Monday, February 9, 2009

My Little Valentine Supper

I usually cook Valentine's Day dinner. I’d rather cook than fight the crowds at the restaurants and when my kids were growing up, they would help out by setting the table and making the dessert. We made Valentine's Day cards and decorated placemats. It became a bit of a tradition. My favorite dinner to make for the holiday was a roasted chicken complete with mashed potatoes, stuffing and sautéed carrots. We usually topped it off with chocolate cupcakes or brownie sundaes.

Now that the kids are grown and it’s hubby and me, the restaurant option would be easy – however, I just can’t help it…. I love to create a special menu for a special day. This year I’m trying something different; in place of the roasted chicken, I’m preparing Gray sole with a delicate white wine pan sauce. In place of the mashed potatoes, I’ve created a Wild Mushroom Hash. And because I just can’t help myself, I'm adding an over-the-top veggie: Individual Cream Spinach Gratins , which just bubble with cheesy goodness. My dessert is a Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and the decorations are all about my three sons …. I guess I just can’t get this matriarch of the family stuff out of my system.

Let me give you a little info about the ingredient components of the menus. Gray sole is a flounder (also called the witch flounder and the pole dab). Most consider the flesh of the gray sole flounder to be of high quality in flavor and texture. You can purchase it at your fish monger’s market. I found Gray sole at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it in the case, don’t be afraid to ask when it may become available in your store. The fillets I purchased were small, about 3 ounces, so I serve two per person, but you can find them larger. Gray sole is not always available because it has been over-fished. Recent news says that the population is coming back – which hopefully will put the fish back into the stores soon.

I used an assortment of different mushrooms in the hash. You can find so many varieties in the grocery market today, that it behooves you to try them all. The secret to cooking mushrooms is to place them into the skillet (either in butter or a combination of butter and olive oil). Let them sit for a minute to caramelize. Do not stir them around, let them brown. For the hash, I actually flattened the mushrooms into the other veggies with the back of a spatula. After a few minutes, I scooped them up and cooked them on the other side until they were golden. Only after the mushrooms begin to turn a golden color do you season them with salt and pepper. The result is an earthy, nutty flavor experience that I am sure you will prefer over the mushy alternative.

I baked the red velvet cake in square pans and froze two layers for later use. (After all it is just hubby and me ….) I couldn’t resist the urge to decorate, so I took three heart shaped cookie cutters and placed them into the frosting. I dug up some of the Valentine's Day sugars that I bought a Williams-Sonoma and filled in the hearts with the candy. It’s cute – and the cake will be gone within 24 hours, since those boys do tend to show up for holiday meals!!

I hope your Valentine's Day is special and warm and spent with dear friends and family. Please send along your Valentine's meal ideas and we’ll share them right here with everyone!!

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