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Doesn't It Taste Romantic?

February 08, 1996|JANA LIEBLICH

Valentine's Day is Wednesday, a weeknight, and the last thing we can imagine is putting together a romantic meal for two after eight hours at work.

But the beauty of this menu is that most of the preparation can be done ahead. Make Tuesday a pizza night and do the work of the menu the night before. That way you'll be relaxed on Wednesday and more inclined to be romantic, which is, after all, the point of Valentine's Day.

The salad of baby greens with individual Gruyere cheese souffles is an adaptation of a recipe from "The Best of Food and Wine" edited by Mary Simons (American Express Publishing). The original recipe called for goat's cheese, but I found that Gruyere gives the souffles a warmer, more mellow flavor.

I came up with the idea for a rack of lamb because I wanted to serve something substantial and wintry, yet easy and quick to prepare. The Dijon marinade takes just minutes to prepare and adds a wonderful flavor to the meat. Baby red Bliss potatoes and haricots verts are a nice accompaniment to the lamb and require little preparation.

The cobbler fills the house with the sweet aroma of fresh fruit and cinnamon as it simmers in the oven. The biscuit crust, lightly sweet and crunchy, is a wonderful contrast to the warm fruit bathed in a beautiful purple blueberry syrup. Don't forget the ice cream or fresh whipped cream on top.

If your Valentine hasn't already declared undying love and devotion, he or she is sure to do so after this display of gastronomic genius. Just don't reveal how easy it was.

Menu

Salad of Baby Greens With Individual Cheese Souffles

Rack of Lamb

Baby Potatoes With Butter and Parsley

Haricots Verts With Butter and Shallots

Warm Winter Fruit Cobbler

Wine Suggestion

Champagne, Red Burgundy or Pinot Noir

Staples

Milk

Butter

Flour

Salt

Pepper

Eggs

Olive oil

Vegetable oil

Garlic

Granulated sugar

Light brown sugar

Cornstarch

Cinnamon

Baking powder

Baking soda

Vanilla extract

Shopping List

1 ounce Parmesan cheese

1/4 pound Gruyere cheese

1 bunch thyme

1 bunch parsley

1 bunch chives

1 to 2 shallots

1 (12-ounce) bottle Sherry vinegar

1 (8-ounce) jar Dijon mustard

1/2 pound round red boiling potatoes

1/4 pound French green beans

3 apples (preferably McIntosh, or other tart green cooking apple)

1 lemon

3 pears

1 pint blueberries

1 pint buttermilk

1 pint vanilla ice cream or 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream

GAME PLAN

Evening before or few hours before: Prepare and bake fruit filling for cobbler, cool and then refrigerate. Prepare biscuit dough for cobbler and refrigerate. Prepare souffles and refrigerate. Prepare coating for lamb and refrigerate.

1 hour before: Trim green beans and chop shallots. Chop parsley for potatoes. Prepare greens and dressing for salad. Coat lamb. Remove souffles from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Cut out and arrange biscuit crust for cobbler, cover and set aside.

40 minutes before: Roast lamb.

15 minutes before: Remove lamb from oven and let rest 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to heat souffles. Cook potatoes and green beans.

Just before serving first course: Put cobbler in oven to bake.

After serving salad: Remove cobbler from oven and let cool.

After main course: Make coffee and serve cobbler.

SALAD OF BABY GREENS WITH INDIVIDUAL CHEESE SOUFFLES

I've left the souffle recipe at its original yield of four servings because it's not only a wonderful starter for a romantic dinner for two but also a terrific dinner party dish. It's simple to increase the greens and dressing if you're serving four; if not, save the extra souffles for lunch or supper the next day.

SOUFFLES

Butter

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1/4 pound grated Gruyere or Swiss Emmenthaler cheese

Salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs, such as thyme, parsley and chives

3 large egg whites

Water

Butter 4 (1/2-cup) ramekins and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bring milk to boil in small saucepan. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in separate small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour to butter and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in boiled milk and continue to whisk vigorously until smooth. Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 grated Gruyere, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Let souffle base cool 10 minutes.

Beat egg yolks in medium bowl. Stir in several tablespoons of souffle base until blended, then fold in remaining souffle base. Let mixture cool to room temperature, then stir in herbs.

Beat egg whites with pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Gently stir 1/3 of beaten egg whites into souffle base to lighten it, then gently fold in remaining whites until just until incorporated.

Spoon souffle mixture into ramekins to fill each by 1/3. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top off each ramekin with remaining souffle mixture and place in baking dish at least 1/2 inch apart. Set baking dish in middle of oven. Pour enough boiling water into baking dish to reach 1/2 way up sides of ramekins.

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