It is so far from Valentine’s Day that I feel silly even talking about it. But I made such a lovely (and easy!) dessert that night I really want to share with someone.
When I was single, I hated going out on Valentine’s Day. Even with friends, it seemed weird to be out amongst all those happy, sappy couples. Then, when I had a boyfriend, I made a point to request that we dine out on V-Day, to be one of those sappy couples looking all dreamy-eyed at each other. Now, well, now I’ve grown up and gotten old and grumpy and don’t feel like making reservations three weeks in advance to pay extra for a special love-themed menu at a fancy restaurant. And I still don’t really like sitting in the crowded restaurants surrounded by sappy couples. So now we stay at home and I make dinner. You might argue that having to make a fancy dinner is not romantic and it’s a lot of work. But, I love making fancy dinners! I would throw fancy dinner parties all the time except, yes, it is a lot of work and planning and timing. But not when the dinner is just for a party of two! It’s also cheaper to cook lobster tail for two than for eight. So, in actuality, T is letting me do what I love cooking at home with fancy sauces and pretty plating. His job is to pick a good wine.
Another thing I love about our Valentine’s Day is that we don’t give big presents. No pressure! Less spending! We give little things that have meaning and are just cute and fun. Oddly enough, it’s also the one day I’m pretty much guaranteed flowers (and it was a gorgeous bouquet this year, too) which is nice. I always thought I was the type of girl who needed to get flowers, but apparently I’m just the type of girl who likes being attended to in general, florally or not.
This year, I didn’t even have anything big planned for dinner. I was going to cook up some filets we had in the freezer (hooray Costco and the Handi-Vac!) and maybe some shrimp and steamed broccoli. I was going to bake some cookies from the dough in the freezer. But one thing led to another and I ended up with a pretty kick-ass meal, if I do say so myself.
We had leftover alfredo sauce (from Trader Joe’s, not scratch), so I added some minced garlic and poured it over the shrimp and then stuck it in the oven to bake and bubble away. I started out attempting to make steak au poivre, with the crushed peppercorns on one side of the filets. Then I realized I was, kind of, missing half the other ingredients, so I improvised. I seared the filets in butter (130ºF is perfectly med-rare, but steaks cook after you remove them from heat, so pull them at 122ºF or so), deglazed the pan with apricot brandy (makes everything delicious!), added half and half and called it good. And it was. The broccoli got roasted with olive oil and more garlic and carrots. The shrimp came out perfectly pink and smelling heavenly.
The fun part was that it all fit into the compartments of these cute tv dinner trays I found at Target. T loves compartmented plates, but I couldn’t find “real” plates. I found cheapy plastic kiddie plates at Walmart, but I wanted something sturdy. The ones I found came in blue or red and are durable, like Corelle but they’re not Corelle. So dinner fit into the plates and it was very cute and quite tasty.
But the best part was dessert (at least for me). I’ve actually gotten bored with chocolate lava cakes at restaurants. It seems everyone has one and only half are really any good. Some of them are overcooked, which totally defeats the “lava” part, if you ask me. I used to make them at home, but the last one I tried involved making a chocolate truffle-like thing to stick in the middle, which is just way too much work. This one (.pdf here)I found at Leite’s Culinaria and it looked simple enough to warrant another try. It is simple, it is worth making, and it’s worth making over and over again. It’s also easily halved, if you just want to make it for a special someone. I served it with cinnamon ice cream and we were very happy. One note, I needed to add 2 minutes to the baking time to get the sides set. Definitely don’t skip the buttering and flouring of the ramekins. The cakes with still come out, but not as easily and then you might end up with a gooey chocolate puddle and then a hollow cake on the plate. I’m just saying.