Carroll County Times
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Carrie’s Kitchen: A trio of tasty dishes to consider cooking for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day

We’re into February, and I’m thinking about Valentine’s Day, because really, what else does February have to offer us?

Getting a table at a restaurant can be tricky for Valentine’s so I thought it would be fun to come up with some rich dishes that you can make and feel like you’re having a fancy meal out, but in the comfort of your home. Maybe you could even prepare it with your sweetheart, particularly if one of you are the one who does the majority of the cooking. With that in mind, I’ve chosen three pretty easy recipes so you won’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen or create too many dishes to be washed afterward.


First up, this recipe for Tuscan butter shrimp. I’ve found that pretty much every recipe that has “Tuscan” in the name is pretty delicious. This easy recipe calls for pan searing shrimp, then setting them aside, and then sautéing cherry tomatoes and baby spinach in butter. Finally you add cream and basil and let it reduce, then return the shrimp to the pan to allow them to warm up and absorb some of that sauce flavor. The recipe doesn’t mention putting it over pasta, but I would use an angel hair here and have a nice crusty bread available to soak up that extra sauce.

Next, I liked this recipe for a light and quick chicken marsala. I often order chicken marsala when I’m at a restaurant because I love mushrooms and the not-too-heavy marsala sauce, but often it is way too salty. If I make it at home, I can easily correct that problem. This is an easy recipe where you skillet-cook the chicken cutlets, take them out of the pan, then use the chicken juices to brown the mushrooms. You add a little flour to start thickening the sauce, then you add more chicken stock and some wine and let it reduce, then put the chicken back in. Easy peasy.


And finally, for a little fancier of a recipe, I found this recipe for braised lamb shanks with Parmesan grits. The best part is you can cook them in the slow cooker! The lamb shanks (and the veggies for the sauce) need to get browned before going in the slow cooker, but then it only cooks for 6 hours on low. If grits aren’t your thing, try egg noodles. But make sure you reduce the liquids in the slow cooker so you can have a rich (and not watery) sauce to go over them.


Tuscan butter shrimp

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, minced


1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

3 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced

Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)


In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Season shrimp all over with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering but not smoking, add shrimp and sear until underside is golden, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook until opaque. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and add butter. When butter has melted, stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are beginning to burst then add spinach and cook until spinach is beginning to wilt.

Stir in heavy cream, Parmesan and basil and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

Return shrimp to skillet and stir to combine. Cook until shrimp is heated through, garnish with more basil and squeeze lemon on top before serving.


Quick chicken marsala

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided


4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets

3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 (8-ounce) package pre-sliced button mushrooms

4 thyme sprigs

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


2/3 cup unsalted chicken stock

2/3 cup Marsala wine

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add chicken to pan; cook until done, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan (do not wipe out pan).

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add mushrooms and thyme sprigs; cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are browned, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.


Add stock and wine to pan; bring to a boil. Cook until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add chicken to pan, turning to coat. Discard thyme sprigs before serving. Sprinkle with chopped thyme, if desired.


Braised lamb shanks with Parmesan-chive grits

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 lamb shanks (about 11 ounces) each, trimmed

5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon black pepper


2 medium-size yellow onions (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch wedges

2 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 garlic cloves, smashed (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup chicken broth


1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon cornstarch

4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, divided

1 cup uncooked stone-ground yellow grits

2 1/2 ounces finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle lamb with 2 ½ teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Remove lamb from skillet.

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Add onions, carrots, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add ½ cup dry red wine; cook, until mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow-cooker. Stir in tomatoes, chicken broth, and ground cumin. Add lamb shanks, nestling into tomato mixture. Cover and cook on low until lamb is very tender, about 6 hours.

Transfer lamb shanks to a plate. Pour cooking mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids. Reserve strained cooking liquid. Set aside lamb shanks, covered.

Bring 2 cups reserved strained cooking liquid to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium. Whisk together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Whisk cornstarch mixture into cooking liquid; cook until thickened and reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Set sauce aside; keep warm.


Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk grits into boiling water; cook, whisking constantly, until smooth, about 45 seconds. Return to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Whisk in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, unsalted butter, and 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.

Divide grits among 4 shallow bowls. Top each with a lamb shank; spoon sauce over top, and garnish with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives.