A Valentines Day dinner to die for. Or just a regular dinner to die for, as we had this a week ago, but I think this is one of those dishes that should be reserved for a unique night. It’s elegant, decadent and relatively simple.

And kind of expensive. My eyes about bulged out of my head and my heart nearly gave out when I got to the register and I finally looked at the price tag on the salmon steaks — $30?! Oh, crapcrapcrap. Matthew is going to kill me! Not only was the salmon $10 a pound (I bought an extra one that is now sitting in the freezer, waiting to be eaten as another decadent dish), but the lamb stew meat I bought for another dish was $10/lb — making it $30 as well! Attack of an aneurysm. I’m sorry, but that kind of expensive meat buying does not normally happen in this household. Whoopsies. Thankfully Matthew did not kill me, but simply skewered me with one of those looks men perfect when their wives buy something that wasn’t, per se, in the budget.

HOW. EV. ER. This meal was absolutely mind-blowing. Which means I was forgiven! Whew. The salmon steaks were perfectly done, and the peppery, lemony, hint-of-mustardy lemon sauce that is drizzled on top is perfectly simple and utterly amazing. Put all of that on top of the wild mushroom risotto (which I had never made before and will definitely make again!) and you’ve got love on a plate.

I added these fantastic lemon/mustard Brussels sprouts to the dish (it is my favorite Brussels sprout recipe and always will be — for now) and the whole thing felt like we were at the classiest restaurant in Bloomington. Or New York City, for that matter! That’s right. It was that good. Make it for your special person tonight! Or on Valentines Day, whichever works.

Fresh Salmon with Tricolored Peppercorn Sauce
from “More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden”
serves 4

1/2 lemon
salmon steaks or fillets to serve 4
2 1/2 Tbsp butter (don’t substitute)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely crushed tricolored peppercorns

Squeeze juice from lemon half over salmon and barbecue or broil salmon until cooked all the way through (anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of salmon steak). Do not overcook!

Melt butter, then add mustard and lemon juice. Remove cooked salmon and top with finely crushed peppercorns. Drizzle melted butter sauce over salmon and serve immediately over top risotto.

Wild Mushroom Risotto
minimally adapted from Three Many Cooks
serves 6

1 cup dried mushrooms (I used chanterelle because that’s what I had but feel free to use any kind)
1 quart plus 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth, more if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-large onion, diced
Kosher salt, to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp tricolored peppercorns, ground
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or up to 1 cup)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Put dried mushrooms in heatproof bowl and add 3 cups boiling water. Let steep until hydrated and soft (roughly 30 minutes). Drain mushrooms, reserving liquid, and roughly chop.

Heat broth and 2 cups mushroom liquid in pot over medium heat and simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and keep liquid simmering during risotto process.

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed pot, over medium high heat, then add onions. Sprinkle with salt and sauté until translucent (roughly 5-7 minutes). Add garlic, cook for one minute. Add pepper and rice, stirring often to toast the rice (roughly one minute). Add white wine and stir continuously until liquid is nearly absorbed.

Add ladleful of simmering stock to rice and stir until mostly absorbed, or when you drag your wooden spoon across bottom of pot, you see no excess liquid. Add another ladleful of stock and stir until absorbed, repeating the process until rice is tender and creamy (roughly 20-30 minutes). Make sure to stir continuously so that rice does not stick or burn on the bottom of the pan.

Most likely you will use all of the stock, though more or less may be needed. Stock added to the risotto must be hot for it to cook correctly.

When risotto has finished cooking, add chopped mushrooms, Parmigiano and butter, stirring to combine. Spoon onto plate, then place salmon on top and add butter sauce to top everything off. And try not to preen and prance about when said special person asks you to become their personal chef (because most likely you already are).

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