About a week ago, my husband I had a completely decadent dinner.
Did we have eight straight courses of chocolate? Start with bacon and end with filet mignon? Feed each other gold-leaf-coated bits of food while minions fanned us with large palm fronds?
No. Nothing like that. I say decadent because that's how it felt, but the truth is that we simply... went out to dinner. Without the children. (See? Decadent!)
It was an unusual intersection of events, where one child was at a school function at the other was staying over with a friend, and we were free to try a new French restaurant in town without anyone declaring the food funny-looking or wanting to order an expensive entree that might not actually get eaten. And... I had a coupon. (Okay, maybe it wasn't entirely decadent, when you think about it that way.)
Off we went, on a romantic dinner for two that neither of us had to cook, and an entire meal where we could just talk to each other and not have to referee arguments or listen to stories about various imagined injustices about school, life, or the simple indignity of being a child.
The truth is that on a rare evening out sans children, I'm happy to go get burgers and fries. I don't require a fancy spread to appreciate a grownups-only meal! But it just so happened that this particular meal was spectacular. The food was artfully arranged and just plain pretty, but---more importantly---it was delicious.
We chatted and oohed and aahed over our meals, and the whole time, my brain was turning. As much as I was enjoying a rare night out with my sweetie, what from this spread was something I could bring to the family table for everyone to enjoy (and to remind us of our wonderful meal)? This is how I expand our home menu, you know. I just steal ideas from other people!
The answer came alongside my entree: Something the menu called Yam Gratin, that was a tower of thinly-sliced yam pieces and just a hint of cheese, and probably more butter than I wanted to know about. It was incredible.
A few nights later, I rummaged through the fridge looking for ingredients to replicate the fancy gratin. We didn't have exactly what I thought was probably in it, but with my trusty food processor I was able to slice a couple of sweet potatoes thin, then between a few Googled recipes and my own ideas (and what I had on hand), eventually I had a dish of sweet potatoes, butter, spices, goat cheese, and a little cream. The children peered at it skeptically. "It's delicious!" I assured them, fingers crossed behind my back that I'd ended up with something half as good as the restaurant version.
It was yummy. And no, it wasn't the same as what we'd had before, but the inspiration led to this new dish, and it was family-approved. Plus it kind of assuaged any guilt I may have had about our night out. It was research, see, so that I could feed my family. Heh.
Do you ever try to replicate meals or dishes at home that you had at a restaurant? Or do you ever use them as inspiration for new ones?