You need to start with a light salad. Fresh young greens in a simple vinaigrette would do nicely; or you could extend what seems to be a "steakhouse" theme and serve an iceberg wedge with a roquefort crumble and sour cream dressing, Caesar salad
is a good choice too. In any case, I suggest making a show of mixing the salad tableside. People enjoy watching their lovers doing things for them. Delight her eyes as well as her palate.
An appetizeer salad has a couple of other advantages. One, you can set the salad plate on top of a regular plate (used as a "charger") which makes a nicer setting -- as does setting two forks. Two, a salad gives you the option of dispensing with the green vegetable on the main course plate -- which makes plating a lot easier and better. You can replace the green with something like two or three glazed baby carrots or not replace it at all.
Bread. You want either a baguette or a bread basket on the table.
Too much cream is right. Another thing, you're bouncing between "fine dining" and "steak house." Better if you could settle on one in order to orchestrate harmonious combinations. Your choices are fighting one another somewhat.
From a culinary standpoint, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes and beef go very well together. And as a side observatin, you're going "steakhouse," want creamed spinach, then you should have it.
Still from the culinary standpoint, the problem isn't the spinach it's the red wine-cream sauce. Lose it. Please.
It's not just that there's too much cream, it's not such a good idea to begin with. First, a red wine pan reduction doesn't need cream and is better off without it. Second, it's ugly. Third, while you can make it taste decent, there are about a zillion other different and better interpretations. If you want to sauce, I suggest going with a very simple reduction of shallots, a beef stock, red wine, garnished with parsley. You can smooth it out with a little Madeira or by mounting a little butter in it at the end if you want to take the edge off the red wine. Or, make bordelaise
, if you have demi-glace lying around. Alternatively, you can make a cold sauce with mayonnaise, dijon mustard, horse radish and green peppercorns. Either of those fit nicely within both models and generally play well with others.
Worth repeating: Pan reductions with cream are good things, but not served with creamed spinach. One or the other.
I do like creamed spinach with beef, as I said. One of the things I like most about it for your situation is that you can cook it well ahead of time and hold warm for service quite awhile. Creamed spinach likes long, langorous cooking. Try and plan your meal so that during its course, you're only in the kitchen cooking once. Other than that, it's just bringing out stuff that's already ready already.
Mashed potatoes are an interesting thing. Done right, they are sublime; and it's easy to do them right. Yet, almost everyone screws them up by either overworking and/or making them too dry. There's also a best sequence and technique of getting the milk (or cream) and butter in. How do you make yours?
Baked potatoes and "all the trimmings" might be a little easier to time. They'll also give you guys the opportunity to pass things to one another at the table.
Raspberries are nice, if you can get good ones. I get the feeling that their mandatory presence comes from your desire to please -- which is a good thing. Most women are chocolate fieinds, and if yours is too, there are plenty of wonderful ways to combine the two tastes.
Again, I suggest making something which can be made well ahead of time -- like a very light mousse made with Mexican chocolate, served with a berry coulis. Nothing against the other suggestions, but unless she has some other favorite -- chocolate sends a strong message of seduction. Another nice thing about chocolate mousse is that it can be flavored with rum or cognac, and followed by a snifter of the same.
Sex and chocolate aside, in the interests of sanity and lightness, I'd be disposed to end the meal with a citrus or fruit dessert. Back to sex: Be aware that you're planning a very heavy meal, heavy enough to discourage post-prandial activities demanding a certain level of physical exertion.
Cocktails? Wines? After dinner drinks? Plans?
There are so many different ways to make a menu for this sort of occasion. Let us know if you want some help making them real.
BDLEdited by boar_d_laze - 2/24/10 at 9:09am