I now bring you the recipes from our immensely tasty Valentine's Day dinner. They all look really long, but they're actually not that complicated. The chocolate mousse one is possibly the most precision-demanding, but it's soooooo worth it. Trust me. Try it. You won't regret it (unless you don't like chocolate, and then I can't do anything to help you.)
Without further ado...
Mushroom and Chestnut Soup
I called this Three Mushroom Soup because I couldn’t remember the real name. It technically only calls for two varieties of mushrooms, but we changed it a little. We couldn’t find porcini mushrooms, so we used shitake instead, and we used half white button mushrooms and half Baby Bella mushrooms, which appear to be hybrids of white and Portobello, but could just be a gimmick. We couldn’t find vacuum-packed chestnuts anywhere, so I’m fairly certain we just left that ingredient out. Chris did come home from Trader Joe’s with a large bag of hazelnuts, after remembering only the “vacuum-packed” and “-nuts” among all the other things he was trying to keep track of, but we opted to not put them in the soup. We also did not use truffle oil, because we can’t afford to even look at truffle oil. And we simply garnished with a slice of mushroom rather than the chives, which I believe got left off the list accidentally, and of course through no fault of my own.
1 oz (30 g) dried porcini mushrooms
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
½ tsp each salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb (500 g) white button or Portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed and finely chopped
3 ½ oz (100 g) vacuum-packed chestnuts, finely chopped
2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup half-and-half
Juice of ½ lemon
Chives, chopped, for garnish
Truffle oil, to garnish (optional)
1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for 15 minutes. Put the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan, heat to medium-high, and add the onion, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 4 minutes, then add the garlic. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and chestnuts, and sauté for an additional minute before adding the stock.
2. Drain the porcini, reserving the liquid. Rinse, chop finely, and add to the soup. Strain the liquid through paper towels to catch any remaining grit or dirt, pour the strained liquid into the soup, and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and lemon juice. Season to taste, then transfer to a blender and puree. Return to the saucepan to warm through. Serve in cups or bowls, garnished with chopped chives and a drizzle of truffle oil, if using.
This soup can be made 2 days before, refrigerated, and reheated. It may also be frozen for up to 4 weeks.
Spinach and Peppered Pear Salad with Raspberry Walnut Oil Dressing
We do not have and couldn’t be bothered to find pink peppercorns, so we just used black. Our biggest cheat by far, though, was that we decided not to shell out for walnut oil and instead just bought a bottle of raspberry vinaigrette dressing. It was still yummy. We made our own Parmesan chips by dropping about 2 Tbsp of grated Parmesan onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baking them for about 7 minutes at 400°F.
1-inch cubes sourdough or French bread, about 2 large handfuls
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 ripe comice or similar pears, quartered and cored
1 Tbsp freshly ground pink and black peppercorns, plus more as needed
Juice of 2 lemons
1 small red onion, finely diced
8 large handfuls baby spinach or mesclun (mixed baby lettuces)
1 cup pecans, toasted
Parmesan chips or ½ cup roughly grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ garlic clove, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
5 Tbsp walnut or hazelnut oil
½ tsp each salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread out the bread cubes on a nonstick baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 6 minutes, until golden. Remove the croutons from the oven and leave to cool.
2. Roughly chop the pears into ½-in wide slices. Transfer to a small bowl with the freshly ground pepper and 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice, then toss to coat. In another bowl, mix together the onion and remaining juice.
3. Pour the recipe ingredients into a jar, close the lid, and shake well to combine. Arrange the spinach, pears, pecans, Parmesan chips, and croutons in small individual bowls. Just before serving, pour on the dressing.
Golden Phyllo-Wrapped Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream
9 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
¼ cup marinated sun-dried tomatoes, drained, patted dry, and chopped
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloin removed
Salt and pepper to taste
12 phyllo sheets
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1. In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Divide into six equal portions and set aside.
2. Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise, not quite all the way through, and open like a book. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Place a portion of the cheese mixture on one half and fold the other half over to close.
3. Carefully place one phyllo sheet on a clean, dry work surface and brush liberally with melted butter. Place another sheet directly on top and brush well again with the butter. Place the chicken breast 2 inches from the bottom of one of the shorter ends and fold over the long ends on both sides. Now roll up the breast in the rest of the phyllo to make a neat package. Place seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush all over with the butter. Repeat with the remaining five breasts. Leave at least an in between each wrapped breast to allow for browning.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake uncovered until the phyllo is golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken reaches 165°F, about 45 minutes. Transfer each with a spatula to a warm dinner plate, ladle the avgolemono sauce over, and serve immediately.
No, I do not know how to pronounce this.
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 large eggs
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the broth in a medium-sized saucepan to just boiling, then remove and set aside.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs until somewhat frothy. Whisk in the lemon juice until well combined. Continuing to whisk, slowly pour the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture. Pour back into the saucepan and over low heat, cook, whisking gently until the sauce has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but still a bit thin and pourable. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set in a warm place until ready to serve, or pour into a thermos and set aside.
Lemon Garlic Greek Potatoes
6 medium-sized russet, Idaho, or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges or 1-inch cubes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/3 cup olive oil
¾ cup water
2 tsp finely chopped, fresh oregano leaves
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy roasting pan and stir well. Bake, stirring occasionally, until a golden crust begins to form on the potatoes, about 40 minutes. Add up to ½ cup more water if the pan appears dry, and continue baking, stirring often, until the potatoes are crisp and golden brown, about 30 minutes more. Taste for the addition of salt, pepper, and lemon, and serve immediately.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the results of consuming this mousse. However, I will say that it is To. Die. For.
5 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 66% cacao), finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1. In the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until pale yellow and thick. A ribbon should fall back into the bowl when the whisk is lifted, and the sugar should begin to dissolve.
2. Stir in the water. Place over simmering water and cook, whisking vigorously, until the mixture is quite thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 160°F.
3. Remove from the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate. Stir until melted. Continue stirring until the mixture is cool to the touch.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the melted chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate about 4 hours. Serve cold.
If any of you try any of these, you have to let me know! Bon appétit!