September 3rd, Brad and I celebrated our 7th year since our first date. To celebrate at home, since we have a 3 week-old baby, I decided to cook up something nice. I looked through my culinary school recipe book and I searched for something that was both “fancy” and could be scheduled around the feedings of a 3 week-old baby.
Using my culinary school knowledge I picked dishes that could be made in steps and finished quickly to serve – did you know that? Restaurants do a lot of prep work beforehand, even pre-cooking & then stopping the process to finish it later as ordered. Have you ever watched Hell’s Kitchen and thought “how do they make risotto in 10 minutes?” Well the secret is they pre-cook risotto early – stop it midway and then finish it as Chef Ramsey yells impatiently. I hope I didn’t ruin any dreams with restaurant magic or tv magic…
Anyway, knowing I would be interrupted throughout the cooking (feeding on demand is something that can’t be negotiated with a little one) I started promply in the afternoon to eat around 7pm. I started with dessert, yum!
Lemon Meringue Tart:
Look at that picture! Now that I have your attention…
We made this tart in school and I’ve made it several times at home so I knew Brad liked it and I was trying to dote on him a little with a special dessert ❤️.
I started with the lemon curd.
Lemon curd is actually pretty easy to make but super sensitive to temperature. When you cook it over the stove it’s imperative to watch the temperature to prevent the eggs from scrambling. If the heat is too high the eggs will scramble before incorporating with the rest of the ingredients.
With that said, it’s important to bring the mixture up to a boil for a long enough time so that the corn starch can bind the ingredients together (preventing it from running out of the crust).
Once the lemon curd is cooked, it’s important to cool it down over an ice bath and then store it in the refrigerator until it’s set.
Note: Once the tart is made it’s helpful to re-cool the entire thing so that curd can firm back up to prevent it from running all over the serving dish once a slice is cut.
Like I said, lemon curd is easy to make but demands temperature control…consider yourself warned.
To save time – I had the crust dough saved in the freezer so I took that out to defrost, thankfully, I didn’t have to make it because I was out of flour at home so this saved me. Once it was defrosted, I blind baked it and let it cool.
Once both the curd and crust are cool, I poured the lemon curd in the crust and covered it with swiss meringue.
In school, we learned how to make French, Swiss and Italian meringues. Swiss meringue is considered a warm meringue. It’s made by warming up egg whites and sugar over a bain marie and then whipping the whites to a soft peak. It’s sweet but not too sweet, it took a lot of restraint to not “taste” more than I did while I made this dish.
To top the tart off, I used a torch to add color to the meringue and wow – picture perfect! (If you notice the lemon curd is a little runny and it’s because my kitchen was a little warm and I failed to put it back in the refrigerator to firm back up – I know I know I just explained the importance of it above).
The second thing I worked on was the potatoes. I knew that they needed to go in the oven for 45-60 minutes so I wanted to get that started so we could eat somewhat on time.
I got out everything I would need. Potatoes, cheese, cream, seasonings… yum.
As soon as I took this picture, I peeled the potatoes and then the little one started to cry. I had to take a time-out.
Stepping up as my sous-chef was my husband. As I sat on the couch and fed our little girl, I walked him through the steps of how to prepare this dish – we make a great team. He got out the mandoline and sliced the potatoes, then layered them with cream, cheese and seasoning in the casserole dish.
As you can see, our casserole dish is small – enough for two with leftovers.
Now for the star of the show, well they all played important roles to the dinner – but the main course, steak with a wine reduction shallot sauce! Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures I was working quickly to finish and didn’t have enough hands to do it all.
First, I seasoned the steak with salt and then using butter, thyme and garlic I seared a thick brown crust on the steaks, finishing them in the stove.
The sauce is so simple and amazing! I sweated the shallots, added in thyme & garlic. I then added in red wine and reduced. Once the wine was almost reduced I added in demi-glace (not pictured because I almost forgot all about it until I realized that the sauce looked weird..)
Demi-glace is reduced veal stock – it adds flavor and thickens pan sauces. Although it was readily available in school, veal stock is hard to find in the grocery store so you can buy a jar of demi-glace from William Sonoma which I highly recommend.
The meal came together and looked amazing served with a glass of wine.
I’ll admit it even tasted good cold. As soon as it was plated our little one was hungry, it’s like clock work in our house, every time I try to sit down to dinner, leaving me to postpone my dinner but that’s okay she’s totally worth it!