Many occasions around our house are celebrated with food and Valentine’s Day is no different. Ever since the first Valentine’s Day we celebrated together (fresh pasta with a mushroom and olive tapenade), my husband and I make a point of marking the holiday with something yummy to eat that we’ve created – usually together. Now that we have two kids, getting out to eat is even more of a challenge, so we’re happy that fine cooking at home has always been our tradition. Still, getting a nice dinner on the table, on a weeknight, with the two kiddos underfoot can be a challenge itself. I set my sights on a menu that was grown-up enough for us to feel like we had a treat, that the kids would eat, that we could prepare in under 45 minutes (with a bit of planning ahead). If you are also trying to get a nice meal on the table this coming Tuesday night, I’ve made it super simple for you and included a menu, shopping list, and a set of step-by-step instructions. I’ll also provide the recipes for the appetizer, main, and dessert, separately over the course of the next few days so that you can try them at home – even if you aren’t up to tackling them all this Tuesday.
So, what will you be eating this Valentine’s Day? Ordering-in? Take-out? Dining-out? Cooking at home? Whatever you can haul out of the freezer and get in the microwave before everyone starts screaming?
– Garlic bread with goat cheese, roasted red pepper, and pear
– NewYork strip steak on a bed of arugla, served with horseradish mashed potatoes, oven roasted tomatoes, and sautéed Portobello mushrooms
– Crab legs with garlic butter
– Chocolate pie
1 long baguette
1 3oz package of goat cheese
2-3 roasted red peppers
1 ripe anjou pear
1 bunch arugula
3 – 4 whole tomatoes
4 portobello mushrooms
2-3 kg Yukon gold potatoes
1 head garlic
1 lb of butter, unsalted (or one stick unsalted, 3 sticks salted)
600 g bag frozen crab legs
3 New York strip steaks (about 10oz each)
4 tsp Horseradish
½ cup Milk
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp thyme
2 cups of chocolate baking crumbs
12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate (or 60-75% dark chocolate)
14 floz can of light coconut milk
1 can of real cream whipping cream,
Party mix olives, to be munched on as an appetizer
Salt and pepper
A bottle or two of your favourite wine
One to Two Days Before:
1. Make the pie, following this recipe. I substituted the Trader Joe’s crushed cookies with baking crumbs, and prefer a thicker crust. If you’re like me, and you also want a thicker crust, mix together 2 cups of chocolate baking crumbs with one stick of unsalted butter, melted then press into the pie pan. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 F as directed. Continue to follow the recipe as written.
The Night Before:
Doing as much of the prep as you can do tonight will help things run smoothly tomorrow. I know you’re tired from working all day, and you’re still cleaning up tonight’s dinner, and the kids need a bath, but if you can put in just 30 or so minutes tonight, you’ll be all set for tomorrow.
1. Prepare the tomatoes: Cut each tomato in 4 thick slices and remove seeds with a spoon. Toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the thyme, some salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
2. Prepare the mushrooms: Roughly slice or chop the Portobello mushrooms. Saute over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When mushrooms are brown, soft, and releasing their juices, lightly sprinkle balsamic vinegar over them. Salt and pepper to taste. Store overnight in a heatproof container.
3. Make the garlic butter. Finely mince 2 cloves of garlic. Melt one stick of salted butter. Mix the garlic together with the butter. Cover and refrigerate.
4. Peel the potatoes and submerge them in cold water overnight in the fridge (ideally in the pot in which you’ll cook them tomorrow)
5. Read this article on cooking a steak indoors (like they do in French bistros and around these parts when it’s too cold to cook on a grill), so that you’re really ready for it tomorrow.
2. Take the steaks out of the fridge and bring to room temperature. Salt and pepper both sides.
3. Slice the baguette crosswise, but not all the way through, 1 inch apart. Using a butter knife, smear goat cheese in each cut section. If you’re preparing for your family as well, leave about 1/3 of the baguette plain. In each of the cuts, alternate placing or stuffing one slice of pear with one slice of roasted red pepper. Place the entire baguette on a large piece of aluminum foil. Warm the garlic butter in the microwave and brush the melted butter over the entire baguette. Wrap in the foil, then set aside for a moment.
4. Prepare a sheet pan by covering with foil and lightly oiling with the olive oil. Remove the tomatoes from the fridge and place them on the sheet pan, evenly spaced.
5. Put the tomatoes and wrapped baguette onto the bottom rack of the oven and set your timer for 25 minutes.
6. Move the pot of potatoes from the fridge to the stove and set to high. We used a pressure cooker to prepare ours so that it would be faster. If you’ve got one, now’s a good time to use it.
7. Prepare another large pot of water and heat until boiling.
8. Meanwhile, set the table. Put out a dish of olives. Pour the wine, if it needs to breathe.
9. When the timer on your clock indicates that there’s only about 15 minutes to go, put your mushrooms in the oven on the second rack, to be reheated
10. Take out a cast iron pan and heat over high heat on the stove. Add two steaks to the pan and cook, without moving, for 1.5 minutes. Flip the steaks. Cook for another 45 seconds, without moving. Place a pat (1/2 tbsp) of butter on top of each steak and move the entire pan to the same rack as the mushrooms. Finish cooking steaks in the oven, 5 minutes for medium-rare.
11. While the steaks are in the oven, add the crab legs to the pot of water you have boiling now (see step. 7).
12. Remove steaks from the oven (the 5 minutes is up, right?) and quickly transfer them to a plate and tent (cover loosely) with foil
13. Repeat the whole procedure with the third steak.
14. When the third steak is in the oven, check on the potatoes. They should be ready to mash.
15. Drain and mash with 2 tbsp of butter and about ½ cup of milk. If you’d like (and I do) scoop half the mashed potatoes to a ‘kids plate’ or ‘kids bowl’ at this point. Add 2 tsp or horseradish to the remaining potatoes. Put the pot lid back on the pot and keep the potatoes warm.
16. Drain crab legs and transfer to a plate (put them on the table). If need be, rewarm the garlic butter in the microwave.
17. Is the third steak done? Transfer it to the foil covered plate and move the steaks to the table.
18. Take the tomatoes, bread and mushrooms from the oven. If necessary, transfer to serving plates and carry to the table. Frankly, I like to skip the whole ‘transfer to a serving plate’ thing. I leave everything in the kitchen and plate in the kitchen and then carry to the table. Your choice.
19. Remove the bread from a foil, transfer to bread cutting board and carry to the table.
20. Sit. Eat. Drink.
When dinner is done and you’re ready for it, cut the pie into 8 slices. Top with the can of ‘real cream’ whipped cream. I suggested this idea just to save you the step of whipping cream yourself. Cool Whip would also do but I prefer the can of cream. Besides, without the can of whipping cream, we couldn’t pass down the age-old tradition of squirting whipping cream directly into the mouths of our kids. Such fun!
22. Clean-up the dishes tomorrow.
So, as it stands, it took me about half an hour or so of prep time the night before (that includes making the pie) and about 45 minutes of cooking time on the serving day to prepare this dinner. I think it’s do-able, albeit only for a special occasion, on a work/school night. Maybe not if you have piano lessons and swim team that night. I did spend a notable amount of time taking photos of what I was doing, too. Though, you can probably tell from the photos at which points I was too busy to pick up my camera.
You can also see, since I was snapping shots of my plate, that my pre-schooler also wanted some photos of her plate. The astute among you might realize that her plate is lacking in colour. She’s not really into arugula. The arugula is definitely more for the ‘big kids’. If you’re worried about your kids getting some veggies, you can substitute the arugula for say, minted peas, or some vegetable that your kids will eat. **I just really really wanted arugula and was willing to let her eat olives and mushrooms as her ‘vegetable’ quotient for the evening.**