Here it is – just in the knick of time: A last-minute Valentine’s menu simple enough to whip up tonight – yes, even on a weeknight! – and delicious and elegant enough to be the star of the show for any special occasion.
Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Menu
Rack of Lamb Persillade, below
Reine de Saba Cake, if time allows
I love the idea of serving rack of lamb on a night like tonight, because lamb is something different and will make the lucky person you’re cooking for feel special. (It’s also expensive enough that you won’t want to add it to your weekly rotation.) Rack of lamb in particular feels elegant, and the amount of meat on the chops usually ensures that you’re not going to over-stuff yourself, which is an important rule of the game when it comes to cooking on Valentine’s Day.
The best part of rack of lamb is that it’s virtually foolproof. Seriously. Just follow Ina’s instructions – or those of any other decent recipe – and they will come out perfectly every time.
I’ve made rack of lamb a number of times but this was my first try with the Persillade. Persillade usually involves some combination of garlic, parsley, and oil; here they combine with fresh breadcrumbs to create a hearty crust for the lamb. The food processor is your friend here – no time is wasted chopping herbs and garlic ultra-fine.
Gratin Dauphinois is another classic French dish of thinly sliced potatoes cooked in cream and milk; here is is topped with a thin coating of Gruyère cheese. Traditionally, the dish may also be called potatoes Dauphinoise, getting its name from the scalloped potato dish hailing from the Dauphiné region of France. Usually, there is a light hint of garlic in the dish, and other herbs may be added. Here, a touch of nutmeg is used. This version from Jacques Pépin (an internationally recognized French chef who once co-starred in a show with Julia Child) utilizes the technique of first heating the potatoes in half-and-half on the stovetop before pouring them into the gratin dish and baking in the oven.
The potatoes are the most time-consuming piece of this meal because you have to peel and slice them (make sure to use a mandoline!). Though the French may turn up their noses to any short-cuts or pre-made ingredients, you can opt to buy pre-sliced potatoes at the grocery store to save yourself some time. No one will ever know the difference, and I’m certainly not judging.
A simple green salad rounds out the meal perfectly. I have also served rack of lamb with this salad, adding those small rounds of lightly fried goat cheese – which are incredible with the lamb. If you have a few extra moments, go for it!
Dessert is not optional for Valentine’s Day, of course. Chocolate-covered strawberries are an easy last-minute fix; yes, you can buy them, but it’s just as easy to make them at home. And if you have an extra hour or two, I think the Reine de Saba cake I made last week makes for a perfect Valentine’s dessert.
So break out a bottle of your favorite champagne, and here’s to celebrating a life in love!
Rack of Lamb Persillade
Adapted from Ina Garten
- 2 large racks of lamb, frenched
- Good olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch fresh parsley leaves
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
- Zest from 2 lemons
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the racks in a roasting pan, fat side up. Rub the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast the lamb for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the parsley and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until they’re both finely minced. Add the bread crumbs and lemon zest and process for a second until combined.
Take the lamb out of the oven and quickly press the parsley mixture on top of the meat. Drizzle with the melted butter and return immediately to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.
Take the lamb out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes, cut in double chops, and serve.