Confession No. 80 — A Valentine’s reminder for the guys: Your woman is lying to you
As far as I’m concerned, Valentine’s Day is not an official holiday. (But my opinion doesn’t matter on this one.)
Sure, there was a Saint Valentinus way back in the day … and some Christian denominations hold a feast in his honor. But, the whole candy and greeting card thing was more of a cultural phenomenon that started — (no) thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer — around the time Chris Columbus was sailing the ocean blue.
It’s been about 600 years since the first child brought a heart-decorated shoe box to school for the annual exchange. About the same amount of time has passed since the first woman said to her beau ‘Please don’t get me anything for Valentine’s Day. It’s just a holiday invented by the greeting card companies.’
Such words are just as untrue now as they were in the days when people referred to each other as Lord Hallmark and Lady Nestle.
Believing equals blundering
It was about a year ago, within these very pages, that I unveiled a sampling of my blurry Valentine’s Day visions. My horrible success rate is largely due to the fact that I tend to take my woman at her word.
Yep. When your girl utters any of the following phrases, you’d be advised to head directly to the florist and the chocolatier:
‘It’s a made-up holiday. Don’t waste your money.’
‘Flowers don’t last, so don’t bother.’
‘They jack the prices on roses this time of year. Wait until our anniversary.’
‘I’m still doing well with my New Year’s resolution. Chocolate would only ruin it.’
Why do I consider comments like these to be the biggest falsehoods since she told me I was the best lover ever? Because, I’ve lived to tell about the numerous times that we agreed to ignore hype — only to come home and find Green Apple Jelly Bellys (my all-time favorite) and a six-pack of Anchor Steam Liberty Ale (another all-time fave).
There are also the scenes at her work, when everyone — except for her — receives something gaudy and red. She tries not to act disappointed, but can’t help having the facial expression that resembles Dorothy’s (when she learns that the Wizard of Oz has nothing in his bag for her).
One thing’s for sure. If that look finds its way to your wife’s face on February 14, you’ll need an electric blanket to keep you warm that night.
No matter the candles or waiters in tuxedos, romance is difficult in a crowded restaurant. When Catherine and I went to Raimondo’s (on Long Beach Island, NJ) for ‘romantic’ dinners, we were really going for the food. Though I don’t remember what it was called, my favorite on Raimondo’s mid-1990s menu was a breaded chicken breast topped with Prosciutto and Provolone cheese, served atop a bed of Balsamic-sautéed spinach. If you ever get the chance, make reservations and bring your own bottle. Otherwise, your Valentine is sure to love your homemade version of this dish.
Pollo di Raimondo
5 – Chicken breast halves (about 6 oz. each)
½ lb – Prosciutto, sliced thinly -or- Cured ham, sliced thinly
5 – Smoked Provolone slices
2 – Eggs, beaten
Plain bread crumbs
2 lbs – Fresh spinach
2 TB – Balsamic vinegar
½ cup – Water
About ½ cup – Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground Black pepper
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Trim any fat from the breast halves. Between two sheets of plastic wrap (or one large sheet, folded over) flatten breast halves to about 1/2 inch. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.
One at a time, dip flattened breast halves in egg bath. Coat completely with bread crumbs. (I do this part in a bag. Just shake.) Fry in olive oil about 2 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Do not crowd the pan. — Set cooked breast pieces aside on a paper plate to drain.
Top each cooked breast half with slices of Prosciutto (or cured ham), then top with cheese slice.
Place all prepared breasts in a large oven-proof skillet, or on a baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack for about 5 minutes, until cheese is nicely melted. (You can broil the pieces if you prefer a browned cheese.)
While chicken is in the oven, place Balsamic vinegar and water in a large Dutch oven. Turn heat to high. Add fresh spinach and a pinch or two of Kosher salt. Using tongs, toss and turn the greens until they are greatly reduced and cooked lightly (they’ll still be bright green) — about 2-3 minutes. Continue reducing the liquid as you are plating the dish.
Plate the dish
Using tongs, divide spinach equally on five plates (shaking excess moisture from spinach). Place breast halves atop the bed. Drizzle each breast half with Balsamic reduction, if desired.
Serve with angel hair pasta and pink sauce; roasted garlic smashed cauliflower (pictured); or roasted potatoes.
Serves 5 — or 2 (with leftovers).