Every year I get my hopes sort of up that Chris is going to have grand plans for Valentine’s Day. And every year, he does wonderful, gallant things pretty much every day except for Valentines day, because he hates the crowds in restaurants on the evening of. I’m learning to be totally okay with it, because, frankly, buying me shitty grocery store roses, a box of hermetically sealed chocolate in a gaudy cardboard heart, or lacy lingerie that chafes my nipples and digs into my lady junk isn’t anywhere near as valuable as being a good husband, father, and roommate the other 364 days of the year.
Not that I would turn down some decent chocolate. I’m not totally crazy. But it should be from a good chocolatier and not have any dark chocolate or coffee flavors. Thanks.
So what we usually end up doing is having a quiet dinner at home, fueled by a fair amount of quiet wine from a quiet box. It’s awesome, and it means I get to design the menu based on my own whim, and also that I get to eat said menu wearing sweatpants. That’s the one thing that dinner out will get you–something other than sweatpants. But that’s where I draw the line on gratefulness.
And usually I buy myself a bag of conversation hearts and eat only the white ones. Not because I’m racist, but because they taste minty and delicious.
I sometimes get tired of the same old presentation of a hunk of overpriced red meat, some token green beans, and a starch. Instead, I try to toss things up and eat vibrant, indulgent flavors without making a big production of dishes that will have to be washed before we start playing video games.
One year, we ate cheese, honey, salumi and pears for dinner. Seriously. It was fantastic.
This year, I wanted to try something new, and I wanted to surprise him. But I had no idea, so I figured I’d do a test run of some different recipes and pick the one I liked the best to prepare for him on Tuesday (the big V). In order to put my own spin on it, I wrote down a recipe based on ingredients I like, and decided to follow what I had written down and hope for the best.
I wanted to incorporate a rich meat, silky mouthfeel, chocolate, red wine, and something different in the realm of starches. I just threw things down on the paper, hoping to God that it wouldn’t suck, and that I’d strike culinary gold for being bold and ad-libbing a recipe.
Any concerns that I had about the success of this dish were ameliorated when I pulled this out of the bag of potatoes:
|Be My Valentuber|
Yeah. A LOVE POTATO. It’s like God was trying to tell me that this was the perfect Valentine’s Day meal before I even began making it.
And then I felt really bad when I had to do this:
But I got over it. In the name of love and experimentation. The same way countless women have gotten over various deviant behaviors in order to make their marriages work, even though they don’t necessarily like wearing leather masks or dressing up like life-sized squirrels.
And you know what? WORTH IT. This stew was so rich, hearty, healthy, decadent, delicious, and full of beefy love that I would stab a thousand potato hearts in a sort of creepy way.
So I urge you to give this one a shot. Not just because it’s the first recipe I’ve made up in my own head before even trying to make it. Not just because it’s a fun and different way to enjoy traditional romancy flavors (chocolate and red wine? Hooooo!). Not just because it’s stupid easy. But because the Love Potato has dictated that it must be.
Beef Chuck and Barley Stew
-2-3 lb beef chuck, diced (this is a typical cut for beef stew, and is flavorful and bootylicious without being $$$)
-1 T olive oil
-1/2 large onion, diced
-3 cl garlic, minced
-3 C rich beef stock
-1 C red wine
-2 bay leaves
-1 t dried thyme
-1 t cracked pepper
-3 large russet potatoes, small dice
-4 large carrots, small dice
-1 C pearl barley, rinsed
-2 T cocoa (the richer, the better)
-a bunch of kosher salt
-2 C baby spinach
-1 T butter
–In a heavy-bottomed dutch oven or large pot with a lid, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering.
–Season beef chuck liberally with salt and pepper, then sear. Go boldly into searing, and try to get a brown crust on each piece of beef.
–Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
–In the same pan, saute garlic, and onion until tender
–Deglaze with red wine, and simmer until red wine is reduced by half.
–Add the beef back to the pan, along with thyme, barley, bay leaves, cocoa and stock. Simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for 1.5 hours or until beef is beginning to become tender. Check periodically and add more liquid if necessary.
–Add potatoes and carrots, cover again, and simmer for 45 minutes or until potatoes are firm but tender. The end amount of liquid should be silky and thick-ish.
–Add spinach and butter and stir until wilted.
–Serve with the rest of that red wine, while wearing tacky lingerie that either has holes in prominent places or is made of fruit roll ups and smarties. Or in sweatpants, if that’s your thing.
|*Cue Barry White music*|
Yeah. Tell me you wouldn’t eat that. Even if it meant forgoing the typical restaurant rush and thorn stab wounds from those horrid roses. Even if it meant wearing a squirrel suit to dinner.
Because that’s really what love is all about. Potatoes and squirrels and stew and compromises. But probably not squirrel stew. This is your LIFE we’re talking about. Not an episode of Swamp People.