28 February 2009

What's for Dinner

I cherish Saturday evenings. It is the evening each week when my husband and I get to sit down and have a date night. Since he is working out of town all week and forced to eat either fast food or processed food, and since I work a late shift when at the bookstore, neither of us really get to enjoy the daily ritual of dinner. For this reason, we choose to stay in, and I spend all week mulling over something (hopefully) delicious for our night in.

I like to make a bit of an event of it. I like to have a complete three course meal. This allows me the opportunity to catch up for all the cooking pleasure that I miss through the week. I set the table, and we light candles. Often we will have a bottle of wine. Sometimes the meal is simple and homey: salad, pot pie, and baked apples. Other times, like today, the cuisine is a little more elaborate: asparagus wrapped in prosciutto; chicken in mustard sauce with duchess potatoes and green beans with shallots; chocolate mousse.

I think that as a new weekly feature I will share our Saturday evening meals with you. Now, I see the irony in boasting about full-course meals when a mere few months ago, I was bellowing the beauty of budget dining. But in a way, this is its own form of budget dining. Enjoying this same meal in a restaurant, including the bottle of wine that I will be opening, could easily cost up to or more than $100. For the two of us this evening, this meal is costing less than $30, including the wine. That isn't so bad.

Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto:
Grill or steam asparagus until slightly tender. Wrap each spear in a small amount of thinly sliced asparagus. If desired, finish with a curl of Parmesan cheese.

Chicken in Mustard Sauce (from Williams-Sonoma Simple French Cooking)
Serves 4
4 chicken Halves, skinned and boned (5-6 oz each)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 shallots chopped
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

* Trim any fat from the chicken breasts. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. One at a time, place each breast between 2 sheets of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, roll across the thickest part of the breast to flatten to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch.
* In a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil. When foaming, add the chicken breast and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Saute, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the breasts from releasing their juices, until golden and tender, about 5 minutes on each side. To test for doneness, insert the tip of a sharp knife into the centre of a breast; the juices should run clear and the meat should no longer be pink at the centre. Transfer to a warm plate and keep warm.
* Pour off any excess fat from the pan and return the pan to medium low heat. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring until translucent, 1-2 minutes. Add the mustard and cream, raise the heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring, until thickened and blended, 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust the season.
* Return the chicken breasts to the pan and turn the breasts several times to coat them well with the sauce and to heat them through. Transfer to a warmed platter or individual plates and spoon the sauce over the breasts. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve at once.

Duchess Potatoes.
Simple. Make mashed potatoes as you normally would, but be sure there are no lumps. Allow to cool. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Put the potatoes in a piping bag, and using a star tip, pipe the potatoes into swirled mounds on the baking sheet. Drizzle with melted butter, and place in a heated 400 degree oven until browned and hot.

Green Beans with Shallots (from Williams-Sonoma Simple French Cooking)
Serves 4
1 lb young green beans
1 tbsp unsalted butter
4 or 4 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 lemon , plus 4 wedges for garnish
freshly ground pepper
4 fresh mint sprigs

* Trim the green beans, and put them in a shallow dish or pan in which they lie flat. Add ice water to cover and set aside to crisp, 10-15 minutes.
* In a saute pan in which the beans lie flat, pour in water to a depth of 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling vigorously, drain the beans and plunge them into the boiling water. Add 2 tsp salt. When the water returns to a boil, continue to boil until the beans are just tender, but still crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
* Place the sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter; when foaming, add the shallots. Sauté stirring until translucent, 1-2 minutes; do not allow to brown. Add the beans and squeeze on a few drops of the juice from the lemon. Toss until the beans are evenly coated and hot.
* Using tongs, arrange the beans on a warmed serving plate. Spoon the shallots over the beans. Garnish the beans with mint springs and lemon wedges.

I am going to withhold the chocolate mousse recipe, since in all honesty, it was pretty awful! I don't know what I did wrong, but it certainly counts as today`s cooking disaster.

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