A ThreeCourse Meal For Valentines And Any Night After

Dated: 02/10/2014

Views: 1323

By Kathy Brennan, Caroline Campion and Kirk Leins

A Three-Course Meal forValentines and Any Night After - By Kathy Brennan Caroline Campion and Kirk Leins
If you're opting for a quiet, intimate dinner at home instead of at a noisy restaurant this month, consider this three-course meal with recipes from Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, co-authors of the new, award-winning weeknight meals cookbook, "Keepers," and Kirk Leins, of notimetocook.com. This meal, featuring a delicious kale salad, sautéed chicken with an easy pan sauce and a to-die-for molten chocolate cake, is such a breeze that you'll want to keep it in your arsenal for any night, not just on special occasions.

Photo credit:
Christopher Testani
Raw kale may not sound all that appetizing, but give this salad a try. Massaging (yes, massaging) the leaves transforms them into soft, silky piles and mellows their sharp, bitter edge. Throw in the pomegranate and pumpkin seeds and you have a very approachable, healthful salad with lots of texture and flavor. If you can find it, use lacinato (also called Tuscan) kale, which is a little sweeter and milder than curly kale, but any variety is fine.
Although seeding a pomegranate isn't particularly difficult (see Tip below), the convenience of the packaged seeds sold at some stores can't be beat.
  • 1 bunch of kale (about 3/4 pound), stems and center ribs removed and leaves cut crosswise into 1-inch ribbons
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
In a large bowl, combine the kale, oil, and salt. Using your hands, massage the leaves, rubbing them with the oil and salt until they become softer, smaller, and darker, about 2 minutes. Taste a piece. If it's bitter, massage a little more. Add the pumpkin and pomegranate seeds and gently toss to combine (don't worry if some of the pomegranate seeds burst). Add the vinegar and toss again. Check the seasonings, adding a little more oil and/or vinegar if needed, and serve.
TIP: Kathy's friend, Leslie, taught her and Caroline a no-fuss way to remove the seeds from a pomegranate: Cut the fruit in half crosswise. Hold one half in the palm of your non-dominant hand over a medium bowl, cut-side down. Firmly whack the skin with the back of a wooden spoon several times. The seeds should start to fall into the bowl. Continue hitting the skin, gently squeezing the pomegranate a little to help the process if needed, until all the seeds are in the bowl. Repeat with the other half, then discard any white pith that may have fallen into the bowl. In addition to being an effective method, it's good therapy if you're in a bad mood—but we'd advise not wearing your favorite white shirt.

Christopher Testani
Sautéed chicken is great on its own (and at any temperature), but if you make it as much as we do, having a few pan sauces in your repertoire keeps things interesting and can elevate the dish, while adding only a few ingredients and minutes to the process. Below is the deliciously easy Tomato Fondue Pan Sauce. You can find the two other pan sauces—Garlic-Cream and Lemon-Rosemary—in the book.
Boneless, skinless chicken is fine to use, and will cook faster, but bones and skin contribute lots of flavor. Lowering the heat and covering the pan after browning the chicken helps keep the meat moist and prevents the tasty bits on the bottom of the pan, which form the base for the sauce, from burning.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • One 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 2 1/2- to 3-pounds chicken parts, patted dry
  • Salt and pepper
In a large skillet or high-sided sauté pan with a lid, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat until the foam from the butter begins to subside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then place in the pan, skin-side down. Cook—resisting the urge to repeatedly poke, prod, and look underneath—until chicken doesn't stick to the pan and is golden brown, about 6 minutes.
Flip the chicken over, reduce the heat to medium, and cover the pan. Cook until just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more. (If you're using both dark and white meat, note that the white meat will cook faster.) Transfer to a platter. If you're making one of the pan sauces, tent the chicken with foil to keep warm and continue with that recipe. If not, sprinkle the chicken with a little salt, and serve hot, warm, or cold.
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups seeded and diced tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, dill, chives, or a few torn leaves of basil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan of sautéed chicken, then return the pan to medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine, scraping up any caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer until most of the wine has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes and any chicken juices accumulated on the platter and cook, stirring often, until they are slightly broken down and heated through, about 2 minutes. If using cherry tomatoes, gently press them with the back of a spoon. Once cooked, remove from heat, add the herbs, then swirl in the butter. Check the seasonings, adding salt and/or pepper, if needed. Serve the chicken topped with the sauce.
TIP: It's an extra step, but skinning the tomatoes before seeding and dicing them yields a more delicate, refined sauce. To do so, cut a shallow cross at the bottom of the tomatoes, dip them in a pot of boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds, shock in a bowl of ice water, then peel off the skin. When you can't find good regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes are the way to go. These we never peel.
The dessert we're making is none other than Molten Chocolate Cake. If you've ever ordered this in a restaurant, you know it's about as "over-the-top" as a dessert can be. Now, be ready to impress in under half an hour!
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • Vegetable spray
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon cake flour
  • 1/2 pound high-quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 large whole eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using vegetable spray, grease six 6-ounce ramekins and dust with cake flour. In the top of a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, whole eggs, and egg yolks. Whisk in the cake flour. Evenly distribute the batter among the 6 ramekins, and bake for 10 minutes or until the sides of the cakes are set but the center still jiggles. Let the cakes cool for 2-3 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and invert onto plates. Garnish with powdered sugar and serve with either vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
There you have it, a perfect three-course meal for the day that celebrates sweethearts, yet easy enough to make for any day after. As long as you cook with love, your guest(s) will feel it through these special recipes and ingredients.

Kathy Brennan is a freelance editor and writer. A winner of the Bert Greene and James Beard Journalism Awards, she was a long-time editor at Saveur, and also worked at Gourmet and Food Arts. Caroline Campion is a contributor at Glamour, and creator of the award-winning food blog www.DevilandEgg.com. Together, they wrote Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen, which NPR named a 2013 Great Read. Also check out @KeepersCooks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. Sign up for Kirk's free newsletter and cooking blog at www.NoTimeToCook.com.  

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