A Romantic Dinner for Two
As I mentioned in my last post one of the highlights of my winter break was a wonderful dinner I put together for my girlfriend and I as part of her holiday present. Taking turns to put together a great meal for each other is something we like to do every few months; it is a lot of fun because it gives you the chance to be creative and to share a wonderful meal with someone you care about. As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite things about food and cooking is its ability to foster connections between people, and this type of meal is a perfect example.
Now putting together a romantic meal for your special someone does not mean that you have to pick a ridiculously complicated and fancy recipe! Of course you can choose to go all out and put together a “Terrine of Moulard Duck Foie Gras with Black Truffles and Warm Potato and Truffle Salad” and all the power to you if you do; I love to try new and exciting things as well when putting these dinners together. The key point however is that the complexity of the dish you cook should not be a barrier between you and what is really important: spending quality time with someone over a plate of delicious food. Trust me, with a simple dinner, a good bottle of wine, and a few candles for atmosphere, you will more than impress your date.
- Salad with homemade tarragon mayonnaise dressing
- Grilled rib eye steaks with caramelized onions and mushrooms
- Garlic Broccoli
- AMAZING Roasted potatoes with thyme and garlic
- Homemade ice cream sandwiches with homemade cream caramel sauce
For this meal, I chose to stick to simple dishes but added a slight twist in order to have some fun. I knew that I wanted the main course to be centered around steak, because really you can’t go wrong with a perfectly grilled rib eye on the plate! For the starter I decided to do a simple salad with some different types of lettuce including Belgian endive and Radicchio that I hadn’t used before, as well as some cold green beans. For the dressing I decided to try something I had been itching to make for a while: homemade mayonnaise. After hearing the awesomeness of real mayonnaise expounded upon by many other blogs I follow I knew I had to give it a try and boy was I not disappointed! I chose to follow a simple recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Holiday Special for Tarragon Mayonnaise that he used for making a salmon nicoise salad. Mayonnaise is actually ridiculously simple to make, the main ingredient being a lot of elbow grease as you whisk together the egg yolk, oil, and vinegar. The result is a deliciously creamy and light mayonnaise, the flavour and texture of which simply blows the store-bought kind of out of the water! I highly recommend making some yourself as it is truly a delicious condiment that will add amazing flavour to your salads and sandwiches.
As I mentioned, the center of the main course was two beautiful rib eye steaks I picked up the same day (lucky me, they were on sale!). Ribeyes are one of my favorite cuts of steak for grilling; they have amazing flavour and enough fat to keep them moist and tender throughout the cooking process. I always cook my steaks to medium rare as I think this gives the best flavour and texture to the meat. One of my favorite accompaniments to a steak is a mixture of caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms to put on-top of it. The most important thing to keep in mind when caramelizing onions are: 1) use a large pan so that you can spread out the onions and give them equal access to heat and 2) be patient! The results are well-worth the wait!
The Broccoli and Potatoes
As side-dishes for the steak I prepared a simple dish of broccoli sautéed with garlic and the most amazing roasted potatoes I have ever had in my life. I have to thank another of my favorite TV chefs, Jamie Oliver, for this amazing roasted potato recipe, as featured in his 2011 Holiday Special (ya that’s right I watched a lot of Food Network over the break). The secret innovation in this recipe is to use a potato masher to gently squash the potatoes partway through roasting, this increases the surface area in contact with the roasting pan and allows the potatoes to develop a beautiful golden crust. The recipe also has you par-boil the potatoes before roasting which both helps to speed up cooking and creates a fluffy interior. For the seasoning, I went with olive oil, thyme, and lots of garlic; it’s really important to be patient and let the potatoes develop that amazing golden crust, it might take longer than the suggests cooking time but it is well worth the wait.
I had a really hard time picking a dessert for this meal. If it was the summer, my go-to would have been something simple and refreshing with lots of fresh fruit. Unfortunately, the fruit during this time of year is simply not good enough to be the centerpiece of a great dessert but this gave me a great excuse to try something new. The biggest problem for me when it comes to dessert is that I am not much of a baker, and practically every amazing recipe I saw called for some serious baking skills. I knew I wanted something with a good chocolate component in it and I had been itching to try making my own caramel sauce for a while, so I knew I wanted a dessert that incorporated these two elements, but I was at a loss as to what that dessert should be.
Then, while browsing around one of my favorite food blogs, The Novice Chef, I found a recipe for homemade ice-cream sandwiches. This recipe was perfect! It allowed me to incorporate both my desired ingredients, caramel and chocolate, and featured something both my girlfriend and I love…ice cream! As an added bonus, the cookie recipe on the blog was super-simple even for a novice baker like me and produced some amazingly decadent chocolate cookies! I chose to use two different ice cream flavours, mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream, for some variety but you can really use whatever flavours you like; simply take the cooled down cookies, add the ice cream in the middle, and allow them to freeze and set for a few hours. I would recommend removing them from the freezer about 5-7 min before eating them, to allow them to thaw and soften up a bit.
Now for the final element, the one that really made this dish special: the caramel sauce. I had been wanting to try making caramel for a long time but had never really had an excuse to do it before. Making caramel can be quite intimidating, it requires patience and vigilance and if you don’t do it right you can be left with one heck of a mess to clean up! Also, making caramel can be a little dangerous as the sugar gets extremely hot! This is not a recipe to make with young children running around. The simplest caramel recipe I have found so far comes from Chef Michael Smith (another Food Network personality). This recipe is unique in that he has you add some water to the initial sugar in the pot, allowing the sugar to dissolve and heat evenly. Once the water boils away the sugar will caramelize in a much more even fashion. It is very important to: 1) follow the instructions and not disturb the syrup by inserting a spoon as this can cause unwanted crystallization and 2) use a large pot. The second point is important for when you add your cream or butter (I used cream) as the mixture will foam up considerably and you don’t want it to overflow.
This caramel sauce was simply delicious and blew the socks off any commercially prepared one I have tried. It is rich, sweet, and has a great depth of flavour. I only used a small amount of it for this dinner but we kept the rest around for the week and used it at other holiday events on fruits and ice cream.
Overall this was a fantastic meal that I will look back on with fond memories. We had a great time and shared amazing food, wine, and conversation together. What more could you really ask for!
Until next time