Monday, February 16, 2009

Anti-Valentine's Day Dinner

Anti-Valentine's Day 2009 Cafeteria Tray

The last time Valentine's Day actually mattered to me was in my prepubescent years in elementary school - you know, the days of innocence. For this day, you begged your parents to spend their hard-earned money on cards bearing Warner Bros. & Disney characters, heart-shaped candy that tasted like chalky meth and for that special special someone in your life, a small stuffed animal or something. It was honest, unadulterated fun. But, I had my system of distributing cards. I'd save all the crappy cards like Yosemite Sam or Three Blind Mice for people with cooties or didn't pick me on their kickball teams. These jerks wouldn't get any candy at all – not even the heart-shaped meth. They would get the stock message written on the copy without even a signature. Then there was the middle-tier friends who were cool to me and talked to me, but would never trade their delicious fruit snacks or fruit roll-ups for my asian delicacies like haw flakes or seaweed rice crackers. These racist friends still got a crappy card but some candy that actually had taste, AND a curvy autograph. And the final group to receive cards were for the ladies only. More likely than not, you liked more than one girl and that's why you'll see more than one Pepé Le Pew or Mickey/Minnie cards in that box – for 10-year old players like you. Now these were the cards I spent most of my night working on. I could see my mom smiling as I tried to profess my love in my limited kid vocabulary. I would say deep things like...

"You are sweet, pretty, cute, smart, beautiful, pretty, cute, sweet, fast, funny and cute. Hope you like Pepé Le Pew. Love, Dylan."

Attached to the card that was nicely sealed, I'd give like 5-7 candies. It was a simple yet fun time for many of us. And Jeni I promise, she means nothing to me haha. You are " sweet, pretty, cute, smart, beautiful, pretty, cute, sweet, fast, funny and cute" to the 100th power.

But now, as you get older, this particular 'holiday' requires you to fork out more and more of your hard-earned cash. In a relationship, shouldn't everyday be a test of one's love and devotion for a significant other? I took Jeni to Hometown Buffet a few years back, but this time, we wanted to do an Anti-Valentine's Day thing with some friends. I decided to tie the dinner theme back to elementary school... when looking 'cool' meant bringing your lunch in a brown paper bag, and buying cafeteria food on a tray meant you were a broke loser. Harsh!

Anti-Valentine's Day 2009 Bleu Cheese Burger with Caramelized Onions and Fried Egg

Bleu Cheese Burger with Fried Egg, Watercress & Caramelized Onions
Father's Office, you either hate it or you love it. I think Chef Sang Yoon does a good job on the burger but I think it's too sweet and a bit strong on the bleu cheese. And he's missing one component that, for me, takes food to another level… fried egg! I marinated ground beef with bleu cheese chunks, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, minced onions, cayenne pepper and S&P. Let that sit for an hour or two in the fridge covered with saran wrap and mold your burgers. Caramelize your onions and if you're not using a sweet wine like port, add a little sugar to give your onions a nice sweetness. Serve with arugula tossed lightly in a vinaigrette or try it with watercress, which has a delicate mustard taste that I enjoy.

Anti-Valentine's Day 2009 Crab, Macaroni & Cheese with Scallions & Smoked Paprika

Alaskan King Crab Macaroni & Cheese with Scallions & Smoked Paprika
I love crab, and I love macaroni & cheese – this dish was a perfect mesh of flavors. I made a cheese roux with flour, butter, milk and whatever brand of grated cheddar cheese and mixed the sauce in with the macaroni shells. I then sautéed the crab quickly with some garlic, smoked paprika, shallots and smoked paprika. Just enough to wake the crab up. Add this on top of the macaroni & cheese or mix it in. This was really good.

Anti-Valentine's Day 2009 Garlicky Tater Tots

Garlicky Tater Tots
I don't know anyone that dislikes tater tots, especially kids. Versus eating large fries, tater tots were the perfect finger food. I sautéed some garlic and parsley and lightly mixed them into the freshly baked tater tots. For dipping, I mixed in some curry powder into some ketchup (inspired by Wurstkuche in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles - review coming soon!) for a nice kick. For your snobby friends, try mixing the tater tots with grated asiago cheese and a few drops of truffle oil – good stuff.

Anti-Valentine's Day 2009 Chocolate Cookies

Save the Best for Last Cookies
Always the one thing kids are eyeing as they chomp down on soggy chicken nuggets and vegetables. Thanks to Sandra for baking these tasty cookies.

As we ate, we drank great Belgian beer from Cap n' Cork in Los Feliz and enjoyed the sultry sounds of my Valentine's mix, Cheesy & Sleazy, still available for free download.

C&S Full

Anti-Valentine's Day 2009

Thanks for reading.


ila said...

that looks delicious. now i need to run to target and buy those lunch platters...

Jeni said...

I'm still waiting for my Pepe Le Pew card.

The dinner was great. You forgot to post the picture when we all knocked out from cafeteria food coma.

EatTravelEat said...

This looks beautiful, even with the cafeteria plate. You can obviously tell just by the photo that it tasted great and looked great! If that could be served in cafeterias all over the world, I would be jumping for joy. :)

nakedsushi said...

Haha what a cute idea for Vday. The tatertots look great. I might have to steal that idea soon.

Passionate Eater said...

I think I need a spork and a small carton of milk now to keep me going. What a wonderful cafeteria themed dinn dinn with great people! Happy anti-Valentine's!

finsmom said...

This gave me quite a giggle :). Love the idea! Very Napoleon-Dynamite :)
And I so love tator tots.
Your trays are fantastic!

e d b m said...

ila, if i were you, i'd pick all that you see at Target. I saw two at the Target I went to. wish there were white ones.

Jeni, the photo isn't up b/c i was sleeping too. doh.

ETE, thank you. may all the cafeterias in the world unite for the sake of edible sustenance.

nakedsushi, please do! with clothing on.

PEATER! haha the prison sporks. we actually wanted to get milk cartons, empty them out and fill it with our favorite libations like gin&tonic or Belgian beer. The tray might have come in handy incase we drank too much too. happy belated anti-vday to you and The-Man-Stan.

Finsmom, ND definitely brought tater tots back to this decade.

moviebruin said...

Excellent dinner but what i want to know is...where is the crispy buche??!?!?

elleistc said...

I was one of those few kids who did not enjoy tater tots. Actually, the school cafeterias ruined a lot of American comfort food for me. To this day, I hate mac & cheese. Once in a few years, I'd have a bite just to confirm this. I won't even try the gourmet ones that restaurants churn out. Had you been our school chef, perhaps I would have actually eaten during lunch. Oh, btw, you forgot to include the classic milk/juice in a mini-carton. That was the best part of the meal. =)

Chubbypanda said...

Where did you find that awesome tray!?! I must have it...

shoe fiend said...

soo brilliant. i love other couples who are anti-valentine's day. that "holiday" is such a racket!

One Food Guy said...

I know I'm late to this party, but that's a fine looking school cafeteria dinner

Kim said...

I came across this through Lindy's blog. I love this idea! The trays are a great touch. Cheers!

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