Date Night Dinners

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March 25, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

How did I spend my weekend, you ask. Well, I ate and ate and ate. I’m coming out of an intense food coma this Monday. This weekend Chris and I decided to have two date nights at home. I cooked dinner one night, he did the other. So lucky for you, I have some great date night recipes to share, along with some delicious cocktails, and a few tips on preparing a romantic evening at home, with elegance and ease.

I mentioned earlier this month that Chris and I were taking the month of March to get a jump start on vacation savings by not dining (or getting drinks) out for the whole month. It was just amazing looking at our monthly receipts and seeing how quickly the drink here or dinner there adds up. It has actually been fun to focus on entertaining and enjoying time at home. And Gertie definitely doesn’t hate her increased chances of getting table scraps. But I will say, having breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home every single day means a whole lot of dishes to wash every single day. That has taken a bit of a toll on me. But when you have these amazing meals, it’s so worth it.

Date Night Dinner #1: A Broad Cooking

Years and years ago, when I was living in Ithaca, NY, I had a friend who was an avid hunter and had a stockpile of venison one winter. (Yes, let’s not over think where that came from…) Sooo we decided to have an Iron Chef-off. I had never cooked venison before, so in order to learn the tricks of the trade, I turned to an Emeril Lagasse recipe for pecan crusted venison with boozy sweet potato mash. It may have had something to do with my generous amount of bourbon in the mash, but I won the cook-off.

When I couldn’t get my hands on the blackberries and sage I wanted for Friday night, I thought back to this recipe. I always have a variety of nuts on hand (keep them fresh in the freezer once opened) and figured I’d “kick the recipe up a notch” by adding molasses and using the bourbon in a pan sauce since I wasn’t making sweet potatoes.

Instead, I made an awesome creamed corn side dish, along with simply roasted okra. When it comes to okra, people either love it or hate it and I’m in the love love love it camp. And since it was date night, I also made a side of oven roasted french fries, since it’s a common order “for the table” when Chris and I dine out.


For ease, I made the creamed corn in advance and then reheated it in the oven with the meat. Start by sautéing the onions until soft, not browned. Then add the corn and paprika.


After toasting with the cornmeal, add 1/2 cup of cream. Stir at a low simmer, as the cream and cornmeal thickens the corn a bit.


Season to taste. Then, just before turning off the heat, add 1 more tablespoon of cream. Either serve immediately or divide into oven safe dishes to reheat before dinner.

Smokey & Spicy Creamed Corn: A Broad Cooking

Once the corn was prepped, I made the venison. Start by mixing the mustard and molasses together to create a coating for your filets.


Dredge the venison through the mustard mixture, then roll in the pecans. This can be kept in the fridge until you are about 20 minutes from serving dinner. At this point, prep is done, clean up the dishes, and enjoy some cocktails!


You can do all of the above in advance. Then about 20 minutes before you’re ready for dinner, heat the oven to 325˚F, and pop the corn in to reheat. Then heat a skillet over medium heat with vegetable oil. Make sure that you don’t make the pan too hot, because you don’t want to burn the pecans. (Mine were borderline…)


Once the venison is browned on both sides, place in the oven and make a pan sauce. Wipe out the extra pecans. Then add the bourbon. Deglaze and reduce. Add the remaining mustard mixture (should be about 1 tablespoon) and beef broth. Simmer and whisk until slightly thickened.


Serve the sauce over the venison along with the creamed corn and your favorite roasted vegetable.

Pecan Crusted Venison with Creamed Corn: A Broad Cooking

Smokey Spicy Creamed Corn

Serves 2

1 Tbs butter

½ cup diced onion

2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 Tbs. cornmeal

½ cup plus 1 Tbs heavy cream

Salt and Pepper

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onions. Sauté for 5 minutes, softening the onions. Add the corn, paprika, and cornmeal. Cook for 3 minutes to heat through.

Add the ½ cup of cream, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the remaining tablespoon of cream just before serving.

Pecan Crusted Venison

*Inspired by Emeril Lagasse’s Pecan Crusted Venison with Bourbon Mash

Serves 2

¾ lb venison filet, sliced about 1 inch thick

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1 Tbs. molasses

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

2 Tbs. bourbon

1/3 cup beef broth

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the mustard and molasses. Season the venison filets with salt and pepper, then dredge through the mustard mixture, reserving the leftovers. Roll in chopped pecans to coat.

Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the venison and cook for 3 minutes, turn and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Place in a baking dish and finish in the oven, about 10 minutes for medium.

Meanwhile, make a pan sauce, starting by wiping out the pan of any burnt pecans. Add the bourbon to the pan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Then add the reserved mustard mix and beef broth. Whisk for 3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Serve over top of the venison.


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