While the economy has many folks dining in more as a means to save money, I've often loved dining in (and, to be honest, I've spent a good bit on obscure ingredients, I may as well have eaten out). However, I came to the realization that I've not cooked for Mr. SA all that often. Yes, weeknight dinners, but not the pull out the china and silver, we're dining by candlelight. Years back in my dating life- I'd cook very elaborate formal dinners for the guy at the time. Yet poor Mr. Right has only had a handful of my go-to whoop-de-doo meals. The latest Saveur magazine featured a divine-looking caramel tarte and poof- I was inspired.
I chopped escarole frisee, added section of blood oranges, blue cheese, and made a vinaigrette. The recipe is roughly:
1 part extra virgin olive oil
1 part champagne vinaigrette
1 teaspoon mustard
Served this with a white wine from Ledson Vineyards (beautiful home/castle!).
For the entree, I made gnocchi, one of my husband's favorites! It was a time-intensive process, but pretty easy. The recipe also featured mushrooms, another of hubby's faves, and truffle oil, which I adore. Again, recipe from Saveur from Boston's Sportello restaurant.
FOR THE GNOCCHI:1 lb. russet potatoes (about 2), unpeeled 1 1⁄4 cup flour, plus more for dusting3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt1 tbsp. truffle oil1 egg, beaten
FOR THE SAUCE:2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil10 oz. mushrooms, preferably chanterelles, roughly chopped 2 cups heavy cream3⁄4 cup peas, fresh or frozen2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thymeKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste1 tbsp. finely chopped chives
1. Make the gnocchi: Boil potatoes in a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes; let cool slightly and peel. Work potatoes through a food mill or a potato ricer onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the potatoes and mix together with your hands. Form a mound and create a well in the center; add truffle oil and egg. Gently knead dough until it just comes together, adding a little more flour if it begins to stick. (I added a lot more flour! A little bit for each roll.)
2. Lightly flour a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and set aside. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to a 1⁄2" thickness. Cut into 1⁄2"-wide strips. Roll each strip between your hands and the work surface to form ropes. Cut each rope into 1" segments. Working with one segment at a time, roll it down the back of a small fork so that the tines make ridges on the surface of the dough. Transfer gnocchi to the prepared baking sheet; cover with a kitchen towel and refrigerate until ready to cook.
3. Make the sauce: Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until light brown, about 5 minutes. Raise heat to high; add cream, peas, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until cream reduces by half. Season mushroom sauce with salt and pepper and remove skillet from heat. Boil gnocchi in the salted water until they float, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to mushroom sauce, add chives, and toss to combine.
We had an unbelievably fabulous Pinot Noir from Lynmar Estate.
Oh, yes, I did serve vegetables- asparagus- but it wasn't nearly as exciting.
The piece de resistance- Chocolate Caramel Tarte, also from Saveur and from Brooklyn's Marlow and Sons restaurant. Pardon my poor pictures- they do not do this dessert justice.
FOR THE CRUST:1 1⁄2 cups flour1⁄4 cup plus 1 tbsp. dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and softened1⁄2 cup plus 2 tbsp. confectioners' sugar2 egg yolks, preferably at room temperature1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
FOR THE CARAMEL1 1⁄2 cups sugar3 tbsp. light corn syrup1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt6 tbsp. unsalted butter6 tbsp. heavy cream1 tbsp. crème fraîche
FOR THE GANACHE1⁄2 cup heavy cream4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely choppedGray sea salt for garnish (note that I used milk chocolate since I'm not a huge chocolate fan to begin with).
1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 350˚. Combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until mixture is pale and fluffy; mix in yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Transfer dough to a 9" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
2. Make the caramel: In a 1-qt. saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 6 tbsp. water and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 365°. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, cream, and crème fraîche (the mixture will bubble up) until smooth. Pour caramel into cooled tart shell and let cool slightly; refrigerate until firm, 4–5 hours.
3. Make the ganache: Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in hot cream; let sit for 1 minute, then stir slowly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour ganache evenly over tart and refrigerate until set, 4–5 hours. Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice, and serve chilled.