Red Wine, Chocolate, Strawberries, and All That Mushy Stuff

I couldn’t not make a Valentine’s Day meal, right?

The blogger in me says that to be of any real value to you, I should have made this meal Sunday night or even Saturday evening and posted about it so that readers would have an option for something to make on the actual Valentine’s Day, you know, in case you hadn’t already made dinner reservations or decided on what to eat.

Clearly I wasn’t thinking that far ahead and just wanted to enjoy making Valentine’s dinner on Valentine’s Day for my Valentine. And now, since there are no long Valentines’ weekends or after-Valentine’s-Day sales, you can retroactively enjoy this “holiday” with us.

We had a short rib ragu with freshly made pasta from a local store plus strawberry cupcakes (Sprinkles’s recipe) for dessert. In keeping with traditional Valentine’s treats, the main dish included red wine and chocolate shavings, while the dessert clearly indulged us with some strawberries. Ordinarily, neither of these are things I would choose to make on a weeknight and would instead prefer to make them, unhurried, over the weekend.

Oh, the things we do for love.

Short Rib Ragu (adapted from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis)
Yum Factor: Alex – 8, Jessalyn – 8

Sauce prep:
– 1 medium onion, chopped

– 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
– 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
– 2 cloves garlic, smashed
– 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
– generous tablespoon of tomato paste
1. Blend ingredients in a food processor or using an immersion blender. (I used the latter but found that I had to heat the ingredients in a pot first in order to get everything to start to liquify).

Meat:
– about 2.5 pounds worth beef short ribs
– flour
2. Heat a tablespoon of rendered bacon fat (or olive oil) in a large dutch oven.

3. Salt and pepper the ribs, then dredge in flour such that each side is coated.  When the pan is hot, shake off the excess flour then brown the ribs on all sides (took me about 10-15 minutes on medium highish heat).

Sauce continued:
1 cup red wine

– 1 cup beef stock
– 1 stalk rosemary, chopped
– 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 bay leaf
4. When the meat is browned on all sides, pour in the liquified tomato sauce from step 1. Add the wine, stock, and herbs. Stir gently to incorporate adding a good pinch of salt and pepper. Meat should be covered with liquid. If not, add more wine (or stock or water) to cover. Bring to a boil.

5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes.

6. Remove lid. Continue to simmer for another hour and 30 minutes.

7. Remove the ribs (or bones if they have separated from the meat). Raise the heat under the sauce while you shred or roughly chop the meat. Return the meat to the sauce to heat through. Serve warm over pasta (or not) with a light sprinkle of chopped dark chocolate chips.

Yeah. So all that down time gave me plenty of time to make…

Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (slightly adapted Sprinkles recipe, as posted numerous places on the web, including here)
Yum Factor: Alex – 8, Jessalyn – 9

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin tins.

Wet Ingredients (should all be at room temperature):
– 1 stick unsalted butter
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 egg plus 2 egg whites
– 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup whole milk
– generous 1/3 cup strawberry puree (Jack Lalanne helped me out again but you could also just heat 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries in a saucepan on the stove until they break down and then strain through a fine mesh strainer to get a pure puree)
2. Beat the butter and sugar together. Add egg and egg whites.

Dry Ingredients:
– 1.5 cups cake flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
3. Add half of the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter mixture. Mix just until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

4. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and strawberry puree and mix.

5. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Scrape down the bowl and mix once more, briefly.

6. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake 25 minutes. Cool in pan on cooling rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Note: This barely made enough for 11 cupcakes. But since I had eaten one cupcake unfrosted while I waited for the others to cool off, I was set. You might want to make a little more frosting.
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1 cup powdered sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
7. Beat butter and cream cheese together until fluffy. Add vanilla extract and mix in. Add powdered sugar 1/3 cup at a time, and continue beating until frosting is light and smooth.

I love that they have a subtle pink color that hint at the strawberry flavor. Oh, and that dark stuff you see drizzled on top is a balsamic glaze–a last-minute idea I had to combine my love of strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Good idea in theory; not quite there in execution…yet. You could certainly make a chocolate glaze if you so desired. Alex liked them just plain.

So there you have it, folks. Valentine’s Day 2011. Supremely more successful than the first Valentine’s meal I tried to make for Alex four years ago. But that’s another story that I maybe will save for this weekend. What tasty treats did you enjoy with your loved ones?

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2 thoughts on “Red Wine, Chocolate, Strawberries, and All That Mushy Stuff

  1. Natalie says:

    Woooow everything looks amazing! I’m putting both of those recipes on my to-try list! Great job =)

    We went out for burgers and fries, haha. And split a molten lava cake for dessert! And then whined and complained for the rest of the night about how full we were. How romantic! Next year we’ll have to try the Short Rib Ragu instead 😉

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