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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 14, 2012: First Valentine's with a HUSBAND and all that JAZZ--with BABY BACK RIBS

And on the 45th day of marriage, there was my funny Valentine, you make me smile with my heart...
Since it was our first, and hopefully we won't quit trying to make the celebration of love day special, we wanted to have a great evening, even if it was a "school night."

Luckily for us, Knoxville Jazz Orchestra held a concert two blocks away at the bijou theater with Miss Melba Joyce singing along.
Fortunately for all Knoxvillians, KJO has some very talented and even some relatively well known musicians. Miss Joyce isn't exactly a household name, but she has a wonderful voice and has sung in her early days with Louis Armstrong and was a backup singer for Smokey Robinson. She did a selection of love songs, some of them about unrequited love and love gone bad, but nonetheless mushy stuff! Which is great on Valentine's Day. My favorite of her renditions was WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? I love it when Streisand sings it, but Miss Melba ain't no slouch!

What are you doing the rest of your life?
North and south and east and west of your life
I have only one request of your life
That you spend it all with me

All the seasons and the times of your days
All the nickels and the dimes of your days
Let the reasons and rhymes of your days
All begin and end with me.

And in a total non sequitur, can you believe Babs is 70 years old this year? She looks great. I wanna get the phone number of her plastic surgeon!

So since I had to work Tuesday and I knew I wouldn't be able to fix an elaborate meal, I settled for a delicious meal that wasn't horribly labor intensive. I have to tell you. These recipes are EASY, EASY, EASY and you won't get anything better in a restaurant (although those of you who went to a restaurant, good for you.) Check out my friend Nancy's blog for a great story about her Valentine's Day with not just one but THREE sweethearts.

I started out with baby back ribs.
Usually, I place the recipes at the end, but for this one, it isn't needed. It is SIMPLE. Buy a rack of baby back ribs. Have the butcher cut them into 3-4 rib segments. (Why should you do all the work? He has a cleaver and he knows how to use it!) I bought a cheap McCormick mesquite spice rub and rubbed the ribs (front side only, the back doesn't need it). Then I placed them in a crockpot on low. I poured enough coca cola on them to cover them. I left them as such for 8 hours. When I got home, I poured the coca cola liquid OFF the ribs and brushed them very generously with a mesquite bar-b-q sauce (you can use any flavor you want) and left them in the crockpot for an additional two hours (while I listened to Melba Joyce!)
They were really sumptuous.

To accompany them, I made a green salad with avocado and goat cheese and potatoes au gratin. This was also really simple. This will serve four people as a side dish: Take a large baking potato and peel it. Then slice it as thinly as you can. In a bowl, mix 3/4 cup of heavy cream, a tablespoon (or twice that if you like) of thyme leaves, a dash of nutmeg or a drizzle of truffle oil (I used the truffle oil, but that is predictable), and one thin sliced garlic clove. Take a baking dish (9X9 works great) and layer the potatoes and a generous handful of cheese. I used shaved Parmesan, but nearly any type of cheese will be fine. Repeat this until all the potatoes are used up. I ended up with two layers. Pour the milk mixture on top. Let it sit there for 10-15 minutes and settle and use a spatula if necessary to get the potatoes pushed down so that they are covered by the milk mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes--until you see the milk/cheese mixture bubbling.

For dessert, chocolate pots du creme.

I have a story about chocolate pots du creme. I had never actually heard of this dish until I went to a very tiny town in Ireland called Kilmore Quay.
It is a quaint fishing village off the Southern Coast. Not exactly a tourist mecca. I remember because I took my secretary to Ireland for her 50th birthday and two friends, Claudia and Shelley came along. Shirls, my secty, pulled her shoes off and put some cold Irish Sea on her feet. She was so delighted! Early in the day, we went out by ferry to a small island with puffins on it called Skelling Michael. Devastating remote and beautiful.We stayed at a B&B that night and for some reason, Miss Shelley decided she no longer wanted our company (we were probably getting on her nerves or she was PMS-ing)and she went to bed. We went to the only place we could to eat, Kehoe's Pub.
It looked very traditional. We had enjoyed many nice soups and stews in pubs already on this trip and we expected to have one again. WRONG! Wrong in all the right ways, because whoever the chef was in this place was a gourmet cook. I don't remember the exact seafood dish I had, although I do remember it being outstanding, but Shirley, Claudia and I STILL remember dessert. My first ever chocolate pots du creme. I am not a real "chocolate fiend" but if I could EVER duplicate this silky cross between a mousse and fudge, I would become one! I know Claudia has tried repeatedly to "get it right." One of our favorite pasttimes is to torture Shelley who loves chocolate with stories about how great this dessert tasted. She still insists we should have come and gotten her. Oh well.
I have to say my concoction failed to match Kehoe's Pub but it was still good. In comparison, it was just slightly fudgier than the gold standard. But if you never ate at Kehoe, you'd probably think it was amazing.

Here is the recipe:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
6 eggs
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar

6 (4-ounce) espresso cups or other small cups
Whipped cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a small pot, over low heat, bring the milk, half and half, almond extract, vanilla seeds and vanilla pod to a gentle simmer. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. In a large bowl, add the eggs, cocoa, and sugar and whisk to combine. Pour the heated milk mixture into the melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Temper the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, adding it slowly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Do not overmix. You want the ingredients to be blended but not frothy or bubbly.

Pour the mixture into the small cups, filling almost to the top. Put the cups in a baking pan and fill the pan with 2 inches of water. Cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil. This will prevent the custard from forming a tough skin as it cooks. Put the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the custards are set but still a little loose, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.

Carefully remove the cups from the water bath and allow them to cool for 30 minutes Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or refrigerate overnight, before serving with the whipped cream

What did my funny Valentine say about this meal?
The ribs: Very tender. Almost melted in my mouth.
The potatoes: Silky texture and delicious.
The pot du creme: Chocolatey!

So my first Valentine's Day with my first husband? I poured my heart into it. A big kiss to my husband for helping to make it great!


  1. Yum, yum, and yummy. I think those recipes may even be able to be made by me. You make my Valentine's day sound so much racier than it was. I'm glad you were appreciated on this holiday because I don't know anyone with a bigger heart than you.

  2. You definitely can make them. I forgot to put that I cheated and melted the chocolate in 1/2c of the milk in the microwave. Turn it on for 1 minute and stir. Then do it at 30 sec intervals until it melts.
    Hope you are not offended by my reference to your blog. It's true though. They are all sweethearts and YOU TOO.

  3. Valentine's Day is so stressful, I'm just thrilled when I can make it through without screwing it up. The concert sounded cool. I marvel at how much you get done though. I'm not sure how you do so much cooking with everything else you have going on.