For Dinner, with Love (part 1)

Ah, Valentine’s Day. To some, the lovers’ holiday. To others, the flower-greeting card-chocolate industry’s holiday.

To us, it’s the let’s-stay-in-and-cook-something-fancy holiday!

As has been tradition for the past 3 years (as a married couple), my husband Steve and I keep it low-key, creative and inexpensive by forgoing the big gifts & restaurant meals by staying in with a movie and whipping up our own spin on a gourmet meal. For our first, I think we made shrimp & scallops with risotto, asparagus, roasted yellow peppers and mini chocolate molten cakes for dessert. Quite decadent. The second year, we went a little lighter and Steve cooked! He made this amazing Asian-inspired salmon/cod (he doesn’t like salmon) with asparagus (again! lol) over white rice. And then homemade peanut butter cups made by yours truly for dessert.

This year, we decided to do 2 small courses: truffle macaroni & cheese and parchment baked fish over broccoli rabe & rice. (We had dessert, too, but it was a bit of a flop so I didn’t take photos of it.) The truffle was inspired by our recent trip to Paris, where I had truffles and truffle oil for the first time and fell in love. We bought a tiny (and pricey!) bottle of white truffle oil and it was just the perfect touch to the dish. Though we rarely have decadent dishes like this one, I decided to cut down the amount of cheese a little and added more pasta to stretch the sauce a bit. It made for great leftovers!

Truffle Macaroni & Cheese

Adapted from Kasey Buick. Serves 8 (or 2 plus enough leftovers for several days!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh pasta (or dried)
  • 4 tbsp organic butter (original calls for unsalted; I only had salted and cut back on the salt)
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups HOT milk*
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you want less of a kick)
  • 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated cheese (I did roughly 1/2 cup each of Gruyere, Fontina and White Cheddar)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp white truffle oil and a little more for finishing
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 ramekins (or whatever baking dishes you have on hand)

Method:

*Have a small pot of the milk lightly simmering when you begin. It helps to have it handy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil water for the pasta and prepare according to package directions. Set aside.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan until it begins to bubble, but not brown. Whisk in the flour to create a roux for the white-sauce base. Cook the flour and butter over low heat for 5 min. Then slowly pour the milk in a steady stream while whisking. Cook for about 8 minutes or until thickened. Add pepper, 1 tbsp truffle oil, cayenne pepper and nutmeg.  Stir in the Gruyere, Fontina & White cheddar. Continue to cook over low heat for about 2 more minutes until smooth. Taste and add salt as needed (not too much!).

Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and carefully stir together. Remove from heat. Pour into ramekins (for individual-sized portions).

Prepare the breadcrumb topping: mix the panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. I also put mine under the broiler for about 5 minutes to get the breadcrumbs nice and crispy.

This was soooo good. And yes, that is pink champagne! My dear husband knew I’ve been wanting to try it (a la my favorite movie “An Affair to Remember) and bought us some. It’s my new favorite. 🙂

The fish recipe will follow soon!

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