I know, we are barely over all the holiday and New Year’s Eve Celebrations, and already I’m pushing head-long into Valentine’s Day. I guess I’ve got some explaining to do . . .
Years gone by, New Year’s Eve was spent at home. We had a tradition in our house of making a Surf and Turf supper complete with mashed potatoes, a Caesar Salad and ended the evening with Chocolate Soufflés. Believe me, it takes some real talent in the timing department to have the Soufflés served at the stroke of midnight. But then, we needed time between courses to digest all the wonderful food and be ready for a spectacular dessert. I once had a friend tell me that I was setting Kiddo’s future bride up for failure, since he was under the impression that everyone ate Soufflés at home on New Year’s Eve. My response – who said she had to be the one to make the Soufflé?
In any case, we don’t spend New Year’s Eve at home anymore. New Year’s Eve has evolved into an expanded “Family Affair” at my sister’s home, with lots of kid-friendly appetizers (love appetizers – all those little bites of delicious goodness – after all variety is the spice of life). We play board games and light sparklers at the stroke of midnight. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy family time. It’s always wonderful to spend time with dear old Dad and reminisce about the days when New Year’s Eve meant Guy Lombardo and Auld Lang Syne. However; I miss the steaks, the lobster and most of all I miss the Soufflés. I miss making them, I miss eating them, I miss everything about them. Missing those traditional suppers got me to thinking . . .
And that’s when the light bulb came on. Just because our New Year’s Eve has changed doesn’t mean I can’t mark another day of celebration in the same way – say Valentine’s Day for instance.
Valentine’s Day as a day of romance dates back to the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-Century England, the day evolved into an occasion for young lovers to express their feelings for one another with the exchange of gifts, poetry, hand-written cards, sweets and flowers. Popular among the gifts were keys – said to be the keys to the giver’s heart with an invitation to the receiver to open a heart filled with love. I don’t know about you, but I find that romantic. By the 19th-Century hand written cards had given way to mass-produced greeting cards, and keys were replaced with jewelry. Since then, the price tag for romance has continued to escalate. I don’t know about you, but to me the most romantic gestures come from the heart and not the pocketbook.
While the menu may seem a bit complicated, taken in small steps over a period of several days, it all comes together with ease. Most of the recipes I’ve shared before. Just follow the links for all the yummy details.
Menu for Romance
Grilled Filet Mignon with a Red Wine Reduction Sauce
Broiled Asparagus with Tarragon Cream
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Broiled Lobster Tails with Butter
Brown Sugar Kahlúa Glazed Baby Carrots
Filet Mignon in a Red Wine Reduction Sauce with Tarragon-Garlic Butter
1/2 cup Butter
3 Garlic Cloves
1 tablespoon fresh Tarragon
Place soft butter in a small bowl. Peel and press garlic directly over the butter. Chop tarragon leaves into small pieces, scatter over the butter.
With a fork combine the butter, garlic and tarragon. Refrigerate until semi-firm. Remove from refrigerator, form into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Note: Butter can be made several days ahead. The longer the butter matures, the more complex the flavors.
4 (1-1/2 inch thick) Filet Mignon Steaks
Pinch Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
3 Garlic Cloves, pressed
1/2 cup Red Wine
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Season Filet Mignon with salt and pepper. Peel garlic, press and rub the garlic into the steaks. Mix together 1/2 cup wine and balsamic vinegar. Pour over steaks. Let steaks sit for 20 minutes, turning once.
While filets “rest” build a nice hot fire for grilling the steaks. When the fire is ready, grill the steaks over the hot fire until medium-rare, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill.
Slice butter log into 4 rounds. Place one round on each steak. Tent to keep warm, allow to rest for 5-10 minutes while the butter melts and the steaks retain their succulent juices.
Red Wine Reduction Sauce
2 Small Onions
1 large Portobello Mushroom
1 Cup Full Bodied Red Wine
2 Tablespoons Beef Demi-Glaze*
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Bay Leaf
3 tablespoons Butter, divided
Sea Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Start the reduction sauce at about the same time the filets are placed on the grill.
Peel and finely chop onions, set aside until ready to use. Clean mushroom, remove stem. Thinly slice mushroom cap, set aside until ready to use.
Combine 1 cup wine, onions, demi-glaze, thyme and bay leaf in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a full boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until reduced, about 10 minutes.
While sauce is reducing, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until tender and juices released, about 8 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
Once the wine sauce has reduced and thickened, remove from heat. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth and well blended. Add sautéed mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.
To Serve Filet Mignon:
Spoon reduction sauce onto individual warm plates. Place filet mignon on top of sauce. Serve at once.
* Demi-glaze is a royal pain – it requires a brown stock made from the roasted bones veal and choice beef, combined with a true brown sauce (one of the Mother Sauces in French Cuisine). You can purchase Demi-Glaze from specialty stores for about $20-30 dollars for a 9 oz jar or you can use Beef Better than Bouillon
Broiled Asparagus with Tarragon Cream
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 Garlic Cloves
1 lb Asparagus
Kosher Salt to taste
Place olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Peel and press garlic over the oil mixture. Stir to blend. Let sit for 30 minutes for flavors to marry.
Trim asparagus, drizzle with the lemon-flavored olive oil. Toss to coat. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a broiler pan, season with salt and set aside.
Adjust oven rack so that broiler pan will be about 3-inches from the broiler heat source. Turn broiler to HIGH.
Broil asparagus for about 8 minutes or so, until slightly charred, turning midway through cooking time. Keep warm.
3 oz Brown Mushrooms
1 tablespoon fresh Tarragon
2 tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Flour
2/3 cup Chicken Stock
1/3 cup Heavy Cream
Pinch freshly grated Nutmeg
Clean, stem and finely chop mushrooms, set aside. Peel and finely dice shallot, set aside. Mince tarragon, set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté mushroom for about 5 minutes.
Add shallots and lemon juice to the mushrooms. Stir in the flour until completely incorporated.
Add chicken stock, stir until sauce is smooth and has thickened slightly.
Stir in heavy cream the tarragon and freshly grated nutmeg. Heat through, then remove from heat. Cover with lid to keep warm until ready to serve.
When ready, plate asparagus on a warm serving platter. Drizzle with tarragon cream, turn to coat. Serve and enjoy.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
8 Garlic Cloves
6 Russet Potatoes
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
Peel garlic, cut into quarters and set aside. Peel potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
Place cubed potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water, salt liberally, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Boil for 12 minutes or so until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, skimming the starchy foam from top occasionally and checking to keep from boiling over – lower heat if necessary. Drain potatoes well in a colander, then return to the pot over low heat just long enough to dry them. Place the cooked potatoes in a blender.
Return the now empty saucepan to heat, then add garlic and cream. Heat over low heat until the garlic is fragrant and cream begins to simmer, then add to blender with the potatoes. Blend until potatoes are a totally smooth puree. Add water or additional cream (gently heated in the microwave) as necessary to even out texture.
Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary just before serving.
Broiled Lobster Brushed with Butter
1/2 cup Butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon White Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Dash of Paprika
4 small Lobster Tails, thawed
Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a sauté pan. DO NOT stir butter while melting. Carefully tilt pan to draw out clear butter, leaving cream at bottom of pan.
Place clarified butter into a small bowl. Add lemon juice, white pepper, sea salt, garlic powder and a dash of paprika. Blend and set aside.
Preheat broiler of oven. Adjust rack so that tails are cooked 4-5 inches away from heating element.
Place THAWED tails on working surface. Flatten slightly. Using kitchen scissors cut right side of shell at wide side (opposite “tail”) lengthwise toward “tail”. Repeat on left side. Carefully lift shell. Snip at tail, removing the cut strip of shell. Run sharp knife down center of exposed meat to butterfly, flatten to open slightly. Set aside, and make clarified butter.
Lightly brush tails with seasoned clarified butter. Place lobster tails under the broiler, heat until golden and warm. DO NOT over-cook. Broil 2 minute per ounce. Small tails, 8-10 minutes or until meat pulls away from shell easily, brush with remaining clarified butter as needed to keep moist.
Remove from broiler and serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.
Butter for lobster can be served in small cups or better still, warm clarified butter dishes.
Dipping Butter – Plain
1/2 lb butter, melted
Lemons, cut in half
Divide butter among warmers, light candles and let the butter melt gently. Or melt over very low heat in a pan, pour into dipping containers such as small cups or ramekin dishes.
Slice lemons in half, wrap in cheesecloth and serve with lobsters.
Dipping Butter – Tarragon
1/2 lb butter, melted
Tarragon Leaves – Finely minced
As above, melt butter in warmers. Add Tarragon to taste and serve. If melting butter in a pan, add tarragon at the end, just as butter is removed from heat.
Brown Sugar Kahlua Glazed Baby Carrots
1 lb Baby Carrots, tops trimmed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
8 tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Kahlua
Fresh Thyme Springs for garnish
Clean and peel baby carrots. Remove green tops or trim if desired. Set carrots aside.
Bring a medium-size pot of water to a boil over medium-heat. Add carrots and salt. Cook at a rolling boil until carrots are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain carrots, pat dry and set aside.
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar and Kahlua. Bring to a bubbling boil, reduce heat to medium. Add carrots. Cook, uncovered, until sauce thickens and is reduced by half, about 15 minute. Stir often to prevent carrots from browning.
Transfer glazed carrots to serving dish. Snip fresh thyme and sprinkle over the carrots. Toss and serve immediately.
1 Head Romaine Lettuce
Caesar Garlic Croutons
Parmesan Cheese, Shaved
Caesar Salad Dressing – Favorite
Tear lettuce leaves into large pieces. Pour a small amount of Caesar Dressing on lettuce leaves, just enough to lightly coat leaves, toss to blend.
Plate on small salad plates, top with a sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese and croutons. Serve immediately.
Chocolat Soufflé de Mema
4 oz Semisweet Chocolate
3 Egg Whites
2 Egg Yolks
5 tablespoons Sugar, plus additional for dusting Soufflé dish
3 tablespoons WHOLE Milk
Coarsely chop the chocolate, set aside. Separate first egg, retaining whites only in a small bowl. Separate remaining 2 eggs, yolks in one bowl, whites in another. Set aside.
Prepare bowl to whisk whites by cleaning with lemon juice, carefully rinse and dry completely. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a small soufflé dish (2 ½ inches deep, 6 inch diameter; soufflé with not rise in a larger dish). Lightly dust dish with sugar. Wipe away any butter and sugar from around the top of the inside of the dish. Set aside.
Place milk and 4 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and stir over a medium-low heat until sugar dissolve, about 45 seconds. Stir in chocolate and coot until melted, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless steel), cool for 5 minutes. Then beat in egg yolks.
Beat egg whites in a non-reactive bowl until foamy, then sprinkle in remaining tablespoon of sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Gently mix one-third of the egg whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in remaining whites, one-third at a time. DO NOT OVER MIX. Spoon batter into soufflé .
Make sure oven rack is low enough to allow soufflé room to rise as much as 2 inches above the dish. Bake until puffed, about 25 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve immediately. Soufflé will begin to deflate after about 2 minutes.
Serve with your favorite dessert sauce, whipped cream or softened ice cream.
Hubby once told me he didn’t need Valentine’s Day to be special – that every day with me was as special as Valentine’s Day no matter what we were doing.
Here’s to wishing you a lifetime of love and holding hands with your best friend.