Monday, February 17, 2014

Galentine's Day

I am not a fan of Valentine's Day, I haven't liked the holiday since I was about 7 years old. And before you think I'm a bitter cat lady in the making, hear me out. From the ages 8 to 13, I was violently ill on Valentine's Day. Usually it was just for the day itself, not leading up to it, not the day after but just the holiday. At some point, I realized this was probably a sign of things to come. Eventually, I grew out of being ill but I'm always worried the 14th will bring on a bout of 24 hours illness so try to avoid the holiday altogether. I have had exactly two dates for Valentine's Day and yes, I liked getting flowers but otherwise, it was pretty anticlimactic to have a date for the occasion.

Tulips are just as red and lovely as roses and not cliche
So this year, to curb my fear of sickness and also gagging at all the hearts and poems, I planned a dinner. Hurray entertaining and hurray for the trending #galentines pun. On top of the usual romantic posts all over the internet, sarcastic Valentines were a thing this year which I find utterly hilarious. If I had been a little more successful in planning, these would have been placecards with a card for each guest. I drafted the menu with classy comfort food in mind and no cliches. The pasta dish of choice was originally a creamy Alfredo dish from Smitten Kitchen but was swapped for Joy the Baker and the Pioneer Woman's mac and cheese, per the request of my roommate. I'm all for cheesy goodness that I can make a couple days ahead so the main dish was chosen.

Sneak preview!
The mac and cheese can be made ahead of time, so when I got home from work, I just had to add some bread crumbs on top and pop it in the oven. The recipe calls for cremini mushrooms but I don't know what those are so I just used plain mushrooms from the produce aisle. Picking the cheeses for the sauce was very exciting because I love cheese and it gave me an excuse to read all of the labels in the cheese aisle. Also you only need some of the chunks of cheese for the sauce so you have the rest of the cheddar and gruyere for snacking and appetizers.

So much cheesy goodness
For dessert, I waffled between making something with chocolate like silky chocolate pie or chocolate covered strawberries and something new and a bit lighter. I poured over my many cookbooks and chose poached pears from Pippa Middleton's book Celebrate (yes, you can judge me for a few seconds and then move on because it's fun to pretend to be British and rich and social).

The main ingredients for poached pears, besides pears
Poached pears were a new adventure as was purchasing port (purchasing port for poached pears, say that five times fast). I have never had port before and I thought it was pretty telling that the bottle in the store was covered in dust. It's not an expensive buy and you only use a portion of the bottle. I felt like I was making potpourri while adding the spices and orange peel to the pot of bubbling wine and port, ultimately placing the pears in to soak up the flavors. The part of this recipe that didn't go well was once the pears turn purple, you are meant to remove them and continue boiling the liquid to make it into a syrupy sauce. Syrup did not happen, it just stayed soupy. The pears were still delicious but I bought ice cream just in case as a pear-ing but didn't end up using that either. They were a little slippery to eat with a spoon so we just used our fingers, in true lady-like fashion.

It's like a pear hot tub in here
Now, on top of the mac and cheese and delicious desserts, there were brownies and cupcakes at work on Friday. One of my coworkers got cupcakes from my favorite shop, Georgetown Cupcakes (check out my top rankings here!) so of course I partook. She also recognized me from Twitter and asked if I was LivinLemon, the first time anyone has called me by my blogger name. It was a moment and worth a toast of champagne!

The final compilation 
 Poached Pears adapted from Pippa Middleton
  • 8 pears
  • Peels and juice from 2 oranges
  • Assorted spice such as cloves, all-spice, or anise (original recipe calls for 4 whole-star anise but I improvised with cloves and all-spice in random measurements)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 split vanilla beans (or a dash of vanilla if you're like me and don't have the beans)
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1 1/4 cups of port
  • 1 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons of honey
  1. Combine all ingredients except the pears in a large saucepan. Heat the wine, port, sugar and spice mixture until the sugar has all dissolved. 
  2. Peel the pears while keeping the stems intact and place them upright in the pan, submerging them in the wine. 
  3. Cover the pot and simmer for 25-30 minutes until they are purple in color. 
  4. Leave the pears in the liquid for another hour before transferring to serving bowl. 
  5. Bring the liquid back to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until syrupy (good luck). Alternatively, spoon the liquid over the pears, even if syrup consistency is not achieved. 
Note: The pears can be made 1-2 days in advanced if stored away from the liquid. You can also garnish with whipped cream or ice cream if desired. 

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