Elementary School Romance

Special Note: Starting next week, The Henderson (NC) Daily Dispatch will be running a weekly original column by me as well.  I will also post it on the blog. d.

I’ve written before about how Petey is the perfect spouse for me.

But on the fancy/romance scale, he lands well above Blackbeard, but somewhere below Pepe Le Pew.  Hi heart’s in the right place, but he eschews elaborate trappings—he is absolutely and completely unpretentious.

More romantical than him…

But less than him.

So I started thinking about what would be a welcome Valentine’s dinner for him.

He wouldn’t want anything with complicated sauces, or something that has to be put together with tweezers.  I also don’t think he’d be impressed by a dish that comes to the table on fire.

Plus, me and open flames?  Probably not the best idea.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

What I came up with was bacon-wrapped tenderloin, boxed scalloped potatoes (hear me out before you make up your mind about them), peas and carrots, and an apple crisp.

The steak comes with some uncomfortable questions.

How many of you have made a tenderloin, and desired to cloak it in bacon?  And how many of you ended up with the meat marred by flabby, greasy uncooked bacon in the finished dish?  And why can restaurants serve up perfect, gorgeous crispy bacon around the food?

The answer is par-cooking.  It works like a charm.  I checked in with one of my favorite restaurant chefs, James Clark at the Carolina Inn, and he said that’s what pros do as well.

bacon filet

I’d marry it.

He bakes the bacon until it’s half-cooked, and I microwave, but the result is the same.  Partially cooking it before wrapping will ensure a brown, crispy, and delicious belt for the finished steak.  Then wrap, and cook the meat to your liking.

About the spuds: I told you that my spouse doesn’t go in for fancy, and the potato dish for his special dinner is the perfect illustration of this.

At the supermarket, in the aisle with the Hamburger Helper and their ilk, are potato kits.  Amongst them are scalloped potatoes.  The store brand is just as good as the name brands.  You shouldn’t pay more than a dollar.  In fact, the last box I bought was 85 cents.

They’re easy to put together, and cook at an appropriate temp for the steak, if that’s how you choose to finish it.  I’m almost ashamed to tell you, but I enjoy them as well (though they wouldn’t be on my special dinner menu).

For a veg, Petey enjoys the ubiquitous elementary school side dish, peas and carrots.  But not the colorless, flavorless, canned version from childhood.  Mine are fresh, colorful, tasty—and easy.

Pretty and tasty

Peas and carrots

1 ½ cups frozen peas

3 carrots, washed, peeled, and cut into ¼ pieces

½ cup chicken stock or water

3 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Put everything except peas into skillet, cover, and cook on medium until the carrots are crisp/tender.  Uncover and cook until the liquid’s mostly gone.  Add peas and cook until hot and liquid’s thickened into a buttery sauce.

Taste for seasoning and serve.  Serves 2-3.

For dessert I came up with chocolate pudding.  Then I realized that chocolate pudding is a childhood favorite of mine.  Petey’s always loved apples and cinnamon.

The way to Petey’s heart.

Petey’s caramel apple crisp

For filling:

4 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/8 inch slices

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch salt

Juice of ½ lemon

Crumb topping:

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

For plating:

Vanilla ice cream

½ jar favorite caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 8×8 baking dish and layer apple into it.  In a separate bowl, whisk together rest of filling ingredients and pour over apples.

In another bowl, mix all topping ingredients except butter.  Put butter into bowl, and with fingers, mash butter into mixture until it’s in lumps.

Sprinkle over apples, and bake 30 minutes.  Let sit 15 minutes, then slice and plate.

Heat caramel sauce until bubbling.  Put scoop of vanilla ice cream on crisp, then sauce top.  Serves 6-8.

When everything is said and done, I’m pretty lucky.  My husband may not recite sonnets below my balcony, but I’m no Juliet.

Yeah, this ain’t us.

And besides, we don’t have a balcony.

Thanks for your time.

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