February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day Dinner

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Guys have it easy. Shelves around this time are overflowing with pink frilly cards, over sized heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover’s chocolates, and cheesy displays of flowers padded with so much baby’s breath that you can barely see the single wilting rose tucked away in the center. All you men have to do is hand over something pink and pretty and the girl swoons, or so says every stereotypical advertisement for Valentine’s Day. So with America’s media catering all Valentine’s Day gifts towards women, what on earth is the other side of the relationship supposed to do? To find the solution, I set out on a mission to make the manliest of all Valentine’s Day meals. Regardless of the fact the dinner may have been slightly feminized by the pink card covered with doilies and hearts that I glued together during a program on West Campus, I thought it was an impressive spread.

Lamb Chops with a Pomegranate Red Wine Sauce

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-12 lamb chops

– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

-1/4 cup minced shallots

-1/2 cup pomegranate juice

-1/4 cup dry red wine (something you would drink!)

-1/4 cup homemade or low-salt chicken broth

-1-1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

-1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

-1/2 Tbs. honey

-2 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Sear the seasoned chops until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes for medium rare or 3 minutes for medium. Remove the chops from the pan and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm.

Add shallots to the pan with the lamb fat and sauté until translucent and slightly browned. Add pomegranate juice, red wine, chicken broth, vinegar, thyme, and honey and cook until reduced by about half (about 3-5 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in butter. Pour the sauce over the lamb chops and season if necessary. Serves four.

Car Bomb Cupcakes

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Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

-1 cup Guinness

-2 sticks unsalted butter

-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

-2 cups all-purpose flour

-2 cups sugar

-1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

-3/4 teaspoons salt

-2 large eggs

-2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling

-8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

-2/3 cup heavy cream

-2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

-1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (or possibly more?!)

Bailey’s Frosting

-3 to 4 cups confectioner’s sugar

-1 stick of room temperature unsalted butter

-3 to 4 tablespoon’s Baileys (I definitely used more!!)

How to make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with liners or spray liberally with cooking spray. Simmer Guinness and butter over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

To a large bowl, add flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt and whisk to blend. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sour cream until smooth. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined on a slow speed. Pour batter into cupcake tins until about 2/3 of the way full. Bake approximately 17 minutes or until knife comes out smooth when inserted into the center of the cupcake. Cool completely.

How to make the ganache: Simmer the heavy cream in a small pot until it bubbles slightly. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir. Add butter and whiskey and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until the ganache has thickened slightly.

How to make the frosting: Whip the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar. After a thick frosting has formed, add baileys and continue beating until smooth.


How to assemble the cupcake: Put ganache and frosting into separate sandwich bags and cut a small hole in the bottom of one corner of the bag. Next, using an apple corer or a small knife to cut small circles into the center of each cupcake, without reaching the bottom. Pipe ganache into the hole. Pipe the frosting on the top of the cupcake into whatever design you like. You can also just spread the frosting over the top for an easier finish.

Meat, beer, whiskey, and chocolate. What else could a man ask for? This is an absolute winner of a meal and the cupcakes are basically the best thing to ever happen to the culinary world. Well, that might be a bit of a stretch but they are still the best cupcake I’ve ever had. The lamb with the red wine and pomegranate sauce is a phenomenal dish that can be paired with a fresh salad with a light dressing and a great bottle of Merlot. To indulge in a little extravagance, we popped the cork of a great bottle of champagne and enjoyed it with the chocolate cupcakes. In my opinion, my mission to make Valentine’s Day a little more masculine was a great success.