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Date Night Dinner: Better than a Restaurant

Posted on Posted in Recipes

Being in New Brunswick, my boyfriend and I had limited choices for our Valentine’s Day dinner.  There are a few good restaurants, but literally everyone in the area chooses those restaurants for the night, so eating out is miserable.  Instead, my boyfriend suggested that we eat in this year… and that he’d do all the cooking.  To make it different than any other night, we decided to go all out- good wine, candles, dimmed lights, and 3 courses.

First, we had to go grocery shopping.  It was a snowy Saturday at Wegmans, so this required super-couple-level-teamwork– we each grabbed a cart (two carts means two express lane checkouts), split the list in two by section, and would watch both carts as the other person ran to the section of the store, grabbed all the ingredients they could carry, and ran back.  We stopped for Chick-fil-A and David’s Tea on the way back (it was snowing, so no worries about things going bad in the trunk).

At the last minute, I decided to make dessert.  I chose a flourless chocolate cake with ganache, which was extremely easy and enjoyable to make, especially with my Kitchenaid.  I even had to buy myself a set of springform pans and a cake stand, just for this… oh dear.  The recipe was as follows, adapted from Shabby Creek Cottage, who adapted it from Whole Foods:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

(Dark chocolate and eggs are healthy, therefore this cake is healthy… right?)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray as well, then set the pan aside.

Place 8 ounces of chocolate and 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter in a large microwaveable bowl- I set up a double boiler using a 2 qt pot and the metal bowl of my Kitchenaid, and it worked great! Melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring often, until completely blended.  Add sugar and mix well (I used the Kitchenaid with the whisk attachment). Then add your eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift your cocoa into the bowl and then stir until just blended- very slowly and carefully!  Cocoa is even worse than flour when it comes to coating surfaces, like your lungs.  Gag.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake has risen to the top and formed a thin crust. (The cake should be firm in the middle when done.)  I put the pan into a larger pan with about an inch of water to provide moisture during baking.

Cool for 10 minutes then invert onto a plate/cake stand and remove the springform pan. The cake was relievingly easy to remove from the pan.  Remove parchment paper and let cake cool completely.  I put the cake in the fridge while making the ganache…

Alton Brown’s Ganache, aka the best food on the planet

Ingredients

3 tablespoons corn syrup
6 ounces heavy cream
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a small saucepan combine the corn syrup and heavy cream. Bring to a simmer and add the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.

Yield: 1.5 cups, or enough for at least two cakes.  Eat the leftovers with a spoon.
Pour over the cake and return the cake to the fridge.  The cake is best when cold!

For our appetizer, we decided on Baked Brie.  It’s about the easiest thing ever…

IMG_2603Baked Brie:
1) Wrap a wheel of good brie in puff pastry (or crescent rolls- that’s all we could find)
2) Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes or until golden brown

While the brie baked, I set the table for the evening:

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I even found cloth napkins and real steak knives for the occasion!

We served the brie with sliced green apples and topped it with a drizzle of honey that we got from our friends’ wedding reception.  It was quite amazing.

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Tip: Let it cool before busting into it, or you will end up with a brie flood that can only be stopped by an apple dam.

For dinner, my boyfriend made steak the America’s Test Kitchen way, but with butter instead of oil.  A few tips for success:  dry the steak very, very well just before putting in the searing hot pan (cast iron is best, obviously).  Season far more generously than you think you need to.  Flip as little as possible.  Only cook to medium at most!

We also had mashed potatoes and green beans with a parmesan-breadcrumb topping:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • A few handfuls of fresh green beans (frozen would work too, in a pinch)
  1. In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, Italian seasoning, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Stir to coat and saute over medium heat until the bread crumbs start to brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. While the bread crumbs are sauteing, cook the green beans in butter in another saute pan.  Season with salt and cook until softened and browned.
  3. Top the green beans with the cheese mixture and toss to coat.
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Romantic lighting is not good for picture taking.

This was definitely just as good as a dinner out, and cooking together is much more romantic than waiting for hours to get a table!

With dessert, we enjoyed a glass of the Lagavulin I got my boyfriend for Valentine’s Day.  Just look at this beautiful cake!

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If that amount of chocolate doesn’t scream Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what does.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend a night like this to anyone!

Green beans with parmesan breadcrumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lb green beans

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, Italian seasoning, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Stir to coat and saute over medium heat until the bread crumbs start to brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. While the bread crumbs are sauteing, cook the green beans in butter in another saute pan. Season with salt and cook until softened and browned.
  3. Top the green beans with the cheese mixture and toss to coat.
http://www.foodsciencenerd.com/date-night-dinner-better-than-a-restaurant-3/

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