A belated Valentine’s Dinner

Posted in baking, cooking, Ottawa

Valentine’s day this year fell in the middle of the week, on the day of the worst storm so far this winter. So needless to say, it wasn’t a terribly good day for us to do much. Besides, we don’t really feel we need a specific day to say we love each other; we do that all the time anyhow! So instead we decided to just make a delicious meal last night.

Rich got me the Paris Cafe cookbook for Christmas, and this seemed like a good time to pull it out. We decided on three dishes: a simple but hearty French onion soup, a garlicky omelette, and a classic crème brûlée. While we were excited about the entire meal, we were most looking forward to trying to make crème brûlée with the vanilla beans Rich had given me as part of my Christmas gift this year. However, dessert had to wait until we’d enjoyed our appetizers and mains!

French onion soup The soup was very easy to make, requiring only some thinly sliced onions, butter, a touch of flour, white wine, water, and a bouquet garni. One it is prepared, you put it into oven-safe bowls with a piece of toasted baquette on top, and a liberal sprinkle of shredded cheese (we used Emmental). As you can see from the picture, the soup was so good that we forgot to actually take a picture until it was nearly gone!

Omelette The second dish was the omelette. Now, an omelette is a very simple dish and easy to make, although I think many people in North America try to make it more complicated than it needs to be. Our version required eggs, butter, chives, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper. Each was cooked just until mostly dry on top. Do not flip or fold! Garnish with black olives and served with some more slices of baguette. This dish was also very good and I’d be more than happy to make it as dinner during the week, as it was quick to prepare and made for quick clean-up.

As for the dessert, we’d been looking forward to buying a mini torch all week and making crème brûlée with it. Unfortunately, a trip to several stores turned up nothing but large propane torches. It might have been amusing attempting to brûlée with one of those, but we decided it was probably better to just try using the broiler.

Crème brûlée The first stage in making crème brûlée involves making a simple custard. Take your vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds into a pot of heavy cream. Toss in the vanilla pods and heat together just until boiling, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to at least 165F (cooler is ok too, just hotter is not, as it will cook your eggs). Then, beat egg yolks in with some sugar until lightened. Remove the vanilla beans from the cream mixture, and pour it, a little at a time, into the egg mixture, whisking very lightly in between additions. Then pour the mixture into ramekins and place in a pan filled part-way with hot water. Different recipes will tell you different amounts of water to use; we tried to make sure about a half inch was in the pan. The whole thing then went into the oven for 30 minutes.

Crème brûlée final product After our custards were baked and cooled, we then topped them with sugar and stuck then back into the oven under the broiler. As you can see from the picture, the sugar did caramelize, but not as much as it would if we’d used a torch. Even so, we did have a nice crust and the flavour was still what we’d expected. So if you are unable to find a torch, don’t worry too much about it.

We finished the night off with a few small glasses of a 1999 German Pinot Noir ice wine we’d picked up last time we were in Montreal. We found this to be much less sweet than any Canadian ice wine we’d ever had, and think we’ll probably try to pick up another bottle.

Now that our cholesterol has been sufficiently raised by last night’s meal, we’re off to Bridgehead cafe to enjoy a little dark roast. Perhaps I’ll write a post about them sometime soon.

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