Before I dated my hot gf, I often couldn’t justify buying groceries for dinner. The idea of spending money to prepare something for myself never appealed to me. Sometimes in an effort to be “health conscious”, I would purchase the bare minimum for a salad–mixed greens, a cucumber, and a red pepper–and toss these together in oil and balsamic vinegar*. Usually I would pair this with my specialty: pasta, topped with jarred sauce and frozen meatballs that took a minute to microwave (these ingredients were likely bought in bulk months prior thanks to their long shelf lives).
I was never a huge fan of grocery shopping; especially for food I didn’t feel like making. Really, anything that cost me more than $6 at the grocery store was consumed at a restaurant. Most nights I consumed pizza, or if I was feeling fancy, spent a few extra dollars dining out on a burger. That was, until I met my hot gf. Now I see the value in spending money on food that gets made: by her. I still hate grocery shopping.
Chef’s Note: I love grocery shopping–alone. I often ask the boyfriend to come with me, but on the occasions he does I immediately regret this decision as he complains before the car even makes it to the parking lot. Grocery shopping is therapeutic for me, walking down each aisle deciding what dinners I can come up with or what looks especially good—spending time to hand pick all of my produce. It’s also a game with your cart, weaving in and out to avoid other carts, and usually screaming kids. I’ll still send the boyfriend to the store for me on occasion, if only for a laugh, knowing a phone call with at least 1-3 questions will be imminent.
That afternoon, she sent me on a wild-goose chase–for lamb–at Supremo, the local Spanish grocery store. She figured they wouldn’t carry it, but sent me anyway because she knows I don’t do anything all day. As suspected, they didn’t have any. I found just about every body part of other farm animals–whether chicken, cow, or pig–yet, not a single trace of lamb. I’m not sure who prefers pig’s feet over lamb chops, but I suppose the store’s executives know lower-middle class consumers can’t afford the latter. Otherwise, I’m sure you’d see everything down to their cute little hooves at the hands of an overzealous Latin butcher.
“No lamb chops here. Anything else you need from this place specifically? Maybe some cow’s balls?” I texted her.
“Fuck… ugh no,” she responded. I suggested we go out to dinner. “I’m making your Valentine’s dinner!” she proclaimed. All week she had been insistent on making this meal for me since I was leaving for a ski trip over the holiday weekend. As a result, I got sent to Shoprite when she got home.
At 5:30 pm in Hoboken, it will take you about 20 minutes to go 1 mile to Shoprite. I find cursing your entire way displaces the realization that you’re stuck in traffic. Punching the steering wheel helps too.
When I arrived, I calmly perused the meat aisle until I located a label containing the moniker “lamb”. I looked down at the package with skepticism and called her. “They come in packs of 3,” I informed.
“You can have the extra one,” she responded.
“Uh, these things are pretty small—are you sure they are enough?” I stated.
“Yeah,” she said.
I hesitantly picked up the package and put it in the plastic baggie. Then I searched the aisles for some snacks. I found Keebler peanut butter sandwich crackers and ate a package while waiting in line.
“Hungry?” the clerk asked.
“Yeah…starving,” I muttered.
When I got home, I showed her the lamb chops. “Are you sure this is what you wanted? Usually the ones my mom makes are bigger,” I exclaimed, sure she was going to send me back.
“Yeah, those are it. I got the other ones here,” she replied.
“Oh! I thought you meant we were each having one!” I rejoiced. “I know I’m supposed to savor every little bite, but I was gonna say…”
“No!” she laughed.
Let me say, this dinner was worth the frustration of ten thousand trips to Shoprite. The carrots were better than any restaurant could prepare them; the parsnips made me wonder why anyone cares about mashed potatoes; and dear god, the lamb was divine. My lady’s made me some epic dishes, but I see why she saved this for Valentine’s Day.
Chef’s Note: While I am a big fan of lamb, I actually do not buy it all that often because it is very pricey. However, a romantic dinner for the boyfriend deserves nothing but the finest meat! Lamb is actually very easy and quick to cook at home and is worth the splurge every once in a while.
As if this lamb wasn’t enough, check out what my hot gf surprised me with for dessert.
Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Red Wine Reduction
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes Serves: 2
-Bring lamb chops to room temperature and season both sides with salt, pepper and rosemary (about 1/2 tbsp).
Serve the lamb chops on top of the parsnip puree and top with the reduction.
Maple Butter Parsnips
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes Serves: 2
-Boil water in a medium saucepan.
Orange Glazed Baby Carrots
Prep time: 5 min Cook time: 30 min Serves: 2
-Heat oven to 425°.
*There is a difference between baby heirloom carrots and the baby carrots you typically see in bags. True baby carrots have a green stem that is edible, they are much more tender than the other baby carrots you find. The common “baby carrots” that are cylinder in shape are really just cut down carrots.