I’m a really bad planner. Or, a really good planner, but a really bad follow through-er. I made all kinds of Valentine’s Day plans. Not that I’m super mushy about this holiday, but I do like it when I have an excuse to be silly and cute. (You should have seen the amount of pink and red I managed to pack into my wardrobe last weekend.) Of course, all of my adorable plans got a little tricky since a) I work at a chocolate store and b) I’m not good at timing.
The plan was actually pretty straightforward- since I was working the whole weekend, Adam cooked me dinner on Sunday, and then I cooked him dinner on Monday.
Adam made pasta and butternut squash in a creamy cheesy sauce
My dinner was where it became a bit more complicated: while he stuck to a fairly simple pasta/ butternut squash recipe, I wanted to make something fancy. And of course, since it was on a Monday, I couldn’t do out-of-the-ordinary by cooking steak with red peppercorns or something. An email from Tasting Table had me salivating over this french onion fondue, but that didn’t really seem like enough for a meal that I wanted to be special. Then, I stumbled across this leek and artichoke bread pudding that I’d apparently bookmarked at some point. I figured I should do something light/vegetable-y/not cheese-based too, so a nice light mushroom salad seemed like the right fit. (I know that The Melting Pot is a bit cliche or tacky or something, but they used to make a mushroom salad that was amazing, and now they don’t even sell the seasoning blend for it anymore. I’m still mourning the loss.) And, even though I’ve never before made a bread pudding, I decided to add another one to the menu because this Chocolate Bread Pudding looked too good to pass up (more on dessert later). So I managed to plan a menu, and it didn’t even require an excessive shopping list: I was totally on the right track!
But, again, I work at a chocolate store: Valentine’s Day weekend was a marathon of 9 and 10 hour days. On Monday, I started cooking about 2 hours after I had planned to start, which means dinner wasn’t ready until 3 hours after I thought it would be ready (cooking always takes longer than I expect) and dessert got pushed back to Tuesday.
Cooking and presents and lipstick shower messages
Regardless of the shortcomings of my plan, we ended up with a delicious meal (and leftovers for the rest of the week). I even managed to wake up early and make pancakes before the boy left for work. So while I might get a bit over-ambitious at times, at least there was a lot of yummy food.
French Onion Fondue
(adapted from Tasting Table)
1/4 cup butter
4 onions, thinly sliced
1/8 cup dry sherry
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
a good sprinkle of thyme
salt and pepper
3/4 cup vegetable stock
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (yes, I halved everything else and left this the same- it’s cheese)
bread for scooping
In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 2 hours, until deeply browned, stirring frequently.
Stir in sherry, sherry vinegar, Worcestershire, thyme and salt and pepper. Allow the liquid to reduce slightly (about 2 minutes) before adding the vegetable stock. Continue to cook and reduce, about 5 minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Transfer onions to glass pie dish and cover with the Gruyère. Broil for a few minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Garnish with the parsley and allow to cool slightly before serving.
*A note- we had so much of this left over that I tried to turn it into onion soup: what a disaster! In trying to compensate for blandness I added way too much sherry vinegar: I have no idea how Adam ate a whole bowl of it!
Leek and Artichoke Bread Pudding
(Adapted from Five and Spice)
About 6 (loosely packed) cups of 1-inch cubes of stale bread
1 Tbs. butter (plus more for greasing the baking pan)
2 medium leeks, sliced into thin coins (only the white and light green parts, well cleaned)
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and cut into thin slices
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated black pepper
In a large frying pan, heat your butter over medium heat until it is melted and starting to bubble. Stir in the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have begun to brown. Then, turn the heat down to very low and let them cook another 10 minutes, until they are nicely caramelized.
In the meantime, heat your oven to 350F, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, until just lightly golden. Take them out of the oven and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Once the leeks are caramelized, stir them in with the bread cubes, then add the artichokes and the cheeses and toss everything together.
Butter an 8 inch square baking pan well, then put the bread, vegetable, cheese mixture into the pan, pressing it down a little to get everything to fit. (Bread cubes will be poking up above the top of the pan though.)
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour 3/4s of this mixture into the bread in the pan. Let it rest about 10 minutes, then pour in the rest of the egg mixture and let it rest 5 minutes more – you should still have edges of bread cube sticking up out of the egg-milk mixture, these will become a crispy crust.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until it is set and the top is browned. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
*Note- I had my doubts about the amount of bread sticking up above the liquid, but those parts turned into lovely crispy decadent croutons! Also, being a bread pudding neophyte, I made only two tiny adjustments to Emily’s recipe- my lemon refused to zest, so I used juice instead, and my loaf pan wasn’t big enough for this recipe, so I switched to the square pan.
Fresh Mushroom Salad
(from Giada De Laurentiis, via La Dolce Bacon)
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, cleaned/trimmed and thinly sliced
a small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper
In a medium salad bowl, mix together the mushrooms and parsley.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Add the oil mixture to the salad bowl and toss until all the ingredients are coated. At this point you can place the mushroom salad in the refrigerator to allow the mushrooms to marinate a bit. When ready to serve, add some freshly grated parmesan.