The tales of love and romance are not a modern one. The earliest tales of romantic work can be traced to the Acritic songs from the Byzantium Empire. These songs were introduced to the French and Italian knights during the occupation after the 4th crusade and influenced their songs and stories. Similar traditions existed in Northern Europe and were in the form of great epic sagas and took place in exotic locations, usually having mythological elements and dangerous quests.
The earliest medieval romances dealt heavily with themes from folklore, which diminished over time. During the early 13th century romances were increasingly written as prose. As these romances gained popular favor, clerical critics of the late middle ages thought that romances were harmful worldly distractions from more religious or moral works. By the 17th century, many secular readers would agree with the religious leaders, as they felt romantic stories were trite and childish.
The early Romantic Movements consisted of larger-than-life heroes and heroines, drama and adventure, consisted of fantastic adventures with themes of honor and loyalty or fairy-tale-like stories and story settings. The French developed the modern concept of romance as it moved away from the epic tales of the past and focused on two people and the conflicts they overcame to be together.
As we celebrate love with those around us, I thought I would offer several recipes that are romantic and tasty. The modern understanding of the word romance has been connected to flowers, chocolate, and wine. Each of the recipes below, area fancier than my usual dishes, but this is for a special occasion. The recipes are French in origin and fairly easy to prepare.
Pomegranate and Raspberry Wine Pork
1 pork shoulder (4 – 5 lbs)
2 tsp oil
2 cups of pomegranate juice (unsweetened)
3 cups of Raspberry wine
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Heat oil in large pot and brown the pork shoulder. Once browned, add the wine and juice together and cook on a stovetop on medium heat for 2.5 hours. After the first hour, add the black pepper. After the second hour, add the salt. The pork is done when it falls apart (like pulled pork). Remove the pork and reduce the sauce by half
by turning up the heat. The sauce can be poured over the pork when served.
Preheat over to 350 degrees F
3 lbs of red potatoes, thinly sliced
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large garlic clove, halved
4 table spoons of butter
2 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the potato slices into a bowl of cold water to remove the excess starch. Drain and pat dry with paper or cloth towels. Take the halved garlic clove and rub the cut side around a wide, shallow, ovenproof dish or cast iron pot. Butter or spray oil the dish/pot generously and blend the cream and milk together. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of the potatoes. Dot a bit of the butter and minced garlic over the potatoes and season with the salt and pepper. Pour a bit of the cream and milk mixture over the layer. Continue making layers until all of the ingredients have been used, ending with just a layer of cream. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours. If the potatoes are browning too quickly, cover with a lid or a piece of aluminum foil. The dish is done when the potatoes are soft and tender and the top is golden brown. Serves 8
4-6 Pears, peeled (recommend Bosc or Anjou)
1 1/2 cups of red wine (recommend Zinfandel, Shiraz or Merlot)
3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 tbsp of lemon juice (can also add lemon zest if desired)
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp of ground cinnamon or 3 sticks of whole cinnamon
Combine all ingredients, except pears, and bring to a boil. Once the wine mixture is boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and add the pears. Simmer pears for 10-12 minutes and then turn pears and simmer for an additional 8-10 minutes – until they are tender. Remove pears and let them cool. Boil wine sauce until the liquid has been reduced by half. Pour sauce over pears and serve with mascarpone or crème fraiche.