Due to some messy timing, BF and I had our Valentines Day dinner this past weekend. First a little romantic back story. BF also adores great food and is from a small Italian town in New England. I grew up on the west coast where we both now live. For the first dinner he ever cooked for me, he wanted something different and special. So he ordered a Porchetta from a local Italian Grocer. Since porchetta is an uncommon dish here, what he got instead was an herbed pork loin
Nevertheless he made it, and I thought it was great. But he swore to me one day hed find and make me a real porchetta
And then I saw the reports about the Zuni Café Mock Porchetta I put it on my list of MUST tries and as I plotted out Valentines day, it just seemed like a perfect idea. BF would finally get his real porchetta, be able to use his monsterous 14 inch skillet and also flex his cooking skills by butterflying and tying up his very first roast.
I sent the recipe to BF in order for him to pick up the provisions, but due to a communications problem, he just ended up fixated on finding the perfect piece of meat. He went to several butchers and ended up with a whole top shoulder! 10lbs in all (Lukcily it was priced at under $2.00lb, so it ended up a real STEAL!). However, he didnt do an ingredient check and we were missing the sage and vermouth. Luckily though, we had enough dried herbs on hand to create a great rub He also used Penzeys Garlic Granules to amp up the garlic flavor. And we used Cooking Sake (Very dry!) to deglaze.
Our bed was simple, Organic Red Skin Potato quarters, Sweet whole carrots and leeks. The leeks did impart wonderful flavor, but ended up being burnt and pretty woody by the end of the roasting time. Next time hell add them in half way through the cooking process (Which was about 3 hours).
As for our roast, it turned out WONDERFULLY! It was on the small side 2lbs, so it heated up a lot faster than the recipe detailed. BF was glad he bought the whole shoulder because after deboning, he was able to pick the BEST piece to butterfly and roast. However, the roast ended up a touch dry, especially the next day. Next time, he plans to ask the butcher for the bottom portion of the shoulder, to see if it is a moister of a cut.
As for my contribution to the dinner, initially I was going to make Epicurious Grasshopper bars. But that idea was nixed in favor of a recipe from the cook book Im currently working through, Rick Bayless Salsas that Cook. Inside is a recipe for a Mexican Chocolate Pecan Bar, which although was a simpler recipe than the grasshopper bar, still frightened me as my first Pecan Pie was a disaster!!
This recipe called for a crumb crust made of Mexican Chocolate and white bread (I love Miltons White) and the filling was traditional pecan pie with chunks of semi-sweet (Valhrona 55%) and more Mexican Chocolate (I used Ibarra). As the bars baked, the chocolate melted into the pecan pie mixture and made for a wonderful contrast of flavors and textures. The bars were GREAT straight from the oven, but also WONDERFUL when chilled. Along with the Chilaquilles, this is my favorite recipe of the book so far! :) and in an effort to watch our waist line, the co-workers we gave the left overs too totally agreed (And asked for the recipe! :))
In the end, it was a truly special dinner for both of us, not only was it tasty and worlds cheaper than going out, but we both learned more about what had brought us together in the first place, making great chow! :)
Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars:
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