Easy and Elegant Valentine’s Day Menu

The word Love done with letterpress type on white background.I have a firm personal policy against going to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Crowds, stressed wait staff, and unrealistic expectations of the perfect day to celebrate love often make for a less than intimate or even fun experience. That doesn’t mean however that I eschew the day entirely. Instead I enjoy putting together a special dinner at home to spoil my family just a bit.

When the day of luv falls on a weeknight things get a little tricky because, alas, Valentine’s day doesn’t warrant a full day off. I’m left to to squeeze dinner in among work and after school activities. In short, I need a menu that packs a punch of elegance lickity-split. Lamb, a meat that everyone things is so tricky to cook and that looks so beautiful in presentation, is my secret weapon this year. Paired with short-cut mashed potatoes loaded with bacon and cheese and some roasted baby carrots, we’ll have a feast on a weeknight (and you can too). Oh, and let’s not forget dessert. Puff pastry (another of my go-to secrete weapons) makes a beautiful and quick dessert when topped with Nutella and strawberries. Add some bubbly to the mix and the evening will be just right.

The Menu

Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Red Wine Sauce

Thyme-Roasted Carrots

Bacon and Cheddar Smashed Potatoes

Chocolate Raspberry Pastry Cups

 

Shopping Tips

  • If your meat counter doesn’t already have lamb chops pre-cut, ask them to separate the chops in a rack of lamb for you. You’ll save some prep time and their chops will be prettier than yours (unless of course you’re a trained butcher).
  • Buy baby carrots with the tops still on if you can find them. They’ll cook a little faster and will be so pretty on the plate.
  • The quality of the bacon and cheddar in your potatoes can take them to a whole different level. I don’t recommend using the reduced-fat cheddar the recipe calls for. Instead go full fat and pick an aged cheddar with enough flavor to match that of a good bacon.
  • The “apricot glaze” in the puff pastry hearts can really just be apricot jam that you melt in the microwave. Or, you can skip it all together and they’ll still be fantastic.
  • Feel free to substitute sliced strawberries for the raspberries in the dessert, or use a mix of berries.

The Game Plan

Set a pretty table, gather your serving dishes, and put the puff pastry in the fridge to thaw the night before. Then plan about 45 minutes to an hour get dinner on the table on the big night.

  • The carrots have the longest cooking time so get them started first. Preheat the oven while you peel and prep. If you were able to find baby carrots with their tops intact, leave about 1/2 an inch of the carrot tops on for an extra oomph to the presentation.
  • Once the carrots are in the oven peel the potatoes and prep all of the other ingredients but don’t start the microwave until you start the lamb chops. Cold mashed potatoes will totally put a damper on this dinner (ha!).
  • Prep all of the ingredients for the puff pastry cups. When the carrots come out of the oven you can reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and slide the puff pastry cups in to cook while you finish getting dinner on the table. Take them out and they’ll be cool enough to handle after dinner.
  • The lamb chops come together quickly so get all of the ingredients together and ready to go before you start them.
  • Once the chops are done everything else should coming together and while it will be a bit of a juggle it will be over pretty quickly. Plate the lamb chops and carrots, finish the potatoes, and move everything to the table. Don’t forget to take the puff pastry shells out of the oven! After you finish dinner dessert will come together in about the time it takes your family to clear the table.

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