This year for Valentine's Day, I decided that we'd eat in -- mostly because other people had planned way further ahead than I had. First, my babysitter was already taken and second, the restaurant I wanted to take Amy to was completely booked the day before and after Valentine's Day.
So I figured that instead of going out, I'd make dinner myself (yes, I do actually cook sometimes).
Picking out the menu was the toughest part. I had some ideas for dishes that I wanted to make, but when I put them down on paper in front of me, I realized that they really wouldn't go well together. How professional chefs do tasting menus on a regular basis, I'll never know. Here's the menu I ended up with:
Malpec Oysters with Mignonette Granité
2005 Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc
Truffled Red Wine Risotto with Parmesan Broth
2003 Savannah-Chanelle Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Fig Balsamic-Glazed Duck with Pearl Onion and Pear Hash
2000 Leclerc Briant Rubis de Noirs Brut
White Russian Milk Shake
You can click the links on the dishes to see where I found the recipes for them.
All and all I think I batted about .500. I didn't like the Malpec oysters too much; there wasn't much to them. And the mignonette recipe used too much red wine vinegar and I overdid it with the pepper.
The risotto came out great, and I'd recommend the recipe for anyone looking for an out-of-the-ordinary risotto. I think the key was using a good Pinot Noir and then serving the dish with the same wine, which really brought out the flavor of the wine in the dish. But the best thing was the Parmesan broth. I prepared it the night before and it was really easy to make. If you're wondering where you can just get parmesan rinds, Whole Foods sometimes sells them.
I killed the duck (not in a good way). I've made this recipe before and nailed it, but this time I was trying to time three different dishes and actually sit down and enjoy the meal with Amy, so I cooked all of the dishes at the beginning and them put them in the oven on warm. The risotto was fine since I purposely left it a little undercooked, but I pan-fried the duck at the recommended six minutes a side, and it came out way overdone. Oh well.
Whenever you mix Kahlua, Vodka, and vanilla ice cream together, you can't really go wrong. I wanted to make my own dessert -- buying one at the market just seemed like cheating, but I'm no pastry chef, so the white Russian milkshake seemed just right and it ended up being a good finishing touch on the meal.
So if you want to impress your special someone next Valentine's Day, I'd recommend the above menu except for the oyster mignonette. Just find some oysters that you like and serve them on some ice. Oh, and don't eff up the duck like I did. I think next time I try to do this with the duck, instead of putting it in the oven, I'll under cook it (probably three minutes a side) and then when I'm ready to serve it, I'll re-fry it quick before I plate it.