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GOOD COOKING

A Do-Ahead Dinner a Deux

Treat yourself to a relaxing meal for two: veal chops followed by hot bittersweet sundaes.

March 21, 2001|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's been said that the last luxury in the world is privacy. This is a meal for two to enjoy in private: at home. The do-ahead veal chops are seared on top of the stove, then baked in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, the pan juices are made in the searing skillet. This way, last-minute cooking is minimal.

Roast the fingerling potatoes and mushrooms with a final dash of pesto. It's easy to do and appealing. If you want more vegetables and color on the plate, serve tender haricots verts tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. And pour the best Pinot Noir you can find.

For dessert, coffee gelato is sauced with thick homemade bittersweet fudge sauce and sprinkled with chopped white chocolate and toasted walnuts.

Veal Chops With Marsala Pan Juices

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Once the veal chops are seared, they can rest at room temperature for about two hours before finishing them in the oven.

2 (1-inch thick) trimmed veal chops, rinsed, blotted dry

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots

1/4 cup Marsala wine

1/4 cup veal or beef stock

Put the rack in the lower area of the oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees. Set aside an 8-inch square baking pan.

Season both sides of the veal with salt and pepper, patting it into the surface.

Heat the oil and 1 teaspoon of butter in an 8-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it's very hot, sear the chops on both sides, about 6 minutes total. Set them aside in the reserved pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and, in the same skillet, cook the shallots, stirring often, until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and stock. Stir to release any bits sticking to pan. Bring to a boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. (Can be done 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.)

To serve, bake the chops, uncovered, until cooked as desired, about 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare. Place them on warm dinner plates. Add any accumulated meat juices from the pan to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter until melted. Taste; adjust seasoning. Spoon the sauce over the chops, dividing evenly. Serve hot.

2 servings. Each serving: 342 calories; 796 mg sodium; 132 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 29 grams protein; 0.04 gram fiber.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Mushrooms With Pesto

Active Work Time: 5 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 40 minutes

10 fingerling or other small boiling potatoes, peeled

1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

8 white or crimini mushrooms, stems trimmed

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon prepared pesto, divided

Place a rack in the lower area of the oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the potatoes in an 8-inch square baking pan and toss them with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake the potatoes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes to turn them, until they're just tender, about 30 minutes depending on their size. Check tenderness with the point of a paring knife. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the potatoes and mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of pesto.

Bake until the mushrooms are hot but still firm, shaking the pan once to mix the ingredients, about 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven and toss the potatoes and mushrooms with the remaining pesto. Season to taste. Serve hot, attractively arranged on plates with the chops.

2 servings. Each serving: 375 calories; 189 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 5.01 grams fiber.

Hot Bittersweet Sundaes With Coffee Gelato

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

1/4 cup walnut pieces

2 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 scoops coffee gelato (about 1/2 cup per serving)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast them until fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Do not let them brown. Cool. (Can be done ahead and frozen. Return to room temperature before using.)

Place the chocolate, butter, sugar and milk in a microwave-safe dish that holds 3 cups. Cook on 10% power for 1 minute stirring once after 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Stir in the baking powder and vanilla. (This can be made a week ahead and refrigerated or frozen up to 1 month. Let it come to room temperature before reheating.)

Place 2 scoops of gelato into each of 2 shallow dessert plates. Spoon the hot sauce over, dividing evenly. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons each of white chocolate and walnuts over both sundaes. Serve immediately.

2 servings. Each serving: 766 calories; 176 mg sodium; 79 mg cholesterol; 51 grams fat; 26 grams saturated fat; 78 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 5.50 grams fiber.

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