A Valentine's Day feast on a budget

Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Entertaining

Compound butter is easier than it sounds. You just mix your choice of ingredients into softened butter and refrigerate it , which allows the flavor of the added ingredients to permeate the butter. When it melts on top of hot food, it essentially turns into a sauce.

For my compound butter, I used a few crumbles of blue cheese and a bit of parsley. The cheese has a decidedly sexy funk, and its sharp creaminess is perhaps the greatest possible accompaniment to beef.

Blue cheese also forms the basis for my salad — this way, you can save money by using the same hunk or container of cheese. I made a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing for several reasons: it uses iceberg lettuce, which is the cheapest lettuce available; it has come back into vogue again because it is delicious.

The blue cheese dressing, which is the most traditional dressing for the salad, ties it into the steak. I made my own blue cheese dressing, because that’s how I roll and because it tastes better than any bottled variety. But if you want to use the stuff in the bottle, I’m good with that. It’s inexpensive, too.

Nothing goes with steak like potatoes, and potatoes will never break the bank. Because simple preparations are the cheapest preparations, I simply cut mine into bite-sized pieces and fried them.

OK, I fried them twice, first at a lower temperature and then at a higher one. That’s the restaurant-secret way to make perfect fries, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The smaller size allows more surface area to be crispy and salty.


For an hors d’oeuvre I chose a favorite of pretty much everybody’s, and one that costs practically nothing to make: Deviled eggs. Deviled eggs are silky and sensuous, very much in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. And eggs have long been a symbol of fertility which, let’s face it, is kind of the long-term point of the whole Valentine thing.

In keeping with the spirit of pinching pennies, I made my eggs in the simplest possible way: just eggs, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. But that was a little boring, so I also added a hint of mustard and a few drops of lemon juice.

Few things are as perfect as a simple deviled egg.

For dessert, I made a classic — frankly, all of these dishes are classics — chocolate sauce for ice cream. I wanted to make a magic shell sauce, but that requires coconut oil, which is not cheap. So I just made a ganache, which tastes as elegant as it sounds. It is also blissfully simple to make: You simply pour hot cream over pieces of chocolate and stir until it is smooth.


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