Monday, February 16, 2009

A Valentine's Food Extravaganza

This year for Valentine's Day, Noah and I decided to forego the ridiculously overpriced restaurants (yeah, I'm talking to you Sona) in favor of a homemade Valentine's feast. I proposed a fun idea - each of us makes three courses (app/main/dessert) and we end up with a six course tasting menu. Above is the table, set with the first round of dishes.
This homemade pork terrine was my first course. I used a recipe from the Chez Panisse Cafe Menu Book (which I will be posting later). And while it was time intensive, 2-3 days of meat marinating and 2-3 days of terrine resting, it wasn't all that labor-ific. And when the pork guy at your farmer's market doesn't blink when you ask for half a pound of back fat, you know you're good to go. I served it with a crusty sourdough boule, cornichons and Dijon mustard. I like to think it was as good as the one at Le Regalade in Paris.
Noah's dish was this Venetian Shrimp on Polenta dish, with a yummy butter lemon garlic sauce drizzled on top. The recipe came from an old Food + Wine article and was really simple and tasty.

My main course was the above crab duo. Bonus points for creative use of a claw. It's the crazy simple crab cake recipe from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market Cookbook and an equally simple Dungeness crab salad recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. The salad is deconstructed and made up of roasted beets, avocado, watercress, crab and creme fraiche. The crab is dressed in a light dressing of oil, vinegar, lemon juice (which I subbed for the recommended lime juice), shallots and jalapeno. It was brilliant and complimented the crab perfectly.
Noah's main was a roasted game hen with thick bacon slices and roasted grapes. This simple combination kind of blew my mind. In fact, I'm thinking I'll eat the leftovers for lunch in a few minutes... Strangely enough, the recipe came from the same article in Food + Wine as the shrimp polenta, even though Noah had planned them out separately.
Above is the table, set with the second course. We drank an Alsatian Pinot Gris with all four of the dishes. A nice, dry match.
And finally, the dessert courses. I had been obsessing over the Whole Lemon Tart recipe that Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a week or so back. I decided to use one of the precious Meyer lemons from my tree to make it, and instead of a full sized 9" tart, I went with mini tartlettes. I was kind of worried, having never tarted it up before (that's what she said), but everything turned out really, really well. Noah put together a mini cheese course - St. Andre triple cream and a 6 month aged Manchego. We ate it all, along with a 1999 Veuve Brut Rose champagne that Noah had given to me for Valentine's Day in 2005. So good!

By the end of the three hour meal, we were both stuffed and very, very happy. Who needs $500 dinners when you can make something even better at home for nowhere near that amount?

And did I mention I have enough dough and filling for two or three more tarts hanging out in my freezer right now. Yeah, let's see how long that lasts.

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