February 14 is a very special day for Mark and I and no not because it is Valentine’s Day. On Feb 14th last year we had our last animal based meal at a Valentine’s dinner party that I hosted. It was a very fancy Julia Child style dinner party where Mark and I invited our most loved friends to feast on a five-course meal. We all ate too much, drank too much and danced the night away to Michael Jackson in our classy dinner wear. It was everything I hoped it would be.
Though having dinner with your significant other can be wonderful and intimate, it is also an excellent choice to dine with friends or other couples like Julia Child and her husband Paul did.
Unfortunately, Mark and I are the only vegans we know! Thankfully our friends Maeghan and Steve whom we are staying with currently while our new apartment gets a revamp completely understand and wanted to enjoy our vegan Valentine’s dinner though it would not be like last year’s meal. A dance party was still happening.
To my surprise and panic, I got a text telling me another guest would be coming. What? Someone new? I freaked out since this was my first time making the pan sauce and what if it didn’t work out? This new person would think I am the worst. Thankfully much to my delight, the new guest was our regular bartender at our local pub and he was pleasant and grateful that he could attend. He like all of us restaurant workers just love a home cooked meal instead of the usual cold fries and garlic bread that is our normal dinner. I kept my cool (I lie), pulled out another plate and continued cooking. The more the merrier (or sometimes mental breakdown)! Besides as Julia Child said:
Special thanks to Carly for presenting me with this beautiful plate as a Christmas gift
I wanted to veganize that classic steakhouse meal: steak with pan sauce, baked potato and Caesar salad. Thankfully I had already made a vegan Caesar Salad before so I could check that off the list of things to veganize.
Portobello mushrooms were an easy substitute for a steak since they are meaty, about the same size and best part is that you get to eat so much more since mushrooms are low in calories and incredibly high in nutrients. Hooray for mushrooms!
I debated between a few pan sauces to try out for the mushrooms but ultimately wanted the classic peppercorn sauce usually served in fancy steakhouses. Do not be intimidated by a pan sauce. They are super easy, quick to make and add a lot of flavor (and fanciness) to a meal. You may feel like Julia Child herself!
For the potato, you can do it two ways if you like: for a softer skin, drizzle a little olive oil, generous dose of kosher salt and wrap in tin foil and for a crispier skin just put it right onto the oven rack. I am lazy so I put mine of the rack but the option is there for you to make the potato skin softer. Always pierce the potato with a fork a few times or it may explode in the oven.
I just used a variation on my Ultimate Kale Chip cheesy sauce, usually baked on the kale. It is crazy good on potato and even my meat-eating friends asked for extra sauce. I just love when that happens.
So whether you are dining friends or your loved one, this meal is not lacking compared to the steakhouse plus it won’t cost you your paycheck and you can always have a dance party afterward (Michael Jackson is the preferred choice for dinner party dance offs).
This dinner plan serves four people however can be halved to serve two. I like to chop and prep everything while the potatoes are baking since they need more time in the oven.
The Day Before:
- Make the croutons and store at room temperature in an air tight container
- Make the Caesar dressing and Cheese Sauce, store in refrigerator in separate air tight containers. I used the quick soak method for the cashews: In a pot with a lid, bring water to a boil over high heat, add the cashews, cover with the lid and take off heat. Allow the cashews to soak for 1 hour. They will expand so 1 cup of raw cashews will equal 1 ½ cup soaked cashews so they recipes have been modified accordingly.
The Day Of:
- Bake the potatoes, they need a head start in the oven since they take longer to cook than the mushrooms
- Roast the mushrooms, saving the juices to add to the sauce, while the mushrooms are roasting, make the pan sauce
- Wash and prep 4 cups of green or purple kale
Makes about 1 cup of dressing. I used 1/3 cup of the dressing to dress 4 cups of shredded kale. I like to have extra in the fridge since it encourages me to eat more kale.
- ¾ cup soaked cashews
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon each of capers and caper brine
- 1 teaspoon chai seeds (I used black but white is fine too)
- ½ medium clove of fresh garlic
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
Add all the ingredients to a high power blender and process until completely smooth. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 4 cups but I only used a few at a time so feel free to halve the recipe.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, grated through a microplane
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 cups cubed crusty bread, crusts removed
In a small bowl, mix the oil and garlic and let it stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and strain the garlic out of the oil. Discard the garlic and toss the bread cubes with the garlic-infused oil. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet until the croutons are room temperature.
- ¾ cup soaked cashews
- ½ red bell pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
In a blender add all the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Simple Baked Potato
- 4 russet baking potatoes, washed and gently scrubbed, pierce with a fork all over the potato.
Position oven racks: one rack on the second slot, the other rack onto the fourth slot. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the potatoes on the top rack and cook for 30 minutes (the mushrooms take about 30 minutes so the potatoes will be in the oven for about 1 hour total). While the potatoes are cooking, prep your mushrooms and ingredients for the sauce.
Roasted Portobello Mushrooms
- 8 Portobello Mushrooms (I bought fairly large ones but you should buy them all relatively the same size)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil per mushroom cap
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt per mushroom cap
Turn up oven to 425 degrees, leaving the potatoes in the oven. To prep the mushrooms, cut off the stem and gently with a spoon, scrape the gills out of the mushroom.
Flip the cap over and with a sharp knife, gently score the mushroom in a crisscross pattern. Do not cut all the way into the mushroom since you want to keep the cap whole. This allows more moisture to come out of the mushroom, they don’t have that shriveled look like caps not scored and the sauce won’t just slid off the mushroom.
On a tin foil lined baking sheet, place the mushrooms onto the sheet gill side up and drizzle with the olive oil, coating all the sides of the mushroom. Bake for 15 minutes (on the lower rack), remove from the oven, drain the mushroom juices and reserve the juices. At this time, transfer the potatoes from the top rack to the bottom rack and gently turn the potatoes over (check the potatoes for doneness at this time. If a fork (not a knife) pierces the potato without resistance, it is ready to be taken out of the oven if not continue to cook). Flip the mushrooms and place on top rack and continue to roast for another 15 minutes. While the mushrooms are cooking, make the pan sauce and massage 4 cups of washed and shredded kale with the dressing since they will need about 15 minutes to soften.
Skip the steak! Eat mushrooms!
Black Peppercorn Pan Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Earth Balance Traditional Butter
- ¼ cup finely diced red onion (tip: chop these before you put on mascara!)
- 1 clove garlic, finely grated through a garlic press or microplane
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorn, coarsely ground
- ½ cup dry red wine (something you would drink, not cooking wine)
- 1 cup vegetable stock, heated in a small saucepan on the stovetop
- Reserved mushroom juice
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
In a medium skillet, melt the Earth Balance over medium heat until bubbly. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and peppercorns and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the wine and reduce to glossy syrup, about 3 minutes. This cooks off the raw wine taste. Turn up heat to medium high and add ¾ cup of the heated vegetable stock and the mushroom juices. In the remaining ¼ cup of warm broth, dissolve the cornstarch and whisk it into the sauce. Add the parsley and salt and cook the sauce for 5 minutes until reduced and glossy but not too thick. Turn heat down to low and keep warm until you are ready to plate the mushrooms.
At this time, remove the cheese sauce from the fridge and heat on the stovetop until hot, stirring constantly, adding some water if the sauce becomes too thick.
You are now ready to plate and eat! I served the potatoes with some chopped green onion but since you already have some parsley from the pan sauce, chop some more and add to your potato. Serve the dinner with the same wine as you used in the pan sauce.
Cheers to loved ones and enjoy your Valentine’s Day!
Xoxo from Sprouts and Chocolate