The Irony of Menu Planning

Oh boy, oh boy. Oh boy! Have I got some kitchen stories for you.

You know those times when you plan on making something that you think is going to be aMAZing and you’re ecstatic just thinking about but then you realize, you really need something to go with it, but then that afterthought turns out sooo much better?

Well I just had one of those times the other night.

Ever since I took a sip of that Chocolate Amoré dessert wine I told you about, I ‘ve been yearning to pour it over a sponge cake and ice cream. But I knew I had to be patient. This wine was meant to be shared I thought, not hoarded in an individual session of impromptu indulgence.

So, I decided to cook a whole meal around it. And not coincidentally, I had just the occasion for the fancy meal I had in mind (ahem, I presume you know what yesterday was).

In theory, this was all a great idea. It was to be a good change of pace from the traditional “going out to eat,” and we had the perfect dessert all ready to go. But then the nerves set in. I became increasingly uncertain of what to make and even contemplated canceling the whole thing. I felt pathetic – can’t I just cook a meal for once?

It wasn’t until lunchtime that day that I decided to not be pathetic, and cook. So I whipped out a menu, and booked it to the grocery store. Realizing how late it was, I ran around the store picking up ingredients not even knowing what was already in the house. “Hmm do we have minced garlic?” Probably, but if we don’t, I’m screwed – no time to go back later.

After work, I was a frantic mess. By the time I got home, I had one hour to make 4 dishes I had never cooked before. I needed to chop the broccoli, the apples, the strawberries, boil the water, stir the vinaigrette, bake the salmon, prepare the sauce, bake the brie, chill the wine, and so much more. I was all over the place. Printed recipes were flying, the refrigerator was a chaos of ingredients; it was hustle and bustle time for sure.

But in the end, it couldnt have come together any better.


Warmed Brie Cheese with Granny Smith Apples

Main Course
Baked Salmon with Dill Garlic Beurre Blanc
served with Broccoli Balsamic Vinaigrette and Roasted Red Potatoes

Vanilla Ice Cream and Sponge Cake topped with strawberries and Trentadue’s Chocolate Amoré red dessert wine

Now, that all sounds quite good, doesn’t it? I’m not going to lie, I was fairly impressed myself. So impressed I intend to make this meal again, with one small exception….

The dessert was TERRIBLE! Who would have thought – the very idea that inspired the whole menu turned out to be the worst part! I couldn’t believe it. I got D so hyped up for the dessert so it was quite the disappointment.

I think I would have been better off serving the port wine over vanilla ice cream only. It was more ruined by the sponge cake than anything else. I thought it was a good idea, to soak up the wine but it wound up diluting the great flavor and tasting like pure alcohol. Yuck. Oh well!

Overall, I’m quite proud of my achievement. The salmon was my favorite part :) Recipes are below!

Baked Salmon with Dill Garlic Beurre Blanc

I just LOVED this recipe and I would make it a hundred times over. It can easily be cut in half too. I used it with a tasty Arctic Char salmon from Iceland. The best part is how well it coaches you through making your own white wine reduction! I was confused about what type of white wine to use, but since it cooks down, I think any type is fine.

2 lb. salmon, fresh, fillets
1/2 C. white wine
8 Tbs. butter, cold, cut into 16 pieces
1 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. garlic, minced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the salmon for 12-15 minutes. The fish should be firm but not dry. Place the wine, dill and garlic in a small saucepan. Reduce on high heat until almost dry. Remove from the heat and quickly add all the butter while whisking briskly. When all the butter has been incorporated, allow to rest 10 minutes. Spoon over the hot salmon.

Yield: 4 servings

Broccolini with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I used broccoli in this recipe and it was just as good as ever. I HIGHLY recommend this one for an easy flavorful side dish.

Kosher salt
4 bunches broccolini (1 1/2 lb.)
1/4 C. good olive oil
11/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon

In a large pot, bring 8 C. of water and 2 Tbs. salt to a boil. Remove and discard the bottom third of the broccolini stems. If some stems are very thick, cut them in half lengthwise.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and the pepper. When the water comes to a full boil, add the broccolini, return to a boil, and cook over high heat for 2 minutes, until the stalks are just tender. Drain well and place in a large bowl. Pour enough dressing over the broccolini to moisten and toss well. Splash with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm or hot.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten as seen on The Barefoot Contessa.

Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 minutes

For the potatoes, I simply roasted them on a baking sheet with rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil. I wound up using TOO much olive oil so don’t take my advice :)

For the brie cheese, I wound up having a little brie accident. I was running behind and didn’t have the appetizer ready in time so I just decided to microwave the cheese. I did it for too long so it came out like this, but it was still tasty!

Like I said, the dessert didn’t go as planned. I took a sponge cake dessert shell, topped it with strawberries and ice cream and then tried pouring the wine over it. It was pretty in theory but tasted awful. We switched to vanilla ice cream only.

Hope everyone enjoyed all their holidays!

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  • JEP

    Hillary the Honest Blogger—What a girl will go thru to impress a date–ha! The brie “melt-down” is totally something I would have done, too–LOL.

  • JDebs

    Nice flowers. But, is he really worth all that effort???

    Also, next time I recommend using fingerling potatoes! They’re great!

  • Anna Kindler

    The fact that you did all that work for your special someone in a great big gift in itself.The “I Love You” was really there. Kudoes, for a nice job, even though the desert wasn’t up to your standards. I have also “boo booed” with brie. Anna

  • Sarah P.

    Hilary this looks amazing! I would be so proud of myself too if I cooked this! Especially the Salmon dish!

    What do you think about substituting the butter for EVOO or even the dill for some other fresh herb? I am not a huge Dill fan but I would love to try this. Any recommendations for a different fresh herb?

  • melissa

    that is ironic about the dessert. but holy moly that salmon looks good.

  • kittie

    Gorgeous meal – the salmon looks amazing!

  • Hillary

    JEP – Haha yea…it looked terrible, but it still tasted ok! :)

    JDebs – I DO like fingerling potatoes. They probably would have come out better, especially if I didn’t drench them in too much oil.

    Anna – Thanks for the comment. I thought it would be a nice dinner.

    Sarah P. – I actually used margarine, but think that olive oil would probably be a great substitute. I’d try to keep it to a minimum though to avoid too much oil (like on my potatoes!). Despite the butter or margarine sounding too greasy, it turns out quite well actually.

    Melissa – Thanks!!! I thought so too.

    Kittie – Thank you!! :)

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