Happy Valentine’s Day!
Whew, I made a big V-Day dinner for John and Nathan tonight, I’m slightly wiped. And full. But it was great fun to prep and they both enjoyed the din thoroughly, so totally worth the effort. (The mess I made of the kitchen? Um, I’m hoping my gift is that someone else cleans it up…? UPDATE: John and Nathan did, thank you boys!)
I decided to make a real guy’s dinner, a total steakhouse spread – roasted beef tenderloin, sauteed mushrooms, creamed spinach, hash browns, and chocolate cake for dessert. There’s nothing like a tenderloin roast, easy and impressive, the perfect combination. I’ll confess, tenderloin doesn’t do much for me (especially given the insane price) – NY strip is my steak, beefy and toothsome, the king of steaks. But, the fam (and pretty much everyone but me) loves tenderloin, so I splurge for special occasions. To boost its flavor, I give it a good rub with minced-to-a-paste garlic (forget garlic presses, they waste 1/2 of each clove, and it’s easy to make a quick paste with a sharp knife and a generous sprinkle of coarse salt), mixed with a bit of olive oil and some dried herbs. You can see in the pic that I cut a whole roast in half. I usually roast the larger piece a bit longer, but if you’re serving a group with a variety of doneness preferences, well there you go – the large side is still quite rare when the narrow has achieved medium.
If not for the cold, I would have thrown the roast on the grill, my favorite, simple method for achieving a good crust with a rosy interior. But when it’s less than 30 degrees outside – yes, it was cold in Minnesota today, strange, I know – my (gas) grill is too unpredictable. Fine if I’m grilling, say, hot dogs or chicken breasts, but a tenderloin roast? Uh, no. So I instead popped the roast into a 450 degree oven (for 15 minutes), then turned it down to 375 degrees (for another 20-30 minutes, depending on desired doneness), then let it set up for 15 minutes while I made the hash browns and spinach. Worked nicely.
Creamed spinach is a breeze to make, and not nearly as decadent as it sounds. Saute a minced clove of garlic in a bit of butter, stir in the spinach, drizzle with a small amount of cream, and when the lot is wilted add a generous grating of Parmesan and fresh nutmeg. Salt and pepper to finish. Delicious.
And hash browns, also simple, especially if you’ve got a food processor (but a box grater does the trick as well, albeit a bit more slowly – watch your knuckles!). I love a combination of russets and red potatoes (about 5-6 potatoes peeled, grated, with 1/2 tsp. of salt stirred in). To get the classic steakhouse “cake” of hash brown, press the potatoes into a bit of hot peanut oil, fry on one side until quite crisp, flip onto a plate, add a bit more oil to the pan, then slide the potatoes back into the pan until the other side is crisp. My kids would be very happy if I made these every single day of the year.
Happy Valentine’s Day!