Friday, February 12, 1999
Valentine's Day is a perfect time to plan a marvelous meala great way to show love and affection to family and others sitting around your table. The indulgences of the holiday season are past and it's time to splurge again with some special treats.
It must be because artichokes have such sweet hearts that I think of them around Valentine's Day. Artichokes are a beautiful vegetable and I think that they are best served fresh and wholesteamed and served with butter at this time of year, or cold with a vinaigrette dressing in warmer weather. Nonetheless, frozen, canned or jarred artichokes are a delicious way to eat artichokes, too.
I generally use canned artichoke hearts for this casserole. I like the dish because it is relatively light, leaving an excuse for indulging in rich accompaniments and desserts. All white cultivated mushrooms may be used, or half shitake or sliced portobellos. The red pepper adds a splash of Valentine color. The whole dish may be prepared ahead of time, which is always a bonus.
Recipe: Chicken, Artichoke and Mushroom Casserole
4 large whole chicken breasts, 1 clove garlic, minced
boned, skinned and halved 2 Tbs. flour
1/4 cup flour 1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. salt 1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 tsp. black pepper 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1 tsp. paprika 1/4 tsp. dried tarragon, crushed
6 Tbs. canola oil 1 can (14 or 16 ounces) artichoke hearts, 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced drained
1 large red pepper, diced Juice of 1 fresh lemon
Chopped parsley (garnish)
1. Combine flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Sprinkle over both sides of chicken breasts.
2. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet. Over medium-high heat, brown the chicken breasts well, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a large, shallow casserole that can be brought to the table.
3. In same skillet, adding a bit more oil if necessary, sauté the mushrooms, red pepper and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring. Sprinkle the additional flour over, mixing well. Add broth, stirring to pick up any crusty bits that remain on the bottom. Add sherry and herbs. Cook and stir over low heat about 5 minutes until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Taste and correct the seasonings.
4. Arrange the artichoke hearts among the chicken pieces in the casserole and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Spoon sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Cover casserole with foil. (Can refrigerate several hours or overnight at this point.)
5. Bake, covered, at 350° for 30 minutes or a few minutes longer if the dish has been chilled. Before serving, sprinkle on chopped parsley.
A perfect accompaniment to the rather light chicken and artichoke casserole is a dish of rich, mellow, garlic and cheese-laced mashed potatoes. Many menus say smashed instead of mashed, meaning with lumps, which is just as good. Mashed or smashed potatoes may be at their ultimate best if prepared at the last minute, but, when I need to be organized ahead of time, I make them a few hours ahead and gently reheat over low heat or in the oven. The results are perfectly fine. Any variety of potato may be used but I like the color of Yukon Golds.
Recipe: Garlic and Cheese S/Mashed Potatoes
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, 3/4 cup crumbled Roquefort, Stilton or
peeled and cut into chunks another blue cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup olive oil 1/2 cup milk
6 garlic cloves, minced 6 Tbs. butter
1. Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water till tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the same pot. If you like smooth and creamy potatoes, beat with electric mixer; otherwise, smash with a potato masher. (Don't ever use a food processor to do thisthe potatoes will turn to glue!)
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add and stir garlic till tender but not brown. Add to potatoes.
3. Stir in cheese, milk and butter and smash well. Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired; personally, I think a good, strong cheese makes this unnecessary.
To round out this Valentine dinner, I would suggest serving mixed greens with a tasty oil and vinegar vinaigrette, good bread or rolls and an indulgent chocolate dessert garnished with fresh strawberries or raspberries. (Chocolate Mousse on page 270 of Carolyn's Kitchen Revisited would be a lovely ending to an elegant meal.)
Since school vacation week is coming up, I want to share two Valentine's Day recipes. The first is for fudge. My recipe is ultra-easy.
1 1/3 cup sugar 1/4 tsp. salt
1 small can evaporated milk 12 ounces (2 cups) chocolate chips
16 marshmallows (regular size) (not artificially-flavored)
1/4 cup butter 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1. In a medium to large, heavy saucepan bring to a boil, stirring, sugar, evaporated milk, marshmallows, butter and salt. Stir and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Add the chocolate chips, stirring till chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla and walnuts.
3. Pour into a buttered 8"x8" pan. Chill till firm. Cut into small squares.
All of us enjoy making and decorating cookies to fit the holiday occasion. However, it's frustrating to have your Valentine heart turn into a shapeless blob while baking. This foolproof dough not only keeps its shape but tastes delicious as well. Children will love this project.
Recipe: Valentine Cookies
2 sticks butter, at room temperature 1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar 1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg decorative sugar crystals (optional)
1 1/2 cup flour
1. Beat together butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix well.
2. Stir in flour, salt and vanilla.
3. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.
4. Roll the dough to about 1/4" on a lightly-floured surface. Cut into heart shapes with whatever size cookie cutter you have.
5. Gather up scraps and reroll.
6. Place hearts on lightly-greased cookie sheets (or pans covered with a sheet of parchment paper*you'll never again have to worry about greasing or burning cookie bottoms!) Sprinkle tops of hearts with red, pink and white sugar crystals. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.
* Parchment paper is available at most supermarkets and the West Concord 5 & Dime
Have a splendid Valentine's Day!
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito