balloon when I went to go get a glass of water.

I had a week to prepare my dinner for him, so I decided to go over the top. I started planning the menu based on ideas I had seen on Food Network. Rachel Ray did an episode on romantic foods. I ended up deciding on lamb chops with a balsamic reduction and sweet pea risotto. Get it? Sweet Pea & Lamb Chop.. common pet names for significant others. Cheesy right? It gets even worse. Since this was going to be over the top, I went with my sister to Bed Bath & Beyond to get a bucket for ice & two champagne flutes. I also got a couple candle holders & candles at Michaels.

The final menu came down to this:

Amuse Bouche - Smoked Salmon on Poppy Seed Cracker Garnished with Chives
Soup - Cream of Asparagus
Salad - Spring Mix Greek Salad
Main - Sweet Pea Risotto & Lamb Chops with Balsamic Reduction
Dessert - Bread Pudding

Originally, I figured that this menu wouldn't be too difficult to pull off since I had made the bread pudding before. The salad & the amuse bouche were just assemble & serve. So to start, I chopped up the herbs (rosemary, basil & thyme) and spread the mixture over the lamb chops. They went in the fridge while I put the ingrediants together for the bread pudding. I put the cubed bread & custard mixture in the fridge as well.

I then started chopping and prepping all the veggies for the soup & risotto. Those went into individual foil packets for easy disposal. When I cut into one of the onions I got from Albertson's, I found out that it was rotten. Dammit! Luckily, there were three onions that we had gotten from Trader Joe's. I cut into each of those but they were rotten too! Crap. I had to have Justyn run out and get me a couple of replacement onions. While he was gone, I prepped the rest of the ingrediants. I trimmed the asparagus, peeled the potato, chopped the shallot. By the time I was done with all that, Justyn was back with my onions and I chopped those up as well.

Here's where I ran into some more trouble. I started out with the risotto and after it was half way done, I decided that I had time to start the soup. I added the veggies into the soup pot and sauteed them until they were tender just like the recipe said. Trying to juggle two different dishes on a cramped stove is not an easy feat. While the risotto was absorbing the stock, I used that time to stir the veggies for the soup. Our wireless connection isn't working so I was unable to have my laptop near by to check the recipes. While the two dishes were working, I had to run back and forth to see what the next steps were. After the veggies in the soup pot were tender, I added flour and stirred it until the rawness cooked out. Then I added water, chicken stock & bouillon powder. I had some time while the soup came to a boil, I finished up the risotto and moved pots around. I added peas & sage to the risotto and left it on warm until I was ready to plate. The soup came to a boil, and I needed to blend it before adding cream and the rest of the ingrediants. Unfortunately, the lid to my blender was no where to be found. I ended up having to use a sheet of plastic wrap instead. Do NOT attempt to re-create this. I knew that if I filled up the blender with too much soup, that it would spill over. That much I knew... BUT I added too much soup anyway as I was impatient at this point. As I pulsed the blender, soup splashed everywhere. The plastic wrap didn't do it's job very well. I started cursing and Justyn came out of the office to see what was going on. Soup was spattered all over the counter like a veggie murder had just taken place. Oh well, I decided to scrap the soup. I was sad about that though cuz it made me feel like I couldn't handle the challenge of this menu.

I took the bread pudding out of the fridge and added chocolate chips & pecan bits on top. That went into the oven for 45 minutes.

I moved the soup pot to another burner and started on the lamb chops. This part was easy. You just sear the meat in some olive oil on both sides (3 minutes each side) and move them to a plate. I added the shallots and let them brown up a bit before I deglazed the pan with some good balsamic vinegar that I bought from Trader Joe's and let it reduce by half. Then I added a splash of chicken stock and let that reduce as well. I was supposed to add a pat of butter to add some shine to the sauce, but I ran out of that.

I was finally ready to plate. I assembled the amuse bouche and salad which I then plated. I tasted the half assed soup and didn't think it tasted especially bad. It was still edible, so I put them into a couple bowls and drizzled some olive oil on top. I put the risotto onto the large plate and draped two lamb chops on top and added the glaze. I garnished with a couple chives and we were ready to eat.

Justyn popped open the champagne that I got. Normally he hates champagne, but the one we had at our wedding reception, he liked. We lit the candles and dove into our meal. I didn't think I did a very good job especially with the planning part. The flavors in the risotto were strong. I had added a lot of sage which was overpowering. Justyn liked it though. The lambchops were really good. Perfectly cooked to medium rare. Both of us barely touched the soup. I had a couple spoonfuls and was done. Justyn said it needed the cream and pepper, but since I scrapped the idea of soup, I just decided not to add them.

Overall, I think it was a success despite all the snags I hit. Next time, I'll be sure to plan better and make sure I know the recipes before I make them. Oh and needless to say, I won.

Here are some pictures for your enjoyment.

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