To dine out or to dine in? This is the dilemma I am faced with every year for Valentine’s day.
The case for Dining Out is simple: Going out to eat for Valentine’s Day means I get to eat a fancy, exquisite, delicious meal that is prepared for me. Read: I don’t have to do any work. There is a certain romance and ambiance that comes with eating out. There are new places to try (and cross of our list!). There are no dishes to wash at the end of the evening.
On the other hand, however, the Dining In option also presents a worthy argument: Dining at home is quiet, romantic, and intimate. It is much cheaper than going out. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of reservations or crowds. There isn’t a crappy pre fixe Valentine’s menu. You are in control of your destiny! A night in can be as simple or fancy as you want it to be, in the comfort of your own home.
All that to say: I’m conflicted! Last year, Nich and I stayed at the Ace Hotel downtown and had dinner at Clyde Common. It was fabulous! We got all dressed up and had a night on the town and it was all so magical. This year, however, we are scaling it back a bit. Nich just started a new job and doesn’t have any vacation time yet, so we can’t get away for the evening. We’ve been debating about whether or not we are going to make reservations anywhere for dinner, but truth be told: I just don’t feel like it. I think I’d rather stay in.
The only issue I’m having with staying in for V-day this year is that Nich and I already had the perfect “date night in”. It was last Friday and we didn’t have any plans for the evening and Nich had a grand idea. Fresh Oregon Black Truffles were on sale at Pastaworks, and he (wisely) suggested we needed to take advantage of these beauties while they lasted. We picked up one sizeable truffle and at $160.00/lb it only came out to $6.50 (That is a steal for black truffles!). Since the truffle was surprisingly affordable, we decide to splurge and get some local chanterelle mushrooms as well. Inspired by CM’s truffled risotto (and squash blossoms!), I knew exactly what we were going to do with our beautiful truffle and chanterelles. We were going to make risotto!
A couple of hours later, and Nich and I were in culinary heaven. We feasted on Black Truffle and Chanterelle Risotto, Blood Orange and Hazelnut Salad, and paired it with a bottle of 2007 Erath Estate Pinot Noir. It was utter decadence (and it was all local!). I think we really, truly outdid ourselves this time. Which, then, leaves me to wonder: What the heck am I going to do for Valentine’s Day? How can we top this? But, maybe – just maybe – that is precisely the point. Maybe we can’t top that meal, and maybe we don’t need to. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m of the opinion that romance doesn’t need to be confined to one particular Hallmark holiday. Sometimes, the best dates just happen on a random weeknight. Its not that I have anything against Valentine’s Day – I want an excuse to drink champagne and eat chocolates as much as the next – but I’m a firm believer that Valentines should be one date night among many.
That being said, I really have no idea what we’re doing for Valentine’s day this year. All I know is that we are staying in! I can figure out the menu later, right? As for you, dear reader, you’re set. I just figured out your Valentines plans for you: Make this risotto, open a bottle of wine, and spend the evening with the one(s) you love. Or don’t make it on Valentine’s day (to heck with romance!)! Just promise me you’ll make it at some point. This is simply too delicious, you must try it for yourself sometime.
P.S. If fresh truffles aren’t available in your neck of the woods, don’t sweat it. You can subsitute with a couple dashes of truffle oil (which is available in most specialty markets, Whole Foods, New Seasons, etc). Or you can skip the truffle altogether and just use chanterelles or other mushrooms!
3/4 cup arborio rice
6 cups (or so) of Organic chicken, vegetable, or mushroom stock (We used chicken)
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup (or more) of chanterelle mushrooms, washed and cut into quarters
1/2 black truffle, minced
1 large shallot (or 2 small shallots), minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp fresh sage, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1. Heat stock in a small pan, preferably next to the burner you’ll be cooking your risotto on. Keep stock heated over low heat while you make the risotto.
2. Heat butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add in the minced shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes. Next, add in the chanterelle mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes. Once the mushrooms just barely begin to brown, add in the arborio rice. Stir well, to ensure that the rice is evenly coated in butter (add more butter if need be.) Add in a dash of the minced truffle, and stir to coat. After the rice is coated and sizzling (about 5 minutes), deglaze the pan with white wine (i.e. pour in the wine!).
3. Stir the rice constantly, and allow the wine to absorb. Once the wine has absorbed, start adding the stock in 1/2 cup at a time. With each 1/2 cup of stock, keep stirring and allow the stock to absorb completely before adding the next half cup of stock.
4. After about 30-40 minutes, the risotto should be thick and creamy. Test the rice, and when it is just barely al dente (tender with a tiny bit of crunch) stir in the parmesan, sage, salt, pepper, and the rest of the minced black truffle. Allow to cook for just a minute or two more, then remove from heat.
5. Garnish with fresh shaved parmesan, sage leaves, and shaved black truffle. Serve immediately! (Note: if using truffle oil instead of fresh truffles, stir in the oil with the parmesan and sage).