valentine . . .
It’s Valentine’s Day today and the forecast of another blizzard tonight is putting a damper on the commercial aspects of the celebration. People may stay home tonight instead of going out for dinner. Flower deliveries and shopping might be cut short due to difficulty getting out, parking and the logistics of doing normally what we might do to show our loved ones that we care.
I’ve been debating about what to have for our Valentine’s dinner because the ideas swirl around how much effort the shopping/cooking/cleaning will take instead of going out and paying the piper for a meal that we might enjoy out at a nice restaurant instead.
My first inclination was to order some take-out cooked lobster and cole slaw from our local fish market. It’s festive and easy. Just send G. out to pick it up before the place closes at 6 p.m. And we haven’t had lobster for awhile anyhow. But a quick call to the fish market was taken by an impatient fishmonger who said to call back rather than take my order. The Market Basket fish guy said they were expecting a shipment of hard shell lobsters too but they hadn’t arrived and to also call back. So much for the lobster idea.
Yesterday, when visiting with my daughter C. in Concord in the afternoon, I picked up a small fresh Bell & Evans whole chicken that I could roast in a simplified Judy Rodgers style recipe sans the overnight brining. Throw in some baking potatoes, make a salad and we’re good to go.
The other idea I have is to make a very simple dinner of pappardalle pasta (wide noodles) with a little braised veal and fresh sauteed shitake mushrooms with grated parmesan reggiano cheese sprinkled on top. I saw a demonstration of this dish the other day on one of those cooking shows with three chefs who bantered back and forth, the tension of their egos bubbling among them like a sauce gently basted over an entree in a pan cooking on the stove.
I’ve made pappardalle before because I love these wide noodles. The TV chef’s trick was to submerge the freshly cooked and rinsed noodles into a homemade stock made of veal and chicken. What a revelation! To have a wonderful base of flavor in stock to glaze the noodles before serving. That “Aha” moment was priceless. No wonder the dish looked so appetizing. I found a small piece of veal, cooked it lightly with some chopped shallots and unsalted butter; made a small veal stock that simmered for about an hour on the stove.
I bought some large fresh shitake mushrooms yesterday because they’d be so nice, sliced thickly and cooked in some unsalted butter with salt and pepper, then placed on top of the aromatic stock flavored pappardalle. Sprinkle with some grated parmesan reggiano cheese.
No cooked vegetable like asparagus or broccoli–too mundane, but perhaps a salad of fresh endive diagonally cut and quarter turned, the leaves separated, a large fresh Mineola orange, peeled, the segments free of skin cut into the endive, then a whole just-ripe avocado, skinned, the luscious fruit cut in generous sized chunks into the salad. Dress this fruit salad with the simplest pure vinaigrette dressing made with refreshing meyer lemon juice and toss just before eating after the pappardalle noodle dish. Cracked pepper added at the last minute before the first bite of salad. Oh, and I have a corn muffin that I’ll toast on a griddle to have alongside the pappardalle dish.
There’s just enough organic red wine for each of us to have small glass with dinner. Picked up a miniature carrot cake for dessert.
The main event of my day, besides deciding on what to make for dinner and preparing for same, is cleaning up our kitchen-living space. I’m always amazed when I wake up in the morning to see how many things have accumulated in the course of a couple of days and nights. Ingredients and cooking things litter our wonderful new soapstone countertop. Books, socks and magazines are also all over the place in our sitting area.
After I have my breakfast of Irish steel cut oatmeal cooked on top of the stove, I think I’ll empty everything off of the soapstone counter in order to apply a fresh coat of wax on it to renew its surface. Put things away, clear off our kitchen table; reduce piles of books and paperwork away and then vacuum all around. Our new dark blue plaid flannel sheets are washed and in the dryer. Having our home refreshed is a good thing to do before having dinner and exchanging cards tonight. As usual, most of the preparation for a special celebration occurs behind the scenes.
There’s lots to do so I think I’ll turn on the “Law and Order” channel and play it until the place is clean. These are old re-runs with Benjamin Bratt and Carey Lowell among the key characters: that was a long time ago! They’ll keep me company while the magic elves go to work! Fun!