The Cool House: The perfect meal

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The perfect meal

Something unctuous and sexy, satisfying but not heavy, that's what I look for in the perfect Valentine's meal. After some thought I came up with a menu that I thought would be the perfect romantic dinner on Saturday evening. That was until The Guy reminded me that Valentine's Day is another Hallmark tradition we don't celebrate, like Mother's Day or our wedding anniversary. So I made it yesterday, put it on the table with a bottle of Malbec and no fanfare, but by the end we agreed that it was the most enjoyable meal we have had this year, or a long time into last, including our trip to Argentina. (There were better individual dishes in Buenos Aires, lots of them, but not a better meal). Of course our culinary memories could have failed us because we have subsisted on soup and the occasional pasta dish since Solstice, so real food was bound to be a success as long as it wasn't raw, burnt or I didn't confuse salt for sugar.

Beef en Daube
1 lb cubed beef chuck
1 tbl olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced (I used one huge clove of elephant garlic)
1 cup red wine (I used Malbec)
1 cup good beef broth or stock
1 14 oz can of tomatoes
1 tbl tomato paste
1 carrot, peeled, cut into chunks
1 stick celery, cut into chunks
1/2 onion, quartered
1 tbl Herbes de Provence
Bay leaf
Pinch of powdered cloves
1 strip orange peel
1 tsp capers

Heat olive oil in a casserole. Add garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes. Remove garlic and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add beef, sprinkling it beef with salt and pepper. Cook until browned. Add the chopped vegetables, garlic wine, broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. Sprinkle over the herbs, spices. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat off, stir in capers, orange peel and bay leaf and place in a 300F oven for 2.5 hours. Take out of oven, adjust seasonings and if desired place in a lower temperature oven until ready to serve. It will be silky, the beef will have almost dissolved and the smell will be rich and full of promise.

Serve with bread or pasta or these baby Yukon potatoes, baked in the oven with butter, salt and rosemary. Mmm.

And for dessert, a variation on drunken fruit salad: red fruits steeped in St Germain liqueur with a couple of crunched sugar cubes. Hit the sugar cubes with the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the fruit, then pour over the elderflower eau de vie. That's the elegant way to do it. A lazier more sensual way is to allow the whole sugar cubes to soak up some of the alcohol and then suck the cubes.
So, for Valentine's Day, what do you think I should serve The Guy? Peanut Butter and Marmite sandwiches or just plain bread and butter?

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