Valentine’s Day Dinner 2007

vday fizzy

Mike and I have traditionally stayed in and cooked at home for Valentine’s Day, but this year we talked seriously about going out. As it turned out, those discussions occurred far too late for us to actually secure a reservation anywhere. In the end we were lucky – the city was hit with a blast of wintry weather Tuesday night that continued through the day on Wednesday. Both Mike’s office and mine closed early due to the weather, and we were happy to be able to head straight home and be in for the night.

For whatever reason, our VDay dinners have usually featured lamb, but we got a beautiful pork tenderloin from Flying Pigs at the Greenmarket a couple of Saturdays ago, and it had been sitting in the freezer waiting for just the right occasion. Inspired by the Schneider/Borogove “Fig & Pig Thanksgiving,” I decided to wrap the tenderloin in pancetta and make a figgy pan sauce.

pork-wrapped pork

We had a nice bottle of champagne chilling, and we definitely wanted oysters to pair with it. Mike had recently made a batch of Francois Payard’s delicious Fried Oysters with lemon and balsamic, so he decided to make them again (and only a fool would complain – they’re addictive).

fried oysters

So we had a starter and we had a main, but I wanted to do one more course – Valentine’s Day does call for a little indulgence, after all. The Daily News had recently run a feature discussing the popularity of gnudi, and between that and a gnudi-centric episode of Lidia Bastianich‘s show I saw recently, both of us were craving them again. I had never made them at home, but we both remembered loving the ones we tried at The Spotted Pig (ages ago), so I thought I’d give it a try.

We got a pound of sheep’s milk ricotta from 3-Corner Field Farm, and I combined that with two beaten pullet eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, grated pecorino and some chopped spinach (I initially planned to cook down and chop some swiss chard, but by the time I got home, I wasn’t feeling it. Half a bag of frozen chopped spinach worked just fine, thawed and squeezed completely dry). I added about 1/3 cup of pastry flour to that and gently mixed it with my hands until everything was incorporated.

uncooked gnudi

I grabbed small bits of the dough and gently rolled them into ovals in my hands, then dusted them with a little more flour. These went into the fridge to set for half an hour, and then I added them to a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until they floated to the top. I had melted a hunk of butter in a separate pan and let it begin to brown, and I stirred in a small splash of the pasta water. I pulled the gnudi out of the boiling water and added them directly to the butter sauce, turning them very gently to coat them, then I spooned the gnudi and sauce into shallow bowls. Taking a page from Del Posto, I topped the gnudi with a dusting of ground chipotle, which added a lovely smokiness and depth to the finished dish.

gnudi in brown butter

I had prepped the tenderloin earlier in the evening, so it didn’t take long to finish it. I browned it on all sides in our cast iron skillet, then chucked the whole thing into the oven to finish cooking (400 degrees for 15 minutes or so). Once the pork had reached our desired doneness, I pulled it out of the pan and set it aside to rest. I had mixed a couple of big globs of fig jam with half a cup of water, a splash of balsamic and a splash of tawny port, so I added those to the pan and began scraping up the browned bits. Once the sauce was reduced, I turned off the heat, whisked in a small hunk of butter, then spooned the sauce over the slices of tenderloin (which I served on a bed of sauteed haricots verts).

pancetta wrapped pork tenderloin

There were a few things I’d like to tweak in the future – we loved the chipotle with the gnudi, but we both thought the butter sauce needed a little more oomph, and my slices of tenderloin weren’t as pretty or uniform as I would have liked – but all in all, this was a great meal. It’s nice to go out to a restaurant, enjoy great food and not have to do the dishes afterward, but I’m always going to prefer sitting at home with my sweetie, sipping a drink, listening to some music, and enjoying the smells and flavors of a meal prepared with love.

Wine Note: We drank Magenta Brut NV with the oysters, and paired the tenderloin with the 2004 Benson Ferry Old Vines Zinfandel, one of our favorite wines to serve with pork.

6 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day Dinner 2007

  1. alex says:

    I feel the Mystery Science Theatre coming over me.

    Joel: …a marvelous figgy pudding!

    Anything wrapped in pancetta is going to work, especially if there are also figs involved.

    What did you think of the champagne? (Sorry, going all drink-y on a food blog, shame on me).

  2. Jennifer Hess says:

    Alex, the champagne was really nice – light and crisp, and not at all yeasty. Mike made the observation, and I agree, that it would make a great mixer for fizzy cocktails as well as being very drinkable on its own.

  3. OMG
    like umm, will you be my valentine?
    what an unreal dinner

    damn girl

    you think i go on and on like this for everyone… i know you do. but you are wrong. you slay me. what a cook…

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