Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rigatoni with Sausage and Wine-Truffle Sauce

Jim is still away, so I've been struggling to make Romantic Dinners for Me. This is a great dish, and you can really make it to order.

I don't have a quirky story for this one. It's a go-to recipe. My mom made a variation of it all the time at home, and I basically ran with it. It's easy to make, tastes fabulous, and people usually love it. It's wonderful fresh, and just as good left-over. There is a lot of depth of flavor, and you can play around with what you put into it. GO!

Rigatoni with Fennel Sausage and Wine-Truffle Sauce
1 package of Sweet Sausage (with Fennel Seeds)
1 bunch Fresh Asparagus
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
1 tblsp Butter
1 Clove Garlic, chopped
1 medium Shallot, sliced thin -- against the grain
1 cup White Wine
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp Truffle Oil

1 lb Rigatoni, cooked al dente -- save 1/2 cup pasta water before draining

Preheat oven to 350*F

1) Cook sausage on a sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes. You don't want to cook them all the way through, you just want them to firm up. It's okay if they're a little pink on the inside. This makes it easier to cut them.

2) Remove sausage, place asparagus on the same pan (whatever grease came from the sausage will cook the asparagus). Cook for 10 minutes -- they should be slightly softened, but still firm, and bright green.

3) Cut the sausage in to 1/2-inch pieces. Quarter the asparagus, disposing of the last quarter (the thick stem).

4) In a saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots, cook until they are soft and begin to caramelize.

5) Add the sausage in one layer, brown each side.

6) De-glaze the pan with white wine. Add pasta water, chicken stock, and truffle oil. The starch in the pasta water will help the sauce thicken. Let this cook down for 5 minutes or so until it begins to thicken.

7) Add the whole cherry tomatoes and pasta to the pot, cover and cook until the tomatoes burst. Stir occasionally to make sure that the pasta is coated and cooking... about 5-7 more minutes.

* If your sauce seems to be cooking down too fast, you can alternate adding more liquid to it. The chicken stock will add some body to the sauce, the wine will thin it if it gets too thick.

8) Once the tomatoes burst, gently squish them down so that they break a little bit. Add the asparagus, stir, and let all of the flavors settle for a minute.

9) Serve it up in a big pasta bowl! Have some freshly grated parmesan cheese to top it off.

This dish is such a home run. It's great because it's easy to adjust the quantity, so you can make it for two, or twenty! You could even go nuts and serve it with the Roasted Garlic Bruschetta. Try it my way, and play around and see how YOU like it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Here we go!

So, there are some good things in the works!

1) You might notice that up in your little address bar that the domain has changed! I finally took the plunge! We are now located at Don't worry, good ol' blogspot will still get you there.

2) Romantic Dinner for Three now has a Facebook Page! I thought this would be a great way to make Romantic Dinner more interactive. Post questions, see what's cooking, make requests, leave some love, and show me your romantic dinners!

3) Hopefully some new web development will be in the works soon! I want you to be able to search recipes through some nicely organized archives, and make the site more professional and appealing.

4) Don't forget to add Romantic Dinner if you are on Twitter!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sunday Roast (Photo)

Hi, all! I don't usually mix business with pleasure... or pleasure with pleasure? Anyway, the photograph below has been submitted to the Gender Roles category at JPG Magazine. It is a tongue-in-cheek commentary about stereotypical expectations of the female gender. I have so enjoyed seeing what messages people are taking from it. A picture really is worth 1,000 words!

If enough people vote for it, it will be printed in the next issue of the magazine. It has already had a great response. I think has a shot!

Summer Pot Roast

While perusing the grocery store for meal ideas the other day, I happened to notice that top-round roasts were on sale. "Too bad it isn't the middle of winter," I thought. Truly, there is nothing better than a soupy, chock-full-of spuds, pot roast on a cold, dreary day. But... pot roast in the summer?

Well, despite being June, these days have certainly been dreary. With a Betty Crocker/Stepford Wives image in my head for an upcoming photo competition in Gender Roles, I thought I'd indulge my crummy weather instincts and go full steam ahead with the roast. My excuse? It's a prop!

After seeing some fresh herbs and great looking carrots, I had a great idea for a prettier, more warm-weather version of my favorite pot roast. Good for the picture, better for my belly.

Summer (Pot) Roast
1 Beef Roast
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Burgandy (or other heavy red wine)
Remember: Quality ingredients go a long way!
5 Medium Carrots, cut diagonally in half
5 Red Potatoes, diced in to 1.5" pieces
2 Medium Red Onions, Quartered
5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
3 tblsp Salt
2 tblsp Black Pepper
1 tblsp Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 275*f

1) In a dutch oven, heat olive oil and minced garlic over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle.

2) Generously season the beef with salt and pepper, add to the dutch oven and sear on all sides to seal in the juices and crisp the outside (if there is a side that has more fat on it, let it cook a little longer).

3) After all sides of the beef are browned, deglaze the pot with Burgandy. The wine will bubble up and then begin to reduce rather quickly. Add the thyme sprigs and let the wine cook down for a minute or two.

You can add the thyme sprigs whole because all of the leaves will fall off the stems as it cooks.

4) Make sure that the beef is not stuck to the pan, scrape up any bits with a wooden spoon. Add potatoes, carrots, and onion to the pot (in that order). Cover with lid and put the whole pot in to the oven. You want to add the potatoes first because they'll soak up some of those good juices as they cook.

5) Cook in the oven for 1 to 2 hours until roast is cooked to taste. This timing all depends on the cut of meat you are using. You can use a meat thermometer. I set my timer for 30 minute intervals. As soon as it is tender I take it out to prevent over-cooking and drying it out.

The great thing about this roast is that the juice from the meat, the wine, and any liquid that came out of the veggies is all contained in the dutch oven. The meat stays nicely seasoned on the outside, and is tender and moist. The vegetables are so flavorful, and the thyme is fresh tasting but warms you from the inside out. It's great for this "between-the-seasons" weather we've been having.

Regardless of the season, it's easy on the eyes and tastes even better!