Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fancy Dinner In

We did it! 30 days with no eating out. We wanted to celebrate, and we thought it would be rather hypocritical to, on one hand, emphasize how realistic and fun it is to eat at home and then, on the other hand, celebrate by eating out. Plus, I wanted to demonstrate that you can enjoy a romantic, fancy meal at home!

To set the ambiance, I cleaned our house and put our gorgeous dining room table (a gift from my parents when Terry and I first moved in together) to use. Rather than spending money on flowers, which Scout would eat anyway, I opted for a clean, simple, black-and-white theme. I grabbed a bunch of candles from around the apartment, our champagne bucket, and a portrait of us from our wedding. Combined with some black and silver place mats and our wedding china (first time use!), the scene was set for a magical night!

I know it's weird that we sat next to each other, but just roll with it.

Our "centerpiece" - simple, inexpensive, romantic!

Fancy indeed!

I figured a fancy night out usually includes pre-dinner cocktails, so I made some yummy drinks for us to enjoy when Terry got home from work. I made Terry's favorite, a gin martini with olives, and I had a vodka soda.

I put a light-up ice cube in my drink. Because I'm classy like that.

Vodka Soda
  • 2 shots vodka
  • 4 ounces club soda
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • Juice from 1/4 of a lime
Delicious, refreshing, just right for a pre-dinner cocktail!

We even dressed up! Look at that stud in his suit!

Then I got to work on dinner! Our menu, for those who missed my post yesterday, was a four-course meal inspired by some of our favorite fancy restaurants. We decided that we would cook each course on its own, rather than all at once, so that nothing would get overcooked and so that we could enjoy a fun evening of cooking rather than a stressful one.

The Menu
  • Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus with Poached Egg and Hollandaise
  • Mixed Greens with Shaved Parmesan
  • Garlic and White Wine Shrimp Pasta
  • Chocolate Souffle
  • Gloria Ferrer Brut Sparkling Wine
So I got to work on our appetizer!

Who says you can't wear an apron over a fancy dress? This look really works.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus with Poached Egg and Hollandaise
Serves 2 (Appetizer)

  • Homemade Hollandaise (I used Julia Child's recipe; see below)
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 12 stems of asparagus
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
First, roll three asparagus stems in one slice of prosciutto. Make sure it's tight enough to stay together on its own. Repeat with the rest of the asparagus and prosciutto. Set aside.

Next, bring a medium saucepan halfway filled with water up to a simmer. Meanwhile, make your Hollandaise. I used Julia's recipe, which took about 6-7 minutes. About halfway through your Hollandaise, heat a pan to medium with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and cook about two minutes on each side (a total of 6-7 minutes). When your Hollandaise is ready, set aside (off heat). Meanwhile, create a whirlpool in the middle of your simmering water and carefully add an egg. Gently push the edges of the whites toward the yolk. Cook about 4 minutes, or until your egg is beautifully poached. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to dry. Repeat with the second egg.

To serve, plate the asparagus (two wraps per plate) with the egg on top. Reheat the Hollandaise just a touch before ladling it over the egg and asparagus. This appetizer should be served warm, not hot, so you have a little leeway with your timing, but nothing should sit too long before it's enjoyed.

Hollandaise Sauce a la Julia Child (from The Way to Cook)
Makes about one cup

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, divided
  • 1 1/4 sticks melted butter
  • Salt and (white) pepper (I didn't have white pepper, but black worked just fine!)
In a saucepan (off heat), whisk the egg yolks for a minute or two (they should thicken a little). Whisk in the lemon juice. Then add half of the cold butter and turn on the heat to low, whisking until the butter is melted (about a minute or two). Immediately remove the sauce from heat and add the other two tablespoons of cold butter to stop the cooking. Off heat, whisk in the warm melted butter "by driblets" (I love you, Julia) and add the salt and pepper.

Homemade Hollandaise - buttery deliciousness

Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus

Gourmet at its finest!

This part of the meal, we agreed, was our favorite. I think it made my husband love me just a little more. :-) The salty prosciutto offset the  buttery hollandaise. The textures really made me fall in love: creamy egg, velvety hollandaise, crunchy asparagus. It was a symphony of flavor and texture, and we were in heaven.

Next up: A super simple salad to clear our palates. I set a pot of water to boil for our entree and then we enjoyed this refreshing course.

Mixed Greens with Shaved Parmesan
Serves 2
  • Two big handfuls of mixed greens
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I actually didn't love the mixed greens I chose from Whole Foods, but Terry loved it. They had cilantro and dill added in, and those are two of my least favorite herbs. Oh, well. On to the next!

Garlic and White Wine Shrimp Pasta
Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3/4 pound of raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 pound of whole-wheat pasta (I used spaghetti)
Set a large pot of water to boil; then follow the directions for cooking your pasta. Meanwhile, melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pan. When melted, add the garlic, then the white wine. Let these ingredients come together and simmer for about 5-6 minutes, or until the wine has reduced by about half. Remove the tails on the shrimp and add the shrimp to the pan; cook for about 3 minutes, turning once. 

Drain the pasta and add to the shrimp pan. Serve in a large serving bowl (I assumed it would be best to remove the pasta from the pan to prevent the shrimp from overcooking). Enjoy immediately!

Fancy shrimp pasta.

Simple and delicious.

I have to thank my mom and dad for this one. I knew how I was going to make the sauce, but I had never cooked raw shrimp before, so they gave me a few pointers before I got to work. Thanks, padres!

And finally...

Chocolate Souffle (from Julia Child's The Way to Cook)
Serves 8 (no, we didn't eat them all at once)
I used my Crate & Barrel cookbook stand for this one!
  • 7 ounces sweet baking chocolate (I used semi-sweet)
  • 1/3 cup coffee
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter (optional)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (I just use a glass bowl atop a pot of simmering water), stirring consistently. Add the coffee and stir until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk the flour and milk over medium heat until thick and creamy. Set aside to cool for a bit (if you're adding the optional butter, now's the time to whisk it in). When slightly cooled, whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla. Then stir in the chocolate-coffee mixture. Set aside.

In a clean (very clean!) bowl, add the six egg whites (absolutely no yolk). Beat with an electric beater until soft peaks form. Then add the sugar little by little until stiff, shining peaks form. [This was the hard part for me. A stand mixer seems to be the trick!]

Gently slide the chocolate mixture into the egg whites and fold together carefully. Spoon into eight greased ramekins. Place in the oven on a cookie sheet and immediately turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes. The souffles are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Cookbook-worthy photography courtesy of my amazing husband.

Decadence a la Julia Child.

These bad boys were suuuuuuper difficult! I had no problem with melting the chocolate, but beating egg whites to "stiff shining peaks" is hit or miss for me. So I was thrilled when the souffles puffed up in the oven. I believe I shouted, "Terry! They're souffle-ing!" Still, they deflated completely within 30 minutes. I assume that's why you're supposed to serve immediately! But today we ate one two of the leftovers, and it was just as tasty as yesterday!

Terry and I had so much fun at home making this delicious meal! We're proud of our 30 days without eating out, but we're sure ready for a break from dishes tonight!


  1. One of my favorite meals, ever! Thanks for a wonderful night in!

  2. I love this idea! I am going to have to do it with my boyfriend since we are trying to eat out ONE time a week- its so hard. Thanks for sharing the recipe and idea!