The last time Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday was in 2004. I had been dating Eric for a couple months at that point and I would say that by then we were pretty serious. We were seniors in college so when Eric said he wanted to take me out for dinner for Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We hit the swankiest place we could afford…the Red Lobster in Champaign, IL. Yeah!!!
We got there early…about quarter after 5. The line was out the door already! Everyone in the tri-county area decided Red Lobster was the perfect place to take their sweetie for a special night out. We sat at the bar for nearly two hours while we waited for a table, sucking down draft beers and shooting the breeze with the old, chain-smoking couple sitting next to us. I confiscated a couple of those red mardi gras bead things with the lobsters on them they’ve got there and wore them out to the campus bars later that night when we finally got back to campus. An appearance at the annual Bitterness Bash was still a given…who cares if we weren’t technically single. It was actually a really great night….for a couple of college kids. Now….um….fighting the crowds at Red Lobster and bar hopping has completely and totally lost it’s charm. Gee, I wonder why?? LOL.
We’ve had a number of great Valentine’s Day since then…not that we need an excuse to show each other how much we love each other, we do that everyday. But it is fun to have a little holiday to celebrate in the middle of the winter when it’s cold outside and there’s nothing to do. I laughed when Eric suggested we should stay in for Valentine’s Day. I think the conversation went something like this:
Him: “We should just stay home for Valentine’s Day”
Me: “That’d be fine”
Him: “You can cook for us.”
Me: “Oh really, can I? Wow, thanks!” ::insert sarcastic eye roll here::
LOL. I’m just kidding, of course! Staying in and cooking for Valentine’s Day sounded like a great idea to me! See, here in Waterloo, IA, our restaurant choices are pretty limited anyway and on a day like Valentine’s Day, unless you’ve made arrangements three months ago, forget about getting a table at one of the five (that’s right…five…that’s it) nice places. Can’t be done.
When I was deciding what to make, I wanted it to be something special that I probably wouldn’t make on a regular day, and I wanted it to be something we’d both enjoy. Eric is a red meat fan, so beef was a given. I am a sucker to anything pasta, so I knew I wanted to combine those two. I had been eying this Short Ribs with Tagliatelle recipe from Giada for quite sometime, but never got around to making it due to it’s long cook time – about 3 hours total. Since I was going for out of the ordinary for this special occasion, I decided to go for it.
I made a couple of changes to the recipe – I had to sub in fettuccine for the the tagliatelle, I can’t find specialty shapes like that in any of the stores around here. Worked out fine. And I subbed thick cut bacon for the pancetta. Again, it’s just not available. I’ve looked and looked. It’s a good thing bacon is a great sub! I had never bought or made short ribs before, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. They scared me a little bit when I picked them up at the store…as they are kinda weird looking but I pressed on.
The end result, after a long slow afternoon on the stove top, was really very good. The meat got tender and pulled apart very easy and the flavor was very deep and rich. It’s extremely filling. I just served it up with a Ceasar salad and crusty bread. However, I feel I must point out, so it doesn’t surprise you if you try to make this, that an insane amount of grease and fat separates from the sauce and floats to the top of the liquid while it’s cooking. I guess that’s not a huge surprise, as it’s meat on the bone and marbled with fat. No need to worry though, skim it off and discard and your finished product will not be greasy at all. We popped a bottle of Gnarly Head Zin (one of our faves) and lingered over dinner and dessert in our pj’s. It was a great night! One of the more memorable Valentine’s Days we have had. Cheers to many more!
SHORT RIBS WITH TAGLIATELLE (Recipe Source: Giada de Laurentiis – foodnetwork.com)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 ounces chopped pancetta (about 1/2 cup) (I subbed thick cut bacon)
- 2 1/2 pounds short ribs (I used slightly less than 2 1/4 pounds and it was plenty)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes (whole or diced)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 1/2 cups beef broth
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle (I subbed fettuccini)
- 4 to 6 teaspoons shaved bittersweet chocolate (I omitted. Would have been a nice touch for Valentine’s Day but I didn’t have bittersweet on hand. I sprinkled with parm cheese and parsley instead)
- Place the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook the pancetta (bacon) until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta (bacon) from the pan and set aside. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total.
- Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and pulse.
- Once the short ribs are browned, carefully add the mixture from the food processor to the pot. Return the pancetta (bacon) to the pot and stir. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, beef broth, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta and 2 to 3 minutes for fresh. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid 1/4 cup at a time, if needed, to moisten the pasta. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.