I like Valentine's Day. I know it's popular to snark on February 14th. I know it's a holiday manufactured by Big Chocolate and Hallmark with the express purpose of making us spend money, but all the flowers and hearts and lace make me happy in spite of myself. Sometimes I even get sappy and make a playlist. Dweeb.
The weird thing is if I think about it rationally it all falls apart. I don't even like pink that much. I don't like hearts or heart-shaped things. I don't know why I like this stupid holiday so much, but I do. It probably has something to do with my love of themed food.
Part of this writing gig is that people sometimes send me things. Sometimes it's food. Sometimes it's recipes. Chef Roger Waysok of the Chicago-based South Water Kitchen sent me a recipe for his red velvet Twinkies, which will be featured on his V-day prix fix menu. But while red velvet Twinkies are delicious, they aren't enough for a whole post, so I decided to also give you a drink and dessert to make for your Valentine's or Galentine's Day festivities.
Drinks, desserts, and appetizers are usually the best part of the meal anyway.
Drink: French Harlot
I have recently been pretty into a drink known as the French 75. I like gin. I like lemon. I like champagne. The French Harlot is my faintly pink take on the French 75.
You will need:
- 1 oz. Gin (I always use Hendrick's, but I love the cucumber flavor with citrus. A lot of people have a problem with that. If you are one of those people, use a dry gin.)
- 0.5 oz. Fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz. Raspberry lemonade or some other pink lemonade. I like the Simply Lemonade variety.
- Champagne (or sparkling wine, I won't tell) to top
Combine gin, lemon juice, and lemonade in an ice-filled shaker and shake it up. Strain into a champagne glass. Top with champagne.
Float a heart-shaped strawberry in there if you're feeling particularly thematic.
Appetizer: Fromage Fort
Fromage fort is one of those things that I should have been doing my whole life. Not only is it delicious, but it lets you take any random pieces of mostly-eaten cheese you have and turn it into a meal, or at least a very hearty snack. There are recipes out there that call for a pound of leftover cheese, but that seems like an absurd amount of cheese to have "leftover." The whole point is to use up whatever you have lying around. I've never weighed or measured anything while making this and it always turns out perfectly.
You will need:
- Any and all of your left over cheese (I had Dubliner, Aged Gouda, Mississippi State Edam, Parmesan, and Labneh.)
- Some white wine
- Garlic (I had some roasted cloves leftover from a trip to the antipasto bar.)
- A food processor or really good blender.
Shred your hard cheeses. If your food processor has a shredding attachment, use that. Add the rest of your cheeses to the bowl of your processor or blender and pulse until you have a spread. Add a splash of wine. Pulse. Test some with a cracker to see if you like the flavor and consistency. If you want if more spreadable, add more wine. If you don't, drink the remaining wine. Add in your garlic. (I used four cloves, but I have a tolerance built up.) Pulse. Salt and pepper to taste.
You can enjoy your fromage fort as is, spread on crackers or as a dip for crudites, or you can take it to the next level by spreading it on slices of baguette and broiling to 2-6 minutes (KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON IT) until it is golden and bubbly.
Dessert: Red Velvet "Twinkies"
- 6 large eggs at room temperature, whites separated from yolks
- 1.25 cup sugar
- 1 T cocoa powder
- 1 T red food coloring (I'm told the chef normally uses beets but this is an easier version for the at-home chef)
- 0.5 t baking powder
- 0.25 t salt
- 0.5 T vanilla extract
- 1.5 cup cake flour
Cream Cheese Filling:
- 5oz cream cheese
- 1.5 cups confectioners sugar
- 0.5 t vanilla extract
Beat egg yolks then add the sugar, food coloring, and vanilla. In separate bowl combine cocoa powder, flour, salt and baking powder. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix with a fork until just combined. It will clump together and resemble cookie dough. Eat some. It is delicious.
In separate bowl whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. In batches, combine whites with cake mixture. Fold them in gently, trying the best you can to preserve the egg white fluffiness. It will seem like there is no way this will become a pourable batter, but it will. The egg whites will soften the dough eventually, but I recommend working in small batches until this is achieved, so as not to sacrifice too many of your fluffy egg whites.
Put batter into desired pans sprayed with nonstick baking spray. Bake at 350 degrees until cake is fluffy and set. It took 22 minutes in my mini loaf pans, but I think they were slightly overdone. I think 20 would have been better, maybe even 18.
Combine filling ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth and spreadable. Once the cakes are cooled you can fill them with a pastry bag, poking the hole with the tip and slowly squeezing in your filling. Because the pastry bag is my sworn enemy and nemesis, I was not able to accomplish this easily, so I sawed them in half and filled them sandwich style.
After I did this, and was fairly please with my results, Chef Roger Waysok was sent me some pointers on how to make the dessert more true to "Twinkie" form.
You can achieve the round shape of the Twinkie without buying a special pan. Take one piece of foil and form it halfway around a spice container to make a shape, similar to that of a boat. Make sure to close both ends so the batter stays in the "boat," giving you the Twinkie shape. The foil "boat" is the mold that the batter is baked in.
For the filling, you can use a tooth pick to make a hole in the cooked batter, but I use the tip of the pastry bag to puncture the cake and then just squeeze the filling in. Very much the same that is done with filling doughnuts, but using a toothpick is absolutely acceptable.
As mentioned earlier, I tried to poke a hole with the pastry bag tip, but I'm afraid my cake was a little too dense and the cream cheese filling was blocked by walls of cake that were all "YOU SHALL NOT PASS." There was some mangled red velvet in my kitchen is what I'm saying. NO MATTER. This cake was still delicious, and if you don't have time to worry about foil boats and piping bags feel free to make these into cupcakes or a regular cake or a face mask. However you choose to prepare it, it will be delicious.
However you spend February 14th, I hope it's a good Friday. If nothing else, House of Cards is back on. Sean and I are going to drink too much wine and watch that, because romance is alive and well..
What are you guys doing Friday?
Be my Valentine on twitter (@clairelizzie)!