Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Date Night! (4 course meal, start to finish)

We all love being pampered at a high end restaurant during a multiple course meal, it's a true luxury in life. Well, if you have that special someone you would like to share that with, but don't have the money or a decent restaurant near you... or maybe you just don't want to deal with the crowds on Valentine's Day... or maybe you want to enjoy all that in your pajamas alone watching Netflix (no judgement)'s the details on how I pulled off a fancy and AMAZING 4 course meal for my husband for about $50 (hard to say because I had a few things at home like seasoning, eggs, butter, oil). This could easily have stretched to a 4 person meal we had so much food!

The courses are as follows: 1: crab cakes with Dijon yogurt sauce. 2: a fresh spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette (my great Grandmas recipe). 3: seared scallops with a vermouth, garlic and lemon pan sauce and orzo rice pilaf AND 4: chocolate covered strawberries.

Here's what you will need, again some of these things you may have hanging out in your pantry. I got everything at Trader Joes... And I apologize for the lack of exact measurements. I believe in using common sense, not a strict recipe. I also believe in screwing up in the kitchen, believe it or not I regularly burn things or screw up meals. Just like anything else in life, muster up some confidence and just dive in. It's the only way you will learn! Do what you want and play around!

1 double pack of whole fresh strawberries
1/2 lb of chocolate (this made a huge batch, you could cut both of these amounts in half and be perfect)
1 bag scallops (NOT bay scallops, you want the 10-20 size)
1 red onion
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1 package uncured bacon (you'll need about 4 slices)
Apple cider vinegar 
Vermouth or dry white wine
Orzo rice pilaf mix (aha! A cheat! I used a box mix for this from Trader Joes of course... and added the lemon pan sauce and some chives. No one will know the difference and it made cooking this meal so much easier!)

A lemon
An egg
1 can (16 oz) of crab meat (REAL claw meat... This is by the smoked salmon/lunchmeat at my store.)

1 red bell pepper
Clarified butter
Grape seed oil
Dijon mustard
Greek yogurt
Worcestshire sauce
Old bay seasoning
Garlic powder

First, I made the strawberries the day before (or you can make them in the morning or right before you start cooking. They don't take long to set and we were still eating them a couple days later!). The process for that is in the previous post. I also moved the scallops to the fridge to thaw the day before. 

When I actually started cooking the meal, I did as much prep as possible before turning on the stovetop. I got all of my ingredients out for easy access. I minced 4 cloves of garlic and set aside. Zested one lemon and set aside. Chopped about 3 tablespoons of chives and set aside. 

I got out a big bowl for my salad. A big pan for the bacon dressing (it's a HOT dressing with bacon grease so it splatters everywhere). A pan with a lid for the orzo rice pilaf. And a large shallow pan for the crab cakes and scallops. I arranged all of the pans on my stove top where I would need them. 

Next, I made the mixture for the crab cakes. I measured nothing. I just started messing around and tasting as I went to get what I wanted. It ended up being the can of crab, about a third of the bell pepper chopped finely, 2 tablespoons old bay, a little over a cup of breadcrumbs, a few shots of worcestshire sauce, a tablespoon or two of Dijon, a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and one egg. Mix together and form into about 6 "cakes" and set aside.

 I then also made the Dijon yogurt sauce. I mixed together a few tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt, a tablespoon of Dijon, some worcestshire, garlic powder, sea salt, and a little hot sauce.  Mixed and added some water to thin a little bit - put in the fridge. Next I prepped the salad. I put about half the bag of spinach in my bowl and finely sliced about a quarter of the onion and threw that on top. 

I chopped the 4 slices of bacon and added that to my large pan (still no heat) just to get ready. 

I rinsed and DRIED the scallops (key is getting them very DRY!). 

Then I started with some heat! I turned on the saucepan for the orzo rice and followed the box directions to get that going. I got it simmering, covered and turned the heat to low to let it go. I then covered the bottom of my large shallow pan with about half clarified butter and half grape seed oil. Both of these have a high smoke point which is exactly what we need. I turned that pan to medium high heat to heat the oil. When it was hot, I added three of the crab cakes. You may need to adjust the heat as you go, I had to turn mine to medium low for most of the time.

 You want to sear the outside until it has a nice brown crust. Flip once and do the same on the other side then drain on paper towels and set aside. 
We are working fast! Next I turned the bacon to a medium high heat and cooked until done. I set the bacon bits aside on a paper towel to drain and left the grease in the pan. I turned the heat on that pan to low for now and went to work on my scallops. 

I used the same pan as the crab cakes, cleaned it out, dried it and added the same clarified butter/grape seed oil mixture to cover the bottom of the pan. I got the pan reallyyy hot on a high heat and added the scallops in a single layer - do not crowd them in the pan. Do two patches if you need to. 

Then I turned the heat down just a tad, seasoned with salt and pepper and let them cook until the bottom formed a brown crust. Just a couple minutes! I flipped them and did the same thing on the other side before transferring them to their plates ... Done! 

Lastly, I finished the pan sauce and salad dressing (remember our orzo rice pilaf is cooking away, keep an eye on it! Aren't you glad we used the boxed version? Haha). For the pan sauce I turned the leftovers in the scallop pan down to medium low heat. I added some lemon juice and the lemon zest (zest of one lemon and about half the juice). Stirring continuously, I added a splash of vermouth, you can use a dry white wine as well. Then added the minced garlic and a pinch of sea salt. I let it cook until the garlic started to brown then turned the heat off and let it finish while I did my salad dressing. 

For the salad dressing, you get your bacon grease hot. I turned t up to medium for a couple minutes (remember we had it on low). THEN (this part sucks and your kitchen will be a mess if you do it right ... But I promise it's worth it) you add about the same amount of apple cider vinegar as there is grease in the pan. Stir stir stir (it will splatter, wait until it calms) and it will thicken up right away. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and throw that right on your spinach salad with the bacon bits set aside earlier. Toss. Salad is done! 

Now, to plate everything. I took 3 crab cakes and added a dallop of Dijon yogurt sauce on each on with some chives sprinkled on top for a plate we could share.
 For the second course, I just used tongs to transfer the salad into 2 bowls.
 For the third, I had our scallops lines up on two separate plates, added a spoonful of rice/orzo and spooned the pan sauce over both. Topped with chives.
 Final course was the strawberries.
 Ta dah! A very impressive 4 course meal for the one you love, and so much better (and cheaper!) than any chain restaurant you usually go to. 

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