The New York Times still follows the traditional newspaper schedule of publishing their food/dining/wine section on Wednesdays, and I rarely miss looking through it. Though I save a lot of the recipes they publish, the amount of dishes I actually make from the paper is much smaller. I do, however, have enough favorites that I've amassed over the years to keep me checking the paper each Wednesday.
Last week I was smitten with their Valentine's Day menu and decided that I would make it for Mark and I for our holiday celebration. He did all the shopping in the morning and I set a festive table and did the cooking — except for the steak. We did a strip steak instead of the suggested rib steak but followed the rest of the meal to the letter. It was delicious and easy. But, as always, I would make a couple of changes in the future.
DUCK FAT ROASTED POTATOES: We actually roasted our potatoes in duck fat as the recipe suggested. They noted you could substitute olive oil which is what I would do next time. Finding duck fat meant trips to two stores and I could not really notice any special flavor it added to the dish — especially since the prep also included fresh rosemary. And I would cut the amount of fat in half, no matter what you're using. We actually cooked more potates than the reciped called for and they still were a bit too greasy for our taste.
ARUGULA AND AVOCADO SALAD WITH BAGNA CAUDA DRESSING: We love the Times' recipe for Midnight Pasta with garlic and anchovies, but found that same kind of Bagna Cauda sauce overpowering as a salad dressing. We lick up every bit of this poweful taste combination on pasta but actually strained it to make a slightly less strong dressing. Lesson learned.
BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE MOUSE WITH FLEUR de SEL: The real winner was the dessert. I don't know when I've made a simpler, faster, or easier dessert. This recipe is going into my 3-ring binder for the future. We just used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate, not too expensive and readily available. I also divided the mousse into six servings rather than four. Visually it did not look skimpy in my grandmother's antique coupe bowls, and tastewise was more than enough since this is a rich dish.
It took the whole five minutes for my chocolate/water to melt and mix and also the full five minutes of whisking for the mixture to thicken into mousse. I managed to vigorously whisk it for three minutes, then Mark — hearing my huffing and puffing and moaning — came out and finished whisking. Five minutes is a long time unless you're in as good condition as Michelle Obama. My arms rebelled!