Ah, love. For Jim and me, Valentine’s Day is spent at home, avoiding the over-crowded restaurants and cooking a celebratory meal that almost always includes a rack of lamb.
This year was no different. On Thursday night we rushed home from work, arriving at the apartment within minutes of each other at 7 pm. As I shrugged off my coat and reached to place it on a coat hook, I noticed Jim staring intently at me.
“Did you take the lamb out of the freezer this morning?” he asked.
“Um, no. Didn’t you?” I replied.
By now you have probably guessed the answer. We walked back to the living room and reached for our folder of take-out menus in disbelief. But as the shock of our mistake wore off, we decided not to fret; we would just create our Valentine’s Day meal the following day, without any stress. And so we spent that evening relaxing in front of the television, watching Lost, eating casual Italian take-out, and doing nothing, which turned out to be just what we needed during the hectic work week.
On Friday night we started over. Jim made a marvelous rack of lamb with a Moroccan-spiced crust. I grilled some asparagus and made a fresh salad. For dessert we enjoyed our own version of Cook’s Illustrated’s Chocolate Pots de Crème from the November/December 2006 issue. We had made them earlier in the week in preparation for Valentine’s Day (at least we thought ahead one time last week), but we took some liberties with the recipe based on what was available in our refrigerator. We ate this slightly too rich, dense dessert in small bites from the heart-shaped ramekins Jim bought for our first home-cooked Valentine’s Day dinner several years ago.
So, even though we didn’t get the Chocolate Pots de Crème ingredients quite right, and we didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on its official day, it was okay. In fact, in our own way, Valentine’s Day was perfect.
Recipe for Christina and Jim’s Chocolate Pots de Crème, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
a dash of table salt
1 1/8 cups heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 tablespoons water
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl; set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl and set aside. Next whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl combined. Whisk in the heavy cream. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Mixture will be thick and silky when ready, in about 8 to 12 minutes.
Pour the custard through strainer over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand to melt the chocolate, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla. Divide evenly among 4 small ramekins. Gently tap the ramekins against the counter to remove air bubbles.
Cool the pots de crème to room temperature, and then cover with plastic wrap until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 72 hours. Garnish with whipped cream if desired. Serves 4. Enjoy!