February 16, 2006

...the best laid plans...

Since G went all out for Valentine's day last year, it set the bar pretty hight for every Valentine's Day thereafter. At first, I told him he'd better come up with something pretty good if he wanted to keep his romantic reputation polished.

Then, I got a brilliant idea. I told G I would be in charge of our Valentine's evening. Whoo-hoo! The only problem was that my idea wasn't so much an idea as it was a fuzzy thought. it involved something romantic. It involved staying in to save our broke selves some money. It involved me cooking? Ordering take-out? An indoor picnic? I couldn't back out, however. I was in charge! I would pull this off if it killed me! Well...it just could have.

Eventually I decided the plan should be something Frenchy. From there, I needed to figure out a menu. I tried to think of what I should cook. (Yes, I just used "I" and "cook" in the same sentence!) As perfectly French as it would be, duck was out. I could sense the impending disaster. After much brainstorming, I decided I could probably handle a crepe-based entree. So, I blew the dust off my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. Sure enough, there was a recipe for basic crepes. I decided to go with a chicken filling recipe that involved a swiss cheese sauce. Plus the recipe called for wine...so it had to be good. I figured I could handle all of that. But what else?

(Try to remember that my culinary repertoire is boxed mac & cheese & spaghetti. And that I usually make G prepare those. Meal planning is foreign territory for me.)

"Sallad!" I thought, "There's usually a salad course!"

So, I dusted off my salad cookbook, appropriately titled, "Lettuce in Your Kitchen." Proof that wedding gifts really do get used!! I had no idea where to start. Fortunately the table of contents was there to guide me, and I flipped to the section of fancy-pants salads. Salvation! There was a simple-seeming recipe for a fancy baby greens salad with goat cheese croutons & a vinaigrette dressing. It involved a baguette, so it must be Frenchy! I would make croutons! i would make dressing that involved fresh herbs! I would be a gourmet!

I had entree. I had salad. But soething was missing. So I thought about what made our French dining experiences so amazing. Snails! Er....Escargot!! I even, get this, found a recipe online for said escargot. According to the site, I should be able to get canned snails. BAM!

Now for dessert. G loves tiramisu. Nope, Italian. Ummmmm....Creme Brulee? See earlier comments re: duck. Fortunately, Martha Stewart saved me. My last Issue of Living had all her most popular desserts. There it was, a beautiful devil's food cake, with chocolate frosting. Three chocolatey layers. The French love choclate, right? Besides, I know G loves chocolate cake, so we had a winner.

So, I would convince G we were going out, and surprise him with dinner at home! I decided I would fold our dining room table down as small as it would go to create a French bistro feeling, light some candles, and would greet G at the door, all dressed up, and take him to the tabe where some beautiful escargot would await.

It would be perfect...

WEll, the first mistake I made was doing my shopping on the 14th. There really wasn't a way around it, though. My work schedule makes such things tricky. Plus all of these fancy ingredients kicking around our house would definitely arouse suspicion. The problem lies in the weird pseudo-insomniac state I've been in. I slept until about 1. This left me with only about 4 hours to get everything done. i threw on some yoga pants and darted out to SuperTarget (don't worry, I've already kicked my own ass), figuring they would surely have everything I would need, including the cake pans for my Martha endeavor. Okay, everything but snails and shallots. Time crunch...but, after the liquor store 9tell me again why grocers in MN can't sell alcohol? Major pain in my ass!) I could swing by the co-op. Surely they would have the missing items. After all, they saved me during the great Thanksgiving vanilla bean hunt of '04. No snails. By this time the desk-workers of the Twin Cities were out en masse. Mucho time crunch. I prayed to the gods that Kowalski's might save me. I maneuvered through the crowded parking lot, where fortunately someone was leaving. I eased into the vacant space and ran into the bustling store. I found a shallot--YAY! I also spied a package of reay-to-go crepes...should I? NO, I was a gourmet! I ducked through the state fair-like mass of people to the canned goods. Snails? Everything but.I checked the fish counter. Nada. Hmmm...what would the closest thing to snails be? As I tried to think, I found the answer in frozen foods. A ready to bake escargot appetizer. I was dissappointed that I wouldn't truly get to make the escargot from scratch (and later would realize that the only reason I would need the shallot was for the escargot). However, no time to mourn that loss...I had dinner to make! I looked like hell! Time was of the essence!

I pulled up in front of our home, and managed to get everything in one trip. Since the cake had to bake and cool, I started with that. I managed through all the steps, dirtying at least half of the bowls and measuring equipment we owned. I got the cake in the oven and set the table. I looked at the clock. YIKES! G was due home any minute. I quickly tried to hide as much evidence as possible, then jumped in the shower. G arrived home as I was about to dry my hair. Well, there went my visions of Doris Day. I went to the door, hair in a towel. I told him--SURPRISE! We're staying in. (I decided to save him the trouble of changing into a shirt and tie.)

We exchanged gifts. I gave him a Batman Begins tee and a recipe book of shots. I received the BRAND NEW, RELEASED THAT DAY Tori Amos DVD video collection. (He'd been planning that for at least a month, it wasn't his fault it was only released that day.)

G then settled on the sofa, while I continued with dinner. had I been able to get everything at Target, I would have been golden. I managed to figure out what to multi task, and how to plan the order of food. We started dinner with some Sauvignon Blanc (a favorite of G's) and escargot with baguette slices. This was followed timely by the salad. I had enought time to slice the rest of the baguette, and bring the entrees out at the perfect time. They were even garnished!!

So, I managed to pull all of that off, including the use of fresh herbs and dirtying every dish that could be appropriated for use in mixing, cooling, or baking.

Time for the snafu. Somehow I missed the part of the frosting recipe where it noted the 35 minute cook time and the TWO HOUR stirring and setting time. So, instead we had a heaping pile of monkey love, and there was a beautiful three-layer cake sitting in the microwave the day after. (I didn't have a cake dome to protect it from our beasties.) This did work out, though. G and I didn't know what we wanted to do last night. So, at roughly 2 in the afternoon, I called him and told him we should have people over to help us eat the cake. He made phone calls, and I cleaned up the house, and six people were able to come by. Only half the cake was eaten, so the rest went to work with Geoff today. I was told by our guest that the cake was well worth the pain in the ass.

While I am dissappointed that the execution was nowhere near flawless, i am proud that I made (escepting the damn ecargot) everything from scratch. While it was later than I planned, i did manage to time everything right. I mentioned several times that we needed a larger kitchen and more measuring cups. G responde, "For all those four course meals you make?" Point taken. Still, maybe if we had the kitchen, and the measuring cups, I could make such meals all the time!

Or we could stick with boxed macaroni and spaghetti.

All-in-all, we did manage to have a fantastic Valentine's Day. But next year, G is in charge again!

Posted by raven at February 16, 2006 08:30 AM
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