I hate how Valentine’s Day is marketed at this thing that exists solely to make women happy. The man is somehow supposed to make all of these magical, expensive gestures, but it always is about somehow placating the woman with cliche stuff* or empty stock phrases. Why isn’t it more about honoring the relationship?
I’ve always thought that if you were going to celebrate Valentine’s Day, then it should honor both people, equally. I’m not a big fan of going to restaurants on Feb. 14, or really any overt display of the ‘holiday’ (lucky for me, last year I avoided the holiday altogether by exclusively celebrating Chinese New Year, which happened to fall on the same day). (An important exception: the massive amounts of awesomely kitsch Valentine’s-oriented baking I’ve been doing here).
So it makes sense that I love the idea of cooking with your partner. This dinner is romantic, easy, and, most importantly, delicious. Recently I had an extremely intense craving for crispy, lemony German veal schnitzel I ate once in Berlin, so I tried, as best I could, to recreate that meal from memory.
I pounded two veal cutlets to even thinness, sprinkled with salt and pepper, coated with an egg wash (mixed with buttermilk), and then dipped in panko. The cutlets went into an extremely hot non-stick pan with a few tablespoons of canola oil and fried until crispy. As they drained on paper towels, the schnitzel got another round of salt and a flurry of chopped parsley.
I parboiled a handful of waxy potatoes, sliced into medallions, and then fried them in a hot skillet with butter, one chopped onion, sliced mushrooms, and garlic, until crispy and golden and irresistible. I tossed in a huge handful of slivered scallions, something that I saw all over traditional German food in Berlin, and sauteed until just fragrant.
Finally, I stirred up a pot of wilted Savoy cabbage, bacon, shallot, red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar and plenty of salt. Extremely crucial that the schnitzel be served with lemon wedges, extra parsley, and a cushion of slightly wilted arugula. All minor flourishes that make all the difference. Isn’t it satisfying when spontaneous cravings are satiated so completely?
*If you must give presents, I recommend a few well-picked records. In past years, I’ve received records by people like Kate Bush and Erik Satie, and don’t underestimate the power of a nice mix. There are a few magnificent records that are out on Valentine’s Day, too: Tim Hecker and PJ Harvey. Both are the best.