February 18, 2014 by caitlinvaclark
Did everyone do something wonderful and romantic for Valentine’s Day weekend? I hope those of you on the East coast were snowed in with someone you love. Or maybe you’re really into President’s Day? Whatever floats your boat. If you used the long weekend as an excuse to head somewhere warm and tropical, please keep it to yourself. We did not have Monday off here. And of course, it’s all rain, all the time. It’s been this way for months, which makes me want to curl up on the couch but more out of yuck than that cozy hot cocoa feeling.
Chris hates Valentine’s Day. Maybe hate is the wrong word. Basically he just refuses. I’m not saying I love the holiday. A box of chocolates won’t make me swoon. A cheesy teddy bear might end up with the rest of Gertie’s dog toys. But I do love fresh flowers, provided they are not the long stem red rose variety. And I love an excuse to eat some rich and romantic food. In my mind, Valentine’s Day is not about big gestures or pressures but just acknowledging and indulging in what you love. For me that usually revolves around cooking a fabulous meal.
This year Chris came home with two bottles of Champagne and called it a night. We finally had a sunny day on Sunday, so we took Gertie for a long walk to the Columbia Road Flower Market so I could get my flower fix. That along with the return of House of Cards and I’d say we had a pretty solid, heart-shaped-candy-free, weekend.
Honestly I’d rather make my own bouquet anyways.
Valentine’s day or not, it’s nice to plan out an evening centered around great food and good company. I have a perfect date night menu for you, that could also easily be doubled or tripled for a fabulous dinner party.
I’ve mentioned this before but I think you can make a regular night a bit more indulgent and special with something as simple as a little snack and cocktail before dinner. So for my Valentine’s dinner I started the night with Mozzarella and Grape Tomato Bruschetta, along with Sour Cherry Manhattans.
Then we sat down for Seared Scallops with Golden Raisins & Pistachios. I personally don’t love scallops so I never cook them. But Chris does and this meal is about treating the person you love right?!
Our main course was decadent without being too rich – Rack of Lamb & Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Molasses.
This dinner was great because we were able to take our time and enjoy a long meal without feeling like the fattest people on earth afterwards. We even had room for a small piece of Banoffee Upside-Down Cake with Cashew Brittle and Fresh Whipped Cream (recipe later this week).
What I love about this main course is that it can be made with such ease. The prep is done in a matter of minutes and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to time it perfectly. Start with a trimmed rack of lamb and some really good mustard. I love this herb studded mustard from Maille. It’s as delicious as it is colorful.
Cover the lamb with buttered panko breadcrumbs. Then it bakes in a hot oven for about 25 minutes for medium.
After about 15 minutes, check on the lamb to make sure that the breadcrumbs aren’t too brown. If necessary tent the rack with foil. At the same time, pop the butternut squash into the oven. This way, you will finish cooking the squash while the lamb rests. Once the lamb has rested for 10 minutes, you can slice it and serve along side this gorgeous butternut squash. The squash is seasoned with a bit of cumin and brown sugar, then finished with a drizzle of tangy pomegranate molasses, crunchy pomegranate seeds, and bright cilantro.
The wow factor of this meal makes it perfect for a date night dinner. It looks beautiful and tastes amazing.
Herby Mustard Crusted Lamb Chops and Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Molasses
For the lamb:
1 lamb rack, trimmed
2 Tbs herb mustard
1 Tbs butter, melted
1/3 cup panko
For the squash:
½ a large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs pomegranate molasses
2 Tbs pomegranate seeds
2 2sp fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat oven to 425˚F.
Make sure that your lamb rack has been trimmed of excess fat and place onto a baking sheet. Season top with salt and pepper then spread on the mustard. Mix together melted butter and panko and press onto the top of the lamb. Cook lamb for 15 minutes.
While the lamb cooks toss butternut squash with brown sugar, cumin, and olive oil. Spread on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
Add butternut squash to the oven. Cover the lamb with a loose tinfoil tent if the breadcrumbs are browning too quickly. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove lamb and let rest while the squash finishes in the oven, about 5-10 more minutes.
Once the squash is roasted, divide between two plates. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses. Top with pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro. Slice the lamb into chops and plate alongside butternut squash.