When I sat down to prepare these two posts for Valentine’s Weekend I was initially unsure of what kind of menu to put together.
Romantic foods? Hmmmmm
Sure, there is that unforgettable kitchen scene from the movie Nine and A Half Weeks. But that was all lust rather than romance. Plus it wasn’t very sanitary 😉
I think most people see “romance” as a means to an end, how to woo the one that has stolen your heart. But my idea of romance these days (we’ve been married 15 years as of this week) is that it is the outward evidence of true love. You can’t “see” true love but you can see the gestures and expressions that true love creates, right?
For example, Alexis was off of work yesterday and I knew I was going to be off today. So before I left the office, I wrote 2-3 “love you” type messages and hid them on her desk where I knew she’d come across them during her day today. Simple gestures, huge sentiment.
So it’s only natural that food is linked to romance. It’s one of my ways of showing my love day in and day out. When it came to creating this brunch menu, I kept it simple and just thought of things that I’ve made for Alexis that she loved.
These are one of Alexis’ all time favorites when we’d eat at Village Inn in Jacksonville Beach or Perkins here in Knoxville, so I finally learned how to make it for her this year. I hadn’t before mainly because I didn’t know how to poach an egg. I found out that I actually LIKE poached eggs…..who knew?
I won’t bother with a recipe since there are a million out there already, but here are some tips for poaching an egg & making Eggs Benedict.
- Proper temperature is the key. Use an instant read thermometer to get the water to exactly 200f.
- Fresh, cold eggs retain their shape better when poached. Tip courtesy of Rouxbe Online Cooking School: Place raw egg in bowl of cold water. If it lays flat, it’s fresh. If one end floats up, it is older (good for boiling). If the entire egg floats, it should be discarded.
- Add 2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt to your simmering water to help speed the coagulation of the egg white (keeping it’s shape better)
- Poach 3-4 minutes for soft, 5-6 for medium, and 7-8 minutes for hard poached eggs.
- I used a packet mix to make my Hollandaise sauce the first two times I made Eggs Benedict, just so I could focus on getting the eggs poached correctly.
- If you don’t want to do the traditional free floating method of poaching eggs, they now have cool silicon “boats” that you can use to poach eggs.
Alexis LOVES rich flavor. I surprised her with this one for Mothers’ Day 2003 and she adored it.
4 teaspoons flour
8 ounces butter
3 cups beef stock
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 1/2 ea onion, diced
1/2 bunch green onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 cloves of roasted garlic
1 can artichoke hearts with juices (about 2 cups)
1 cup spinach, fresh, rinsed and chopped
salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in flour over low heat and whisk constantly for 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in beef stock after that. Then add celery, onions, green onions, bay leaf, thyme and garlic. Simmer for 45 minutes.
Finely chop artichoke hearts, chop the spinach and add to the mixture, continue simmering another 30 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and then puree it in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender.
Add cream, wine, Tabasco, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring back just to a simmer, garnish with whatever you like (croutons, fried leeks, sour cream, etc), and serve. Today used fried leeks and thyme.
Mini Monte Cristo Sandwiches
This is another dish that Alexis enjoys unabashedly. It’s a finger food variation of the Croque-monsieur. It is basically a ham n swiss sandwich given the french toast treatment. Sounds odd but try it. It’s amazing.
2 teaspoons butter or margarine
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
8 Slices white bread
4 ounces swiss OR fontina
4 ounces cooked ham
3 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 Env. Golden Onion Soup Mix
1/4 cup butter or margarine
Equally top 4 bread slices with cheese and ham; top with remaining bread, buttered side down. Cut each sandwich into 4 triangles. Beat eggs, milk, and golden onion recipe soup mix until well blended. Dip sandwiches in egg mixture, coating well. In large skillet, melt 1/4 C butter and cook sandwiches over medium heat, turning once, until golden. Makes about 16 mini sandwiches
The KEY part that they left out is the dipping sauce. Warm raspberry preserves over low heat and serve in a sauce cup, it makes the dish.
Alexis is a certifiable grapefruit freak and just Thursday I received a shipment of California oranges and grapefruit from a family member, so I just had to include those. I was going to make this citrus salad but Alexis didn’t like the sound of the recipe so I went with a basic sectioned grapefruit. Nothing sexy but she loves them.
Part II – The Valentine’s Dinner
This is coming tomorrow, but to give a little preview, here is the premise: My martial arts instructor has been learning to really cook for the past year. He recently got engaged. My 15th anniversary is this week. So he and I are cooking Valentine’s Day Dinner for his fiance and my wife!