It seems fitting that my first guest post on OrganizedJen.com is from my favorite person on the planet, my husband Don (now fondly known as DisorganizedDon on YouTube and Words With Friends). Many of you requested links to recipes and more information about Don’s fantastic Valentine’s Day feast he prepared for me (as seen in my Valentine’s Day Feast (February 14. 2013) video on MHWL). Don wrote up this blog post for those who are interested…
Valentine’s Follow Up (with recipes!) ~ By Don
I have to say I was completely overwhelmed by the response I received from everyone on the Valentine’s Day dinner I prepared for Jennifer. I’m really not worthy of all of that praise, but thank you so much for all of the very kind words. I had a lot of fun making that meal and being able to share it with so many people has made it even more special.
There was a request for all the recipes that I used for that menu, so I thought I would put them together along with some commentary on how I used them. I was able to snap a few pictures of when I used the leftover meat and cheese balls to make a little snack for Jennifer and me the next Saturday, so we’re including those as well!
Course #1 – Cauliflower Soup
I couldn’t find purple cauliflower or purple potatoes, but I added one beet to my vegetable boil and I thought it gave the soup an absolutely perfect Valentine’s color. My other substitution was half and half (from a cow) instead of the soy creamer. Jen likes it spicy so my version had a little extra cayenne. One warning: be careful with the apple cider vinegar. The soup definitely needs some of it, but I recommend starting with 1 tablespoon and adding half increments from there to suit individual taste.
Course #2 – Caprese Salad
No recipe for this one. Just copying my favorite restaurant presentations.
✽ Tomato – I found a gigantic organic heirloom at whole foods.
✽ Mozzarella – I found a nice looking ball at Whole Foods, but I wish I could find an even better and fresher one.
✽ Olive oil – Bionaturae EVOO never fails.
✽ Balsamic – Alessi 20-year-old VSOP was fantastic!
✽ Basil – The fresher the better! The basil I found was only so-so.
✽ Salt – Use your favorite salt.
Mine was constructed this way: sliced tomato on the bottom, salted and drizzled with oil, followed by big leaves of basil and then the mozzarella slice cut in a heart shape. Add more salt, another drizzle of olive oil, and then the balsamic on top. Tasty!!
Course #3 – Salmon and Avocado Tartar
You could tell from the video that I made the chopped up version served in a martini glass. I omitted the scallions and the black sesame seeds, as well as the seven flavor chili pepper, just to keep things a little simpler for myself. I started with salmon sashimi from Whole Foods. I chopped it up along with avocado and a peeled and de-seeded cucumber, trying to get the right bite size pieces, and then I just focused on trying to get a good balance between the lime juice, soy sauce, and mirin.
Course #4 – Duo of Balls
The meatball recipe and the ketchup came from Emeril via the Food Network. I followed his recipe pretty closely except I didn’t add the essence seasoning. I think next time I’ll try to take the time to do that: the more spice the better! Still, they came out very flavorful. Also, I didn’t cook them in the pan before baking on Valentine’s Day, but I did when I cooked up the extra ones on a couple of days later. I think the pan-frying added a nice texture to the outside, so I highly recommend that technique.
I made the ketchup basically as Emeril directed. Again, I advise caution with the amount of vinegar. It’s an important ingredient, but just add it slowly. Also, I used my handheld blender to make sure I got the onions and garlic fully incorporated which I think really helps blend the flavors.
I followed these instructions and made my mac and cheese two days in advance. I even added some extra cheese as suggested. My mistake when I cooked these on Valentine’s Day was that I didn’t pack the noodles together hard enough when I formed the balls and I didn’t sufficiently saturate the exterior with the flour, egg wash, and bread crumb coating. I did better on those points on Saturday and I think they came out much tastier. Still, I was left wanting for a little more gooey cheesiness. They did, however, pair very nicely with Emeril’s amped up ketchup.
Course #5 – Homemade Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce
This was the course I was most excited about and most scared about. I knew the vodka cream sauce would be awesome and easy to make. However, I’ve never made homemade pasta before so I had no idea if I’d be able to pull it off. Lo and behold, I found a great step-by-step recipe online and the noodles came out great!
I followed the vodka cream sauce recipe pretty closely with the addition of adding some dried basil because I love basil (and Jen does too!). I think I added a little too much tomato paste at the start, so I added some more cream at the end to balance out the tanginess.
For the pasta, I followed The Pioneer Woman’s instructions as carefully as I could. Two eggs per cup of flour seemed like a great ratio. I think I actually used a little less flour than that, as some was left behind in the bowl when I pulled it together into the ball. I stored it in a bag for about three hours until it was time for course #5 when I rolled it out as thin as possible and cut it into thin strips with my chef’s knife.
Fortunately, I have picked up some proper pasta serving techniques from Scott Conant on Chopped and from Molto Mario, so I knew to have my big pot of salted boiling water at the ready. I had also warmed the vodka cream sauce, which I’d prepared earlier, in a saucepan. The fresh pasta went into the boiling water for just about 90 seconds. I scooped it out with a strainer and dropped it right into the pan of sauce to finish cooking. I tossed it with tongs in the saucepan for another 90 seconds or so before transferring to serving bowls and topping with freshly chopped basil. Personally, this was my favorite dish of the night!
Course #6 – Filet with Mushrooms and Red Wine Sauce
I knew I wanted to do a filet with red wine sauce as the protein since Jen loves filet and red wine sauce would fit my color theme. I found this recipe pretty quickly and I thought the red wine sauce technique sounded solid.
I started thinking about the right veggie and mushrooms seemed like the perfect choice. I searched around and found this recipe for a red wine sauce with mushrooms.
I loved the roasted garlic idea, but I didn’t want to be running outside to the grill and I knew I wanted to use my filet juices as part of the red wine pan sauce. I roasted a couple heads of garlic earlier and just sort of made it up as I went along. It actually turned out pretty fantastic, if I say so myself. Please keep in mind that Jennifer and I are HUGE roasted garlic lovers so this might not be the right ratio for everyone. 😉
I added my 8 oz filet (room temperature, covered in salt and pepper) to hot oil in a large skillet and cooked for about twelve minutes total, turning the meat to get most of the sides since it is was basically a cube. The filet came out of the pan at internal temp of 120˚at which point I tented it with foil. Since I was just making one steak, I added just one cup of red wine (I used the Duckhorn cabernet we were drinking) to the pan and turned the heat up to high. I added the mushrooms to my other skillet, which had already been heated with oil. After about five minutes I added the two heads of roasted garlic that I had mashed earlier to the mushrooms. Once the wine had reduced by 75%, I added a tablespoon of butter. Once it was melted, I poured the wine into the mushroom pan. Now I had achieved a double de-glazing: once to get all the crusty meaty goodness out of the first pan, and second to get all of the crusty garlicy and mushroomy goodness out of the second pan. I let the wine and mushrooms simmer on low heat for a minute while I sliced the filet and portioned it onto plates and then I poured the wine and mushrooms over the filet slices. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how it turned out!
Course #7 – White Chocolate Mousse
Jennifer has been really into white chocolate lately, so this was an easy idea to choose. I liked the look of this Betty Crocker recipe, so I went with it. I made a silly mistake of adding too much cream at first, but fortunately I figured it out before I got too far along and balanced it out with extra egg yolks. Other than that, I followed this recipe to a T. The only thing I did was add a few raspberries on top to meet my red color theme, and also because what’s better than raspberries and chocolate? I was very pleased with the texture and flavor of the final product. I can’t wait to try this recipe again, but with dark chocolate!
I’m pretty sure that Don is the sweetest man on the planet! His Valentine’s Day efforts and creativity made the day so special for me. I’m including the Valentine’s Day vlog below in case you missed it and would like to see the feast.
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