Meal No. 8 was our Valentine’s Day Dinner. I offered to skip ahead to more traditional fare, like the filet mignon, or at least the roast chicken in tarragon sauce recipe, but The Husband was having none of it.
Menu: Apples and Smoked Trout on Rye Crisps, Cauliflower Gratin, Radicchio and Chestnut Salad, Coffee with Cognac and Cardamom (from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home)
Suggested order: make cardamom syrup; bake gratin, assemble and serve appetizers; whip cream and refrigerate; toss salad and serve with gratin; make and serve coffee drink. Martha writes, “Inspired by Nordic flavors, this relaxed meal evokes fireside dining.” She served hers on “campsite-style dishes,” which in the photo appear to be white plates with red trim, and some West Elm-looking mod bowls, and wood-handled flatware. Indeed.
Friends were asking what was on the menu this week, and I complained frequently about this dish, which involves making a sauce out of equal parts crème fraiche and Dijon mustard, and spreading it on a Wasa-type rye cracker, along with smoked trout, slices of Granny Smith apple, and pepper.
As we previously established, I do not care for rye, so rye crisps were never in my equation. I got some of these multi-grain crackers, which resemble snacks you’d serve prisoners on death row. Since that isn’t a very humane idea, let’s just say that it looks like the underside of an Ikea dresser drawer.
The sauce was a delight–super tangy and mustardy. I also loved the smoked trout, which I hadn’t had before. The apple added a bit of tartness and sweetness, but was kind of superfluous. I couldn’t decide what I thought of this combo. I don’t know that I would serve it for company, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t scarf down several of them, but then again, I hadn’t eaten much that day and was very hungry. I tried it on a Vinta cracker, since the particle board crisp was so flavorless, but that wasn’t quite right. I concede that the rye would probably balance all of it out quite nicely, if you could bring yourself to eat it.
Martha suggests serving it with the Scandinavian spirit Aquavit, which is flavored with caraway and herbs.
The radicchio and chestnut salad:
Martha, I am many things, but I am not a fool.
No way in hell was I making another radicchio salad after the salad of despair from last week. I suppose it would have made a proper penance theme dinner with the aforementioned crackers. This week’s version was to have chestnuts and dried cranberries in it. Last time I had chestnuts I thought they were mealy and unpleasant. So, no, thank you, Martha. Good day!
What I did do was wilt some beet greens with garlic and red pepper flakes that I sautéed in olive oil, then dressed them with some lemon juice. It was delicious and perfect with the cauliflower. So there!
This one involved sautéing two shallots in butter, then adding 1/4 c flour and 1 c milk, a tad of nutmeg, and salt to make a roux, then a sauce. After it thickened, I added a cup of Gruyere along with 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Meanwhile, a head of cauliflower florets was boiled until just tender, then combined in a casserole. (I used just one pot, an enameled cast iron one, for both the sauce and the baking for easier clean-up). More cheese, some panko crumbs and a bit of butter were put on top, then it baked for 35 minutes.
Tower of ‘flower!
Maybe Martha should stick the vegetarian entrees, because this was so good! The Husband said it was much better than he expected for a creamy cauliflower dish. He got some extra trout out to have alongside the gratin, and it went well together. It was creamy, but had a bit of bite from the mustard, which I loved. I used a touch less than the 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg called for, as I am always complaining about Middle Eastern food that has too much in it; it just ruins the savoriness for me. But I couldn’t taste it in this, so I was happy.
See the super cute plate it’s on? The Husband got me a set of these plates, which are early 20th century flow blue transfer ware that I had eyed at an antique store, for Valentine’s Day! Thanks, Boo!
This is Martha’s kooky take on an Irish coffee. First I made a cardamom syrup by dissolving equal parts sugar and water and then steeping some cardamom pods in it. The bottle of cardamom pods has a sprinkle-type lid. How, exactly, is that supposed to work? Those chubby things are going nowhere, people!
The syrup was then added to a cup of coffee along with some Bas-Armagnac (the recipe called for brandy). This was also quite delicious! I am not a coffee drinker, preferring coffee-flavored things over actual coffee, so I made my coffee weak, but even with some stronger coffee thrown in for a test, it was tasty. It was sweet and smooth, and the flavors went quite nicely together. Please note that this is the second in a series of booze desserts. I’d take boozy ones over creamy old people dishes any day of the week.
At this point in the evening, my camera decided to crap out. The lens is stuck half in and out, and replacing the battery doesn’t help. So, there is no photo of the coffee.
But here is a gratuitous photo of my dog, showing what she was doing while I was busy cooking; obviously she was worrying about the possible reappearance of a radicchio salad.
With the exception of the salad, which I am sure would have been atrocious, I was wrong about this meal. I really thought the combinations would be too odd to work, but I am glad I was wrong, otherwise Valentine’s Day would have been RUINED!
In all, it took about 1 hour and 45 minutes to make it, but I didn’t start the cauliflower water soon enough and it took FORever to boil, so that was part of the problem.
Smoked trout appetizer: B This could use some tweaking, but I am all about the sauce and the trout
Salad: As if! But my beet green concoction was an A+
Cauliflower gratin: A Suitable for feeding non-relatives!
Coffee: A It’s much better than Irish coffee, in my opinion. Let’s not talk about the fact that I managed to overwhip the cream for the topping and almost had butter, ok?