My first attempt at cooking for the boyfriend went well, with something I feel comfortable doing: baking. So, I made wonderful cinnamon rolls. And the boyfriend approved.
The second task I picked as my 25 project was a “surprise” for Valentine’s Day. This was no easy task, as not only was dinner my responsibility — so was the freaking grocery shopping. AB was ALL kinds of nervous, wondering if I was gifting him food poisoning for the romantic holiday. See? That’s real love.
In order for my meal to be a success, I needed to purchase a new small appliance (as if we need anything else in this kitchen!): a fondue pot. Finding an abundance of models at both Target and Kohl’s online, I thought that buying one in store would be just as easy. WRONG. Neither had them. But thankfully, at open skate that afternoon, one of my freshies recommended Bed, Bath & Beyond (I have no clue why that option escaped me while I was wandering around McKnight Road). I scored an electric Cuisanart model for less than $50, and also picked up a mini dipper crockpot for, like, $20. This thing is AWESOME, and saved a potential “problem” I recognized in serving three courses of fondue.
First course: oil and meat (and dipping sauces)
I used peanut oil, as it is supposedly healthier, but also less likely to stink up the place. I mean, we were cooking meat practically in our living room. Mmmmm, smell that Chinese restaurant on my couch? *puke* Also, never use olive oil (smoky). Anyway, the butcher at Giant Eagle was incredibly helpful, selecting a pound of filet that I had to cut into small pieces for dipping. There wasn’t a lot of fat to cook off, which was great, and I didn’t need to marinate the meat. You can also use sirloin, but… meh.
My three sauces: a sweet and sour (ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar), a mustard sauce (mayo, mustard — both dry and hot mustard, and wine vinegar), a melted lemon-herb butter (OMG, it was so delicious & we have those individual butter warmers, which was like a whole other fondue!). And of course, A-1.
Second course (served alongside the first): cheese fondue and a platter of veggies and breads
I found a few recipes online for a cheese fondue, but none of which could be made without the use of white wine (which we didn’t have… and you know you can’t buy freaking wine from grocery stores), so I had to open up a bottle of “saved” Pinot Gris (even after I asked the boyfriend not to use it THE PRIOR WEEK). I used all Gruyere, melted with the white wine, a little cornstarch, salt & pepper and garlic. I had to time it perfectly, as I had to make it on the stove first, then transfer it to the mini crockpot (which really didn’t keep it hot enough, but we made it work). It was DELICIOUS. I cut up a variety of veggies (the carrots are NOT good for fondue, but I wanted another color on the plate… consider it a palate cleanser) and a couple different breads and a seasoned pita chip.
Third course: chocolate and several sweet things for dipping
I tell you what, melting chocolate has everything to do with the pan. We received a new Cephalon small sauce pan for Christmas, and this thing was wonderful — perfect chocolate melty-ness. I used semisweet (the individually-wrapped cubes, then chopped them a little smaller) and heavy cream and a tiny bit of vanilla. Voila! Also, I just transferred to a small Corningware ramekin for the table. It stayed melted long enough to enjoy the plate of goodies.
For dipping, I plated vanilla wafers, giant marshmallows (seriously, this campfire bag was all kinds of awesome, but it is definitely no Pittsburgh Marshmallow Company marshmallow… I just couldn’t get there over the weekend), pineapple, cut up one of those frozen Sara Lee pound cakes (seriously, I love that cake for things like this).
To be honest, I was shocked how well everything came together (even if I spent the better part of February 14 stressing out and doing prep work). It was my first time attempting fondue, and I swear, I made a time sheet to make sure I didn’t forget ANY steps. But the best part: I didn’t really have to cook anything (which, I think alleviated some of the boyfriend’s stomach stress).
What did you make (or have) for Valentine’s Day dinner?
Kind of romantic, no?