Help creating a weekend menu !
In desperate need of some help ! My boyfriend has rented a log cabin for us for three nights, two weeks from now . We have been dating since summer. I love to cook, and am pretty decent. I have never flambe'd anything before, but have cooked for him made times in the past . I have made him chicken and turkey pot pies from scratch, awesome chicken dishes, etc. I usually do a meat, with veggies and a starch. However, I feel like I have made one of everything from him . While everything I've done has been great, I really want this to be special. I also don't want to have to slave in kitchen for hours, so I want recipes that most of prepping can be done ahead of time. Lunch, I almost want to do just an array of appetizers, with finger sandwiches, etc . Something healthy and light. Dinners I would want something elegant. Does anyone have ANY ideas at all? They need to be easy, but delicious. I really do want this to be special, and will do whatever it takes!
will you have full kitchen facilities? will you be bringing food from home or shopping nearby? what does HE like? his idea of elegant may be different than yours. if you want to treat him, cook his favorites, or riffs on them. what has he really liked that you've made before?
my guy would need about 10 finger sandwiches for lunch, btw. ;)
if you've been dating 6 months, i don't think you've cooked "everything", lol.
I will have full kitchen facilities. And I will be bring food from home, as well as stopping at a nearby grocery store. He refuses to tell me where we are going but assures me there will be someplace we can stop... And when I tell you he doesn't have any preferences, I really mean it. He is one of those love all , eat anything kind of guys. Believe me, I have tried that before , making his favorite food. It's impossible .I can never get it out of him. Instead, I opt for noticing what he orders a lot when we are out. Which is red meat, of any kind. And when I mean elegant, I really just meant something not in your ordinary circumstances. I want to cook something unusual, that maybe he has never had before. He is open to anything, and is not a picky eater, and would appreciate finding something new that he really likes.
I have two different kinds of finger sandwiches, along with some easy shrimp recipes. I also just found a delicious goat cheese , with caramelized onion, and roasted fig flat bread. I thought a picnic style lunch by the fire would be fun. I also thought having different appetizers or snacks already made woudl be good , so he will always have something to eat is he gets hungry, and will have choices, instead of having to eat the same thing over again.
And I didn't say I've cooked everything, but insinuated one of everything, in terms of an herbed chicken, grilled chicken, beer can chicken... in a sense a style I meant, although I realize that was poorly worded. While we have been dating six months, we spent two of those months together up north , so cooking dinner together was part of a regular routine. And we've really gotten into it, so I guess I'm just feeling a pressure to try to top that . We've had some really great meals together already. During the day, we tend to eat to light and healthy for the most part, and then we will indulge on anything that suits us for dinner. I think I have said this previously, but I am just struggling to come up with three days worth of meals.
Not very specific but I like thinking of menu ideas so here are a few possibilities. When I've done a weekend in the woods I like roasting a chicken the first night for easy sandwiches the next day.
Dates stuffed w/bleu cheese; wrapped in bacon & broiled
Runny cheeses with baguette toasts
Chicken liver pate on toast points topped with jam
Spinach salad w/warm bacon vinaigrette
Rack of lamb
Herb roasted chicken
Asparagus with lemon butter
Twiced baked potatoes w/cheeses eg, fontina, asiago...
Mashed red bliss
Farro with feta, currants, almonds; sherry vinaigrette
I would make steaks and a baked potato or maybe a twice baked potato. I would make it the first night because it is quick and easy. If he is a red meat eater, there is nothing more special than a good steak. Watch for ribeyes, T-bones or porterhouses to be on sale in the next 2 weeks.
For the second night, I would make a braise like stew, chili, Swiss steak, short ribs or, if you want to get extravagant, osso bucco. Make it a few days in advance and transport it up there in plastic containers.
The third night, I would have a pasta dish. Make the ragu in advance. There are several recipes for sunday gravy that would be special.
These are all pretty special dishes and they won't require a lot of time in the kitchen, especially at the cabin.
Take a few bottles of wine and sparkling wine so you can sit on the porch or around the cabin and enjoy each others company. One of my most cherished memories is sitting on the veranda of an historic bed and breakfast drinking some champagne and watching the sunset.
I have learned in many years of cooking in rental houses that, even though they advertise a fully stocked kitchen, it is more often than not a haphazard collection of relatively inferior cookwear, and rarely heavy-bottomed and sizes that are good for some of the techniques and types of dishes you may want to use. Definitely take a good knife.
I suggest making a good braised beef dish like short ribs or beef bourguignon completely before you go, either a night or two ahead, or even the weekend ahead (and freeze - it will thaw slowly in the cooler and fridge). If he likes lamb, a Guinness lamb stew would be another of this type of idea. These types of dishes are better a day or two anyway. Then, all you'll have to do cook the sides the night you eat. Take some potatoes, polenta or grits and a salad or green veg and you have an easy but nice meal without a lot of bother.
Choose another protein and cooking style for your other main meal, like chicken breast paillards that you can pound and wrap the night before you leave, turkey breast roullade that you stuff, roll and tie the night before you leave and cook the night you eat it, or even duck breasts that you start on the stovetop and finish in the oven, served with a sauce or glaze. A roasted pork tenderloin or pork loin wrapped in pancetta is another idea -- also assembled the night before you leave.
Assuming the day you are driving will put arrival at dinnertime, you could get one of those frozen bags of deveined and peeled shrimp. Assuming your drive isn't more than a couple of hours and your cooler is cold, they will be partially thawed when you arrive (run them under water to finish thawing) and make a pasta dish with the shrimp. That will be quick but still special because of the shrimp.
I agree that having a few appetizers on hand for snacks or lunches. Items like cold cuts, cheeses, roasted peppers, olives (from the deli and olive bar) with some great bread make easy, leisurely lunches. A premade minestrone added to the antipasti plate would be nice and the soup can be made the weekend ahead and frozen.
I find on lazy weekends that just a nice brunch and dinner suffice, but if you are early birds, take the breakfast foods you like, make a quickbread to take with you (make this weekend and freeze), some fruit (either to eat out of hand, slice and serve for breakfast, or add to a green salad with dinner).
Make some brownies or cookies to have for desserts or snacks. Make sure you take a stick of butter, a jar of olive oil, garlic, a bunch of parsley, your pepper grinder and kosher/sea salt, and other items you take for granted having on hand.
Hope this rambling gave you some ideas. Have a wonderful time.
re: Terrie H.
A few things I wanted to add, but they aren't neccesarily food related: even though you will have a shopping source close by, a little box of things from home will make the weekend easier and less expensive. It really sucks to me to have to buy things when I am there when I can pack well. The problem is that you don't know what you will find when you get there.
A new scotch brite sponge
A roll of paper towels
A small squirt bottle of dish washing liquid (I got a small size years ago when I arrived at a rental property and realized I had a problem, and have kept it for years, refilling it as I go)
A roll of TP (believe me, when you have had a drive and you arrive at your place and the place has been cleaned and devoid of paper products, you will be happy to have that one roll when you arrive).
If you have one of those thin, flexible cutting mats, it will be easy to pack and you might not find any type of cutting board in a rental kitchen.