Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Ask Jan: Make-Ahead Valentine’s Dinner

January 25th, 2009 · No Comments

Carol D. from Santa Fe, NM, writes:

Hi Jan:

I volunteered to cook and deliver a make-ahead Valentine’s Day dinner for a friend who is having knee surgery. It’s dinner for two. The salad and dessert are no brainers, but what kind of entree would you put with this dinner?


Jan answers: I’ll assume this meal will be reheated at the house.

Some foods that would work well reheated and are easy for the first cook, too:

  • Coq au vin, over wild rice or on plain, buttery mashed potatoes with chives.
  • Steak Diane or steak au poive. (Undercook it.)
  • Tenderloin tournedos stuffed with mushroom, bacon or spinach. (These reheat easily if not fully cooked to start with, and look sexy on a plate.)
  • Comforting yet somewhat sexy, too: shortribs with mushroom sauce, over horseradish mashed potatoes.

The trick to making ahead any food is to slightly undercook it if it’s going to be reheated. For chicken, you can cook it just till done (don’t rely on someone else to completely cook chicken, however, unless you know they are a credible cook). Shortribs, steak and tenderloin can be cooked rare or medium-rare, then benefit from the reheating without becoming tough.

PS: I’d skip the salad (maybe it’s just because it’s cold down here) and go with a creamy soup instead: tomato, or butternut with one (only one!) cheese ravioli, or carrot/sweet potato with the same. Or crispy leeks sprinkled on top, or pumpkin seeds. . . it’s just prettier than a salad to my way of thinking.

If a salad, use butter lettuce with those soft, sexy leaves, and a vinaigrette that makes it shimmer, with little cubes of warm goat cheese, maybe.

* * *
Carol responded:

Great suggestions, Jan. I’m actually delivering this on the 13th for them to reheat whenever. The short ribs in a mushroom sauce over horseradish mashed and a soup is a great suggestion. I’ll make more of the soup so it can be used for a quick and easy lunch.

What a nice gesture, Carol — good of you to do this for your friends!

Readers: If you know of someone house-bound this Valentine’s Day, think about making them a meal while you’re making one of your own. Heck: Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day. Just do it – you’ll feel good about yourself and may need that favor returned someday.

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