Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love and Food

I spent Valentine’s day tired, hung over, hanging out with my parents, watching a movie in sweatpants with Evan and Amanda, and going to Mexican food with friends. And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Maybe it wasn’t all romantic and pink hearts, and chocolates, and roses...but I can’t think of a better way to spend Valentine’s weekend than surrounded by love.

Mel and John were in town for the weekend, and we all went to Amanda’s dear friend Becky’s wedding. Ahem… the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Seriously, it was good… the food was fantastic (I had the pork tenderloin), the dancing lasted all night was out of control, the bride and groom were beaming, the room was filled with so much love… and there was a Dante’s hot-dog cart at the reception. Drinking bubbly, dancing with my sweetie, and eating cream cheese smothered hot dogs (a Seattle favorite)… can you think of anything more romantic? I certainly can’t. Except for maybe cooking with your valentine and enjoying an absolutely amazing meal together. Which is what Evan and I did on Monday, post V-day, to celebrate.

Now, Evan and I have had quite a few Valentine’s days together, so we’ve done the fancy Valentine’s restaurant dinner (Melting Pot and an Italian place), the romantic Valentine’s retreat (a stay in Leavenworth), the staying in thing (homemade sushi and 2 seasons of Nip/Tuck), and all those other Valentine’s activities that aren’t appropriate to talk about on a food blog. And after all that, we decided we really liked the staying in thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like to go out for a fancy, romantic, expensive meal now and then, but something about the prix fixe V-Day menu, the red and pink streamers, and sharing the day with all the other happily in love couples with their jewelry exchanges and hand holding… seems contrived. And that’s why we decided to recreate one of those fancy schmancy dinners at home, where we could really be ourselves, just the two of us (well, three if you count Biscuit).

We started out with a lil’ bubbly and fresh raw oysters from my new favorite store, with a mignonette of vinegar, cilantro, jalapeño, vermouth, and shallots. They were so refreshing and delish... and Evan is now a shucking master. I only tried raw oysters for the first time a few months ago, and I think I’m in love (oysters, will you be my valentine?). I can’t believe I’ve missing out on them all these years!

After our refreshing first course, we had a lovely little salad of mixed baby spring greens, crumbled blue cheese, and shallot vinaigrette, and broiled oysters on the half shell with Sriracha lime butter—spicy and still tasting fresh and briny—a Food 52 recipe I highly recommend! They reminded me of the grilled oysters my dad used to make for us squeamish kids that refused try the ol’ shuck and suck method.

For the main course, we went the surf and turf route. I steamed mussels and clams in a broth of vermouth, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, lemon, and green onions, served with crusty French bread for dipping. They were amazing. It was my first time making clams and mussels (crazy, right!?) and I totally winged it, throwing in this and that leftover from Evan’s cutting board. They were pretty great, I’d say they rival my favorite clams at Latona Pub.

Evan was a champion, and got right in there…preparing perfectly cooked NY Strip steaks with cilantro-butter melting sauce. He picked out the recipe and then tweaked it to our liking (cutting back on the butter and subbing cilantro for tarragon since his Valentine detests tarragon). He did everything—from mixing up the delicious marinade, reinventing the melting sauce, and cooking the steaks to the perfect slightly pink doneness—with only a tiny bit of help. It was delish!

Then for dessert, as if we weren’t already bursting at the seams, we had coconut bread pudding with chocolate rum sauce and vanilla ice cream. There's nothing better than the combination of coconut, chocolate, and rum... especially in a creamy, custardy, rich bread pudding. It was like an even more decadent and creamy version of the macaroon. I won’t lie… I had it for breakfast this morning.

Sharing in the love of two good friends, spending time with my parents and sister, and cooking a delicious dinner with my boyfriend… it might not be your typical Valentine’s day, but really, can you think of anything more lovely!?

Coconut Bread Pudding with Chocolate Rum Sauce

1 14 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 pinch salt
1 pinch fresh ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 loaf of day old french or italian bread
unsweetened flake coconut
chocolate rum sauce

Tear bread in 1 inch cubes and set aside in a large bowl. Combine everything except the bread and butter, and whisk to mix well. Pour mixture over bread and stir (works best with your hands) to combine. Really get it soaked! Let sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x9 casserole dish. Transfer bread mixture to dish and dot with butter. Bake until the center is set, about 50-60 minutes.Top hot bread pudding with chocolate sauce and flaked coconut... delicious with a little vanilla ice cream on the side! Enjoy

Chocolate Rum Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cups)
8 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 tablespoon dark rum

Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add coconut milk and simmer until just bubbling, stirring often. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until melted, smooth, and well combined. Add rum. Serve over coconut bread pudding!
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