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.
1. ENDIVE SPEARS WITH LOBSTER, AVOCADO, AND GRAPEFRUIT
VIDALIA ONION PANZANELLA
PAN SEARED RIB EYE
2. SPRING PEA SALAD
IN LETTUCE CUPS
3. Asparagus Gruyere Tart
Italian Green Beans and Carrots
Citrus Grilled chicken under a brick
4. Herbed Lentils with Figs and Sausage
Green Beans with Toasted Hazelnuts and Brown Butter
If he really enjoys red meat then a standing rib roast is special and needn't be terribly time consuming. Yorkshire pudding alongside to seal the deal. Someone else mentioned rack of lamb--if you can get good quality, this is a special cut. Serve a vegetable you've both been wanting to try or a new way to make one you both like (an example would be--you normally steam broccoli so try it oven-roasted instead). Lobster tails, drawn butter, sparkling wine. Seems romantic to me and also not required to slave over the stove. Start with a Caesar salad. Maybe even have this for lunch one day and nibble on snacks, bread/olive oil/vinegar, cheeses, etc. at night in front of the fire. For vegetables you can blanch them ahead of time, wrap in kitchen towel and keep them refrigerated for a couple of days. Salad--dressing can be made ahead along with cleaning the lettuce and prepping any add-ins. For lunch there is a style of sandwich, the name of which escapes me, but it involves layering ingredients in good french baguette or similar and wrapping tightly/weighting down. They benefit from a waiting period in the tightly wrapped state. Was it an Alton Brown episode that I'm thinking of?????
Have a wonderful time!
If I were going to a log cabin I would not want to eat the super-fancy, frou-frou things that have been suggested by many posters thus far. Really, I think you are at the risk of going way overboard, particularly as you will be cooking in a rental unit kitchen, with (as Terrie H. noted) crappy equipment, and more likely than not an electric stove.
Plus, you're on vacation. You're going to stay in and cook for three meals a day, every day? Isn't part of going on vacation about going out to eat? Not to mention actually having fun doing things, rather than slaving in the kitchen?
If I were the boyfriend, I'd be pretty thrilled with some nice breakfast food (pancakes, eggs), sandwiches on the trail for lunch, and going out to the local roadhouse for dinner. Remember: he rented a LOG CABIN. I don't think he's expecting lobster tails and endive.
One of the best gifts I ever recieved about 10 years ago is an insulated day pack with an outer pocket that zips down to reveal 2 sets of silverware, 2 small plastic wine glasses, napkins, corkscrew, and I have added a small knife. On the side is an insulated bottle holder.
I take this every time we go camping, to a cabin, or even to an inn, so I can pack nice snacks like pate, cheeses, crackers, baguette, wine, etc. and we can take this with us on a hike or to a beach for an al fresco lunch. One of our favorite memories from many places we have gone for weekends, etc. I bet you could find one on line to take so your fun foods could take you beyond the cabin (you will want SOME fresh air, I am sure:).
Agree also with posters that suggest planning in your cooler for some basics like olive oil, butter, pepper grinder, garlic, etc. AND A GOOD KNIFE. We always take a good saute pan, which can go oven to table and work for both veggies, a pasta sauce or in a pinch for a small roast or steaks finished in the oven.
Love the ideas of packing a nice pre-made breakfast bread, making a stew or casserole of coq a vin ahead so you have minimal to do on at least one night.
Either shrimp and pasta or the steaks for first night are also great ideas. A beef man will always be ready for a great steak and potatoes with a roaring fire - you, and some good red wine.
Do make cookies too. Don't forget eggs and pick up at least one good baguette ahead (you never know the state of bread where you are going. Wrap it well, freeze, and you can refresh it in the oven. Good on the side with meals, or for cheeses, pate, etc.
Please skip 'finger sandwiches'. If your going to do a sandwich, I would go for the pan bagnat or muffaletta suggested here instead. Hearty yet very fine quality.
Take more wine than you think. when you are staying in at a cabin... you don't want to have to run to the store when it's dark out and infamiliar territory - you want to relax with each other in front of the fire:)
EXACTLY. This is what I would suggest, too, lots and lots of picnic type stuff, crackers/bread/pastries, cheeses, fruit/veggie (prepped and ready to eat with fingers, if needed), etc.
I also have a backpack, dinner for 2 set up. It really makes a great dining experience.
Then, depending on the facilities.... a simple something, depending on what you see when you get there. They might have decent stuff in a grocery store, and then again, you might see there is an interesting restaurant next door. Or you might be in the big time boonies, and pick up a roast chicken in the deli section of the gas station restaurant. If you've packed a decent picnic with meat, cheese, wine, bread, olives, chocolate, fruit/veggie, yogurt, honey.... you could have a fine time of it. And not spend all your time cooking if you are enjoying cabin life....
Wyogal, don't you just love that handy backpack? I of course have a cooler to take too (well, not if going to an inn, but for camping or a cabin or a boat), but the backpack really puts the civility into our picnics:)
Good call on mentioning Chocolate. Dark Choclate needs to be on board. Oh, and I also travel with a tube of pesto, a small container of my tapenade with orange peel and rosemary, and dijjon mustard. Usually fig spread too, to go with cheeses. The chicken liver mousse almost always makes an apearance at times away, unless it is too hot out.
On the vacations where it is a regular hotel, and lots of eating out, the picnic meal is especially dear to my heart:)
We do lots of camping, and day trips out to the lake. So that goes into the sailboat (daysailer), along with 2 medium coolers with lots of drinks and maybe a bag of do-nettes. yep.
But, the backpack is also good for car trips. We stopped at a WF in Colorado before heading back from a weekend, picked ups some cheese, crackers, Italian meat of some kind. We stopped at our favorite park in Laramie on our way back. It was a beautiful fall day, and had everything we needed.... cutting board, plates, napkins, etc... nice. Then just packed it back up, had extra plastic bags for dirty dishes.
We'll do the same with the boat, go across a big lake, beach, and have a romantic lunch, even if it's cotto salami sandwiches and peanut butter cookies. The coffee thermos fits perfectly in the side wine holder. Which makes it perfect for driving/boating trips.
Although I do not think elegant dining when I am in the woods, one suggestion I have to stay within your parameters is a nice cheese, meat, and olive tray [with good breads, EVOO, etc.] with a few bottles of wine or whatever you like to drink. You can really get exotic and a tad more elegant with spices/ingredients/proteins with a stew or a roast (and still fit into the log cabin theme). Most of all enjoy the beauty of your surroundings and being away from it all!!
Since you're in the great outdoors, how bout a cedar planked salmon. Light and tasty.
Marinades could be something like teriyaki and mayo or something that includes maple syrup. There are ton of different recipes for cedar planking.
Or if you like seafood, how about a clambake. Google Americas Test Kitchen Clambake on youtube. You can do this outdoors I suppose near the fire pit.
just my ten cents...
one night i'd probably do brunch for dinner -- maybe croque madames, some elegant hash and some roasted veggies; or omelettes, meat, hash, pancakes...
one night probably homemade enchiladas - i'd pre-make sauce, pre-roast chicken, then just saute that with onions and chiles, soak and fill the tortillas, coat with more sauce, bake.
one more night maybe indian - tikka masala or butter chicken, palak saag or saag paneer, or saag aloo, naan, etc
lunches - i'd make some nice chicken salad, and/or egg salad to have; maybe some hummus/pita/baba ghanoush; some roasted potatoes or veggies; fruit salad, endive leaves stuffed with goat cheese, herbs, lemon, etc.
have fun... i'll be hitting the Grand Canyon whilst you're in your log cabin... can't wait to get away from it all!
You've gotten some really good suggestions here, but I'd try to eliminate some of the guesswork
by trying to find out more about the property. Did he rent it through a company? Someplace online? There's usually a list of kitchen items. And you can probably find out about stores in the area...what's available. There may be a local farmers market that could be a fun outing. You're certainly going to want to take some grocery items and pre-made things as well. But it might be fun to explore the area.
You received lots of very useful advice already, but I can tell you that sometimes easy does it. What we really like to do for "special meals away from home" is a piccadita (he's Argentine, and that's his way of calling it). Basically, a "snacks table". We were at the hotel over the weekend and had this: prosciutto, pretzels, crackers, baguette, brie, smoked oysters, cantaloupe, mixed berries, a spinach salad with strawberries, and a truffle chocolate cake. We bought everything at the local supermarket (which was not very fancy but had all the basics), didn't have plates or ustensils (other than the plastic ones provided by the supermarket), but we did eat very well (and drank too much!)...
Here's a picture of another one of our piccaditas: http://patechinoisetcie.blogspot.com/...
Bottom line is, like the others have said: have fun and try not to slave over in the kitchen! :)