A Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner

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How To Prepare An Incredibly Romantic Valentine's Day Meal

Guy's, How Would You Like To Prepare An Incredibly Romantic Meal For Your Loved One?

Skip the expensive restaurant this year and treat you wife, girlfriend, significant other to a delicious, romantic dinner prepared by you right in the comfort of you own home. Forget fighting for reservations on one of the busiest nights of the year when the restaurants are overbooked, overcrowded, understaffed and charging more for a meal that you can make equally as well at home.

If you are a decent cook, this will be a no brainer. If you are new to cooking, don't worry, there are lots of simple menus ideas that you will be able to tackle. And if you really are not comfortable in the kitchen, there are shortcuts you can take that will make you like you know what you are doing?

Cooking is not that difficult. It's just following a set of instructions. If as a kid you liked to build model cars or model airplanes, you know it's all about following the directions. Same is true with cooking. Yes, there are a few tricks you should know, but I will point these out as we go along.

Besides, it doesn't matter if everything isn't perfect. Your wife or girlfriend won't complain if something is a little overcooked or your timing is off, she'll appreciate the effort you take to put a multi-course meal together. And by adding the right lighting and music, along with some fine Champagne or wine and a nicely set table, she might not even notice the food but I'm sure she will.

The goal of this lens is to start with a little history of Valentine's Day, describe the advantages of eating at home, talk about creating a romantic setting and then getting to the food. This will come by offering a set of alternatives that give you the option to make everything from scratch or take some shortcuts to simplify the entire meal. And lastly, I'll try to add a little humor in the process.

Valentine's Day Culinary Poll

What Are Your Valentine's Day Dining Plans?

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Reasons for Dining In On Valentine's Day

It's not just about saving money. There are lots of great reasons to dine in!

There are lot’s of great reasons for staying at home on Valentine’s Day and preparing your wife/girlfriend a special meal. That’s not to say you should never go out on this holiday, but maybe once every few years you try staying at home. Let’s look at a few reasons why:

1. Good luck getting a reservation at a trendy restaurant. If you do decide to go out to dinner, be sure to book in advance and ask them how booked they are. Typically restaurants overbook on special holidays especially Valentine’s Day. They often add additional seating to take advantage of the busy night but that doesn’t always make for a quiet, candlelit dinner.

2. With an overbooked restaurant comes overworked and understaffed servers. Some restaurants (I’m not saying all restaurants, but many) are not equipped or used to having a full house so the service typically slows down. It can be the back of the house (kitchen), the front of the house (servers & bar) or a combination of the two. To me, service at a restaurant is as important as the food they are serving. Nothing ruins a meal faster than bad service even if it is not the wait staff’s fault. I especially don’t want this to happen on a romantic night out.

3. Economics – by staying home and preparing a gourmet meal for your loved one, you can get a bigger bang for your bucks. For the same cost of buying a mediocre bottle of Champagne in a restaurant, you can trade up for a higher end bottle of bubbly. Same holds true with wine, caviar and I’m sure you can prepare lobster tails or Chateaubriand or a fraction of the cost at home.

4. Atmosphere – you get to control the romantic setting. In a restaurant, you can’t control the lighting or the volume of the music or how out the background noise. It’s tough to tell your partner how much you love her if you can’t even hear yourself. At home, you can control all these factors and even make the stage extra romantic with flowers and candles. More on this later.

5. At home you won’t need a designated driver so you can enjoy that extra glass of Champagne and still be responsible.

6. Some Valentine’s Days you may want to go out dancing or catch a local band but that’s not to say there is anything wrong, especially after a tough day at work, with just hanging out on the couch and watching one of those classic romantic films. (See more on romantic movies below)

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Let's Start With A Little History

It wasn't always about chocolate and flowers!

The origins of Valentine’s Day and of the saint bearing that name are not well understood. There is even a lot of confusion about which St. Valentine the day honors-it seems as though there are two or possibly even three contenders!

What is known is that, before Vatican II in 1969, eleven people named Valentine were recognized as saints. This is not too unusual. The name Valentine translates to “worthy,” and so the name was fairly common.

There are a couple of apocryphal stories about St. Valentine that persist to this day. One states that he was a Christian priest who continued to marry young soldiers and their sweethearts in spite of the Roman Emperor’s ban on soldiers getting married.

Another story has it that St. Valentine was held captive by a Roman Emperor who tried to get him to convert to paganism to save his life. Valentine refused and in turn tried to convert the emperor to Christianity. He was ordered to be put to death, but before being executed, he performed the miracle of restoring sight to the jailer’s blind daughter. Again, there is no proof that either of these stories has any basis in fact.

How About A Romantic Dinner of Scallops on a Bed of Spinach

with a warm bacon sherry vinaigraitte

Scallops on Bed of Spinach My friends at Rouxbe have some of the best cooking videos on the Internet and here is one of my favorites perfect for Valentines Day. Scallops on a bed of spinach served with a warm bacon sherry vinaigrette. Very romantic. So go to Scallops on a Bed of Spinach to learn how to prepare this at home.

When Did It Get So Commercial

It is clear, though, that at some point in the mid 1800s, the tradition of sending romantic cards began in England. The tradition grew and spread to the United States. It has really only been since World War II that the holiday has become so tied to romance and the giving and receiving of romantic gifts including cards, flowers, chocolates and jewelry.

Scholars and cynics have tried to decry Valentine’s Day as a purely commercial venture propagated by the card and gift industries to boost sales. While this might be true to a certain extent, it is also true that there are many people who are very sincere in their efforts to show their loved ones how special they are on Valentine’s Day.

So, aside from all the commercialism that might turn some people off, Valentine’s Day is a day when us guys can make our wives or significant others a wonderful and romantic meal. Our efforts in the kitchen to make something tasty, especially if we aren’t very comfortable in the kitchen, will impress our wives/girlfriends much more than if we just run out and buy a her a card.

The Way To A Woman's Heart

Guy's, it's not much different from how to get to ours!!!

It has been said, The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and I have to agree, but I say the same is true for a woman. I have cooked many meals with girlfriends and for girlfriends before I got married and they all appreciated having me cook for them.

Years ago, I showed a friend of mine a few simple cooking techniques that he used to cook a meal for a blind date and a few months later they were engaged. So be careful, this is powerful stuff.

Where Did That Phrase “The Way to A Man’s Heart” Come From?

“The American statesman John Adams wrote in a letter (1814), ‘The shortest road to men’s hearts is down their throats,’ and some years later Richard Ford’s ‘A Handbook for Travellers in Spain’ (1845) advised, ‘The way to many an honest heart lies through the belly.’

A few years later, Miss Mulock observed in ‘John Halifax, Gentleman’ (1857) that the stomach was the way to an Englishman’s heart.”

From “Wise Words and Wives’ Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New” by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

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First Course - Cheese

How About A Simple Brie en Croute

First Course - Cheese

A great way to start a romantic dinner at home is with some exotic cheeses. I asked my wife and she told me she thinks brie wrapped in puffed pastry – See Brie en Croute Recipe – is romantic. So check out my recipe or give this simple one from Pepperidge Farm a try.
  • Serves: 12
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pkg. Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almond (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 (13.2 oz.) Brie cheese round

Instructions

  1. How to Prepare Brie en Croute
  2. THAW pastry sheet at room temperature 30 min. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix egg and water.
  3. UNFOLD pastry on lightly floured surface. Roll into 14" square. Cut off corners to make a circle. Sprinkle almonds and parsley in center of circle. Top with cheese. Brush edge of circle with egg mixture. Fold two opposite sides over cheese. Trim remaining two sides to 2" from edge of cheese. Fold these two sides onto the round. Press edges to seal. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Decorate top with pastry scraps if desired. Brush with egg mixture.
  4. BAKE 20 min. or until golden. Let stand 1 hr. Serve with crackers.

More First Course - Incredbily Rich Double & Triple Crème Cheeses

And I Don't Mean Philadelphia Cream Cheese

The French make buttery double and triple crème cheeses that are full of butterfat that just ooze flavor when they are ripe. These cheeses are so rich you don’t need to serve much or you risk ruining your date’s appetite for the rest of the feast.

While my wife and her friends I spoke to were partial to Brie, I am a big fan of French double and triple . By French law, double crème cheese must have a minimum butterfat content of 60% per gram, and triple crème cheese must contain at least 75% butterfat per gram. As you can imagine, these cheeses are all very buttery, rich and very spreadable when ripe.

Two of my favorite are:

Excelsior – with 72% butterfat and Brillat-Saverin, a fine triple crème

You can read more about these cheeses and how to serve them on my Romantic Cheese blog post.

Roses Are Great, But Try Something New

I’m not saying not to send your wife/girlfriend flowers this Valentine’s Day but how about an alternative to roses. There are plenty of beautiful floral choices including those listed below but first let’s look at a few reasons why you may not want to send roses.

1. Roses on Valentine’s Day are cliché. Everyone sends roses on this day so you might want to try something more unique.

2. Roses on Valentine’s Day are often overpriced. Simple supply and demand economics make roses often twice as much as other times of the year.

3. The quality of roses on Valentine’s Day sometimes suffers. With the high demand for these flowers this one day of the year, inferior quality roses find themselves on the market. If you do buy roses, be sure to ask the merchant how fresh are they and how long do you expect them to last.

Alternatives for Roses

The trick here is to find better value, not go cheap. Stay away from the daisies and mums unless these are your partner’s favorite flowers. Here are a few ideas that might work for you.

Bird of Paradise – named after it close resemblance to the bird, bird of paradise also called the crane flower in South Africa. These flowers are know for their unusually beautiful shapes and brilliant colors.

Orchids – again from Greek mythology, there was a half-satyr / half-nymph called Orchis who was killed and cut up into pieces on orders of Dionysus, the god of romance. Orchids grew from his remains. Did you know there are over 30,000 species of orchids in the world?

Narcissus – also called daffodils and whose name comes from Greek mythology. You remember the story about the young, handsome guy who was so obsessed with his own good looks in his reflection in a pond that he fell in and drowned. Remember Edward Bloom, the character in the Movie Big Fish who planted a field of daffodils to express his love. Just a little over the top.

Irises – from the Greek messenger goddess, this flower comes in over 200 species and was frequently painted by Vincent van Gogh. Its name comes from the Greek word for rainbow because it the many color varieties.

Hydrangea – photo above – I did not know this, but my wife told me these are one of her favorite flowers. These marsh plants get their name from a Greek word for water-vessel and were used as for medicinal purposes by the Cherokee Indians and later the first settlers.

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Great Romantic Movies

Why Not Watch One Of The Classics With Dessert

What's Your Favorite Romantic Film Of All Time?

  Show the poll results

Second Course - Soup

Easy to Make From Scratch or Easy To Find

The second course to your stay-at-home Valentine’s dinner is soup. There are lot’s of easy to make recipes including my own Lobster Bisque Recipe but I thought you might enjoy a Shrimp Bisque (easier to find frozen shrimp in your supermarket) and Chef Tyler Florence has this amazing recipe for preparing shrimp bisque at home.

Here’s a recipe from Tyler Florence’s cookbook, Tyler’s Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time, that not too hard although I might skip brandy and the flambe step where you ignite the brandy on fire. Could be dangerous if you’re not use to it.

Tyler Florence’s Shrimp Bisque

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 1eeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and rinsed well
3 stalks celery, cut into big chunks
2 carrots, cut into big chunks
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 strips orange zest
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup brandy
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated orange zest, for garnish
Finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Directions

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and melt the butter into it. Then add the shrimp shells, the leeks, celery, carrots, 3 sprigs thyme, the bay leaf, orange zest, and tomato paste. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the shells are red and the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat and carefully pour in the brandy. Ignite the brandy with a long kitchen match and let burn until the flame subsides. Return the pot to the heat, sprinkle in the flour, give it a stir, and cook for another 2 minutes. Now add water to cover and deglaze, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to low and gently simmer until the soup is reduced and thickened, 30 to 45 minutes. Strain into a clean pot and season with salt and pepper.

Chop the shrimp. Return the bisque to a simmer, add the shrimp and cook 2 to 3 minutes just to cook the shrimp through. Give the bisque a final taste for seasoning, pour it into warmed soup bowls and serve garnished with the orange zest and chives.

Another Very Romatic Soup

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

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When planning a Valentine’s Day menu, mushroom soup might not be the first thing that comes to mind. That’s probably because you’re thinking about those cans of condensed mushroom soup that your mom used to use in casseroles or for pot roast. One taste of this rich, savory, silky smooth and earthy soup will have you changing your tune.

I promise you, this is one sexy mushroom soup. If you do not have access to wild mushrooms, fear not. You can easily use a mix of any mushrooms you can find at the store including button, crimini, portabello, shitake, etc.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms
(Be safe and purchase them. Never forage for wild mushrooms unless you know what you are doing or are with a knowledgeable forager).
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, well cleaned, split and chopped (white and very light green parts only. Save the tops for stock)
3 sprigs fresh thyme plus thyme leaves for garnishing
several gratings of fresh nutmeg
kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper ( you can use black pepper if you don’t have white)
1/4 cup sherry or white wine
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
4 cups vegetable, chicken or beef stock (homemade or low-sodium)
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup heavy cream

Clean the mushrooms and cut off any woody stems. Dice the caps and tender stems.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for five minutes. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers.

Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, thyme and nutmeg. Sauté until the mushrooms give up their liquid and then start to shrink and darken. Monitor the temperature. You might need to turn the heat down to medium.

Add the sherry and cook until the mixture is almost dry, about 2 minutes.

Remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the mushrooms if you want to add in mushroom pieces later. If you want a completely smooth soup, skip this step.

Add the leeks and butter. Continue to cook until leeks soften, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, then pour in the stock and add the potato.

Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer until the potato is disintegrating.

Working in batches in a mixer, or using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Add in the reserved mushrooms, if any, and the cream. Heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the soup is not as thick as you would like it.

Continue to simmer to reduce.

Serve garnished with thyme leaves and perhaps a couple of grinds of black pepper.

More Great Soup Recipes For Valentine's Day Dinner

Simple Tomato Soup Recipe
A simple but very tasty recipe for tomato soup. If you want to make it look a little more gourmet, top it off with a little puff pastry.
Chicken and Hominy Soup Recipe
I found this Chicken and Hominy Soup recipe in Bon Appetit's "Fast Easy Fresh" section and it was fast, easy and delicious.
Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Puree
From my friend Chef Alan Bickel, don't be alarmed by the number of ingredients for this recipe. You are basically making the same puree twice, one with red peppers and one with yellow peppers with a few minor changes. This one is truly elegant.
Red Lentil and Apricot Soup
One of my all time favorite soups, this one comes from a cookbook called, Please To The Table and is perfect for a quick first course soup. In the fall, I often serve this soup as a sauce for pumpkin ravioli.
Red Curry and Coconut Soup
This recipe comes from my friend Chef Genevieve McGough who is living in New Zealand. Most of the ingredients are in the cupboards of keen foodies and the whole dish can be prepared in 20-25 minutes.

Third Course - Salad

Let's Really Get Those Taste Buds Going

Salads are easy. Pick a type of lettuce and make a basic vinaigrette and you are done. Want to get fancy, add some other ingredients like vegetables, fruits, nuts and cheeses. The salad above is a goat cheese salad with pear and walnuts.

Types of Greens

There are many varieties of greens now available on your supermarket shelves and now you can get most of them triple washed making it a lot easier for home cooks in a hurry. I used to recommend every kitchen have a salad spinner to clean fresh greens but now you can pay up for washed greens. I still recommend everyone have a salad spinner.

Some of the greens you can choose from include:

Lettuce: you make think lettuce is the most common but did you know there are hundreds of lettuce varieties including four main categories: Butter, Crisphead, Long-leaved and Loose-leaved lettuces. All great for salads.

Mesclun: is really a combination of several young greens usually including arugula, radicchio, frisée, mizuna, oak leaf, bib, sorrel and radicchio. This is one of my favorites and you can now find it everywhere in prepackaged, triple washed bags.

Belgian Endive: now where talking about higher end greens. Makes for great looking salads, has a slightly bitter taste but you are going to pay up for it. On a special occasion like Valentine’s Day, you may just think about going for it.

Arugula: Another one of my favorites, but when I was growing up, it was considered more of a weed than something you would serve at the tables. Then again, when I was growing up, anything but iceburg lettuce was considered a weed in my house. Arugula is bitter and has a very peppery taste. When buying, be sure to try some because not all Arugula is the same and I have found some that even I can’t eat. Great for mixing with other greens.

There are many more types of greens available but any one of these for Valentine’s Day will work for you. Next let’s look at making a basic vinaigrette.

Basic Vinaigrette

There are just a couple of things you need to remember about making a basic vinaigrette. One is the ratio of oil to vinegar and that is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. The other thing to remember is you want to whisk the oil into the vinegar slowly in a thin stream to incorporate (emulsify) the oil and vinegar together and does not separate right away.

Once you have those basic down, the rest is about what else to add. Of course you are going to want to season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper, but you may also want to add ingredients like garlic, herbs, shallots, anchovies and one of my favorites – mustard.

Biggest Mistake When Making A Salad

In my opinion the biggest mistake most home cooks make when preparing a salad is YOU OVER DRESS IT! That’s right, you have all these wonderful and expensive mixed greens that are crisp and delicious but you drown everything in salad dressing and end up with soggy greens and the only thing you can taste is the dressing.

Also, don’t use 100% extra virgin olive oil in your salad dressings. Cut it with some vegetable or Canola oil. Why? Because the olive oil will also overpower the flavor of the greens. You want to taste the lettuce with a slight layer of flavor attributed to the dressing.

So general rule when it comes to adding salad dressing to the greens; less is more. You can always add more but once you drown it, it’s hard to recover.

There are many great recipes for making a variety of salads and I’ll include a list below but I would like you to first take a look at this short Chow video detailing the basics for making a vinaigrette. I think you will enjoy it.

How About a Simple Raspberry Champagne Vinaigrette?

photo credit

What’s more romantic than champagne and raspberries? Well, when it comes to vinaigrettes, not much. Pair this tart, fruity vinaigrette with mellow salad greens such as Romaine or butter lettuce, sweet fruit such as pear and some creamy young chevre. Stay away from feta, though, as the combination might be a little too tart.

Raspberry Champagne Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1/4 cup champagne vinegar (for a more assertive raspberry flavor, substitute raspberry vinegar)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons frozen raspberries, thawed and crushed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, bruised to release the essential oils
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as Canola

How to Prepare

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, honey, fruit and herbs until well combined.

Drizzle in the olive oil slowly while continuing to whisk vigorously.

Continue whisking and drizzle in 1/3 cup neutral oil. Taste, and add a bit more oil until the dressing is to your liking.

How To Make A Basic Vinaigrette At Home

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Set the Mood With the Right Music

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

Having the right music for your romantic dinner and evening at home is important. You don’t want it to conflict with your conversation but you do want to have it in the background to create an atmosphere.

Some people might say keep it all instrumental but I think that starts sounding like elevator music. There may be a lull in the conversation and you just want to listen to the lyrics. Just light proper lighting, you don’t want your music to be too bright or too dark. It’s got to be just right to create the mood and when it is….the food is going to taste even better.

Below I’ve listed some of my favorite romantic albums of all time as a poll so you can vote for your favorites or add your own choices in the comments section at the end of this lens. As I was making the list, I realized there are so many great romantic albums out there in every genre of music. The ones I picked are just ones I’m familiar with so I’m interested in hearing your favorites.

The Most Romantic Albums Of All Time

What's Your Favorite All Time Most Romantic Album?

  Show the poll results

Sade's Long Hard Road

From Sade's New Album - Soldier of Love

When I think of sultry, seductive vocals able to create a romantic atmosphere, I think Sade. A girlfriend years ago turned me onto her music when I was cooking for her and I have been a fan ever since. I am thrilled she is back creating new music not because she had to, but because she wanted to. Bravo.

This song, Long Hard Road is from her new album.
Sade | Long Hard Road
by sismalian | video info
764 ratings | 222,043 views
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Chateaubriand For Two

Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Chateaubriand For Two is one of the first dishes I think of for a romantic situation. Lot’s of people think it is a cut of meat, the center cut of of a beef tenderloin but actually it is a method of preparation. It was named in honor of French politician, vicomte Francois-Ren de Chateaubriand whose chef, Montmireil, is given credit for inventing it although I’m not sure how anyone can take credit for roasting a piece of meat.

It may be that Montmireil’s method of cooking is what they credited him with. I have read he would cook the entire tenderloin, cut off the ends and serve only the center cut. I have also read Montmireil would cook the tenderloin in between two inferior cuts of meat until they were well charred and then tossed.

Their is also a discrepancy about what sauce was served with his Chateaubriand. Some say it was a demi-glace sauce with white wine, butter, shallots and lemon juice. Others say it was the classic Bernaise sauce.

Buying the Beef

You can go to the market and buy a whole tenderloin, trim it and cut the center part of the tenderloin out but it is a lot easier to ask your butcher to do it for you. At the same time he can cut the ends into steaks and grind whatever is left over to tasty burger meat.

If you have your butcher cut it for you, tell him to cut you a 1 – 2 pound roast from the center of the tenderloin and be sure to have him remove any of the chain and silver skin. He’ll know what to do.

Preparing the Meat and Sauce

Preparing Chateaubriand and a sauce to go with it is pretty straight forward. The most important think I can tell you is not to overcook the meat! Use a meat thermometer and take the meat out of the oven before it reaches your desired temperature. The meat will continue to cook while you let it rest to redistribute the internal juices. The temperature can go up 5 – 10 degrees F during the time you let it rest.

You can see full step-by-step directions for making Chateaubriand For Two with a delicious red wine demi-glace pan sauce on my cooking blog but now I would like to focus on the other sauce – Sauce Bearnaise

As the famous restaurateur Fernand Point (1897-1955) said in Ma Gastronomie, “Bearnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect.”

It is very much like a Hollandaise sauce that many of you are familiar with from having it on your Eggs Benedict. The big difference is Hollandaise uses lemon juice in its emulsification and Bearnaise uses a reduction of vinegar and tarragon.

I’m going to give you a classic recipe for Bearnaise sauce but I would like you to watch my friend Chef Todd Mohr’s short video on making Hollandaise sauce. I’m not trying to confuse you but he really explains the technique of making both these sauces which I think is important. Rather than adding the lemon juice at the end, you will add the the vinegar/tarragon reduction.

Sauce Bearnaise

Ingredients

8 ounces unsalted Butter
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp finely chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
10 white peppercorns, crushed
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp cold water
fresh lemon juice, to taste
freshly ground salt and black pepper

Start by clarifying the butter. Chef Todd’s video will show you how, but all you have to do is heat the butter into a saucepan over low heat until the milk solids separate from the clarified butter. (the yellow oil part) Skim off the milk solids with a spoon and you are left with clarified butter.

To make the Bearnaise Sauce

Now put the white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the tarragon, shallot and crushed peppercorns into another small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and continue to simmer until reduced by half. Remove it from the stove-top and let it cool.

Using a double boiler as described in Chef Todd’s video, combine the egg yolks with the cooled vinegar mixture and one tablespoon of cold water. Start whisking continuously as described in the video until the sauce emulsifies. Do not let it turn into scrambled eggs or you will have to start all over again.

Once the sauce begins to emulsify, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the clarified butter a little at a time. Season with a little salt and pepper and stir in the remaining tablespoon of tarragon and a little lemon juice, to taste.

Your going to want to serve this immediately. Bearnaise sauce is incredible over Chateaubriand For Two but if this seems more daunting than it’s worth, try the other sauce on my web blog.

More Meat Recipe Suggestions for Valentine's Day

Pan Roasted Veal Chops
If your partner is a meat eater, this is a wonderful recipe that's easy to prepare and looks great on the plate. Served with a nice Pinot Noir, this will really impress her.
Pork Medallions with Apricot Glaze
If you are starting off with a rich cheese and following up with a rich bisque, this is the perfect dish to serve because it has a mild sweetness and isn't as heavy as the Chateaubriand. Served with a tasty apricot glaze and tempered with the zing of a little vinegar, this one is sure to please your Valentine.
Standing Rib Roast
Looks elegant, tastes great. You don't need a more than a two rib roast and you will have plenty of leftovers. Season the roast, stick it in the oven and go do something else. Easy and delicious with a robust Cabernet Sauvignon or Brunello di Montalcino.

Seafood Course

An Alternative To Meat

Not everyone enjoys a big steak like the Chateaubriand or Pork Tenderloin above, so I thought I would offer you some fish alternatives.

Cooking seafood is generally easy. Season with olive oil and salt and pepper, in the oven at 400 degrees, F for 10 minutes and you can’t go wrong. Of course you can grill it or braise it but because it is so tender, it doesn’t take a lot of cooking. The biggest mistake you can make when cooking fish is to overcook it especially tuna and swordfish. They will taste like dried out cardboard if overcooked.

Below I have included some links to some of my favorite seafood recipes including my Braised Chilean Sea Bass that I consider “As Good As It Gets”. Below the links are some great seafood cooking videos that will take you step by step for preparing a seafood dish for you special Valentine this year.

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Incredible Seafood Recipes For Valentine's Day

Parmesan Crusted Sea Bass
This recipe will have your mate asking for seconds. The original recipe calls for halibut but I used fresh wild sea bass and it was delicious.
Fish en Papillote or Fish in Parchment Paper
Part of my blog series on romantic Valentine's Day recipes, this one is elegant, easy to prepare with great presentation. She is going to love it.
Braised Chilean Sea Bass
Could be one of my all time favorite seafood recipes. As Good As It Gets. One of the ingredients is fennel, one of the most underrated root vegetables in my opinion. Whether for Valentine's Day or not, I highly recommend you try this one.

Gordon Ramsey's Crispy Salmon Recipe

He Does Make It Look Easy

I don’t know about you, but there are times I really like this guy and other times find him…..too much. Whether you like him or not, he can cook and his recipes are doable for home cooks and this one for Crispy Salmon over smashed potatoes with crab meat is perfect for a simple but delicious Valentine’s Day Dinner if you are serving fish as the main course.
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Recipes of Love Ahi Tuna and Risotto

Chef Jay
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Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Plum Sauce

Now this is tasty

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Here’s a lovely Valentine entree for two. Or make and shred the extra for Mu Shu duck the next night! Don’t be intimidated by the duck. Follow the instructions to render out the fat, and you’ll be rewarded with perfectly crisp skin atop a perfectly cooked breast.

You’ll want to start this dish the day before, so plan accordingly.

Ingredients:

2 duck breasts, washed and patted dry
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Plum Sauce (available in the International aisle at the grocery or at your local Asian grocery)

The day before

Score the skin of each duck breast in a criss-cross pattern, at least three 1/4″ deep cuts one inch apart each way. Make sure you score all the way through the fat layer, but not into the meat underneath.

Salt and pepper each duck breast.

Place skin-side-down on a plate big enough to hold them in one layer.

Place 1 sprig of thyme and 1 bay leaf on each breast.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When Ready to Cook

Take the duck out of the refrigerator about 1 1/2 hours before you want to cook and let them come to room temperature. Discard the herbs.

Preheat a cast iron skillet, or other heavy-bottomed skillet, for ten minutes over medium-low heat. Preheat the oven to 400F.

Place the breasts, skin-side-down, in the preheated pan. Let cook without disturbing for fifteen minutes. Carefully lift up one of the breasts with tongs and check the color. You are looking for a very deep golden-brown color. Don’t be alarmed if there is a lot of fat in the pan. Duck breasts are very fatty, but most of it will render out during the cooking process.

Continue to cook the breasts until the breasts are the right color, up to another five minutes.

Turn the breasts skin-side-up, and cook on the stovetop for 30 seconds.

Remove the pan from the stove and put in the preheated oven for five minutes.

When five minutes are up, take the pan out of the oven and transfer the meat to a warmed platter. Cover the meat with foil and let rest for five minutes.

While the meat is resting, pour off all but about 1 Tablespoon of the duck fat. Reserve it for the next time you make French fries. You won’t be sorry.

Pour the duck sauce into the pan and cook over medium-high heat, until it just comes to a boil, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and mixing them all into the plum sauce.

Slice the duck diagonally in 1″ pieces and spoon some plum sauce over each serving.

This is a very impressive dish to serve to your loved one.

Romantic Valentine's Day Desserts

The Big Finale - Well Maybe?

When it comes to desserts, there are so many great choices available. You just served her an incredibly filling meal with lots of courses so you may decide to go easy on dessert with a few chocolate covered strawberries. Or you may want to push her over her gastronomical limits and hit her with a rich Molten Chocolate Cake.

So below, you will find my list of links to some of my top suggestions for a romantic dessert. Some take no work, some may challenge you, some are from my web site, and some are from other great cooking sites.

It’s my opinion, if you prepare all the courses as described above and you take my advice as to lighting and music, by the time you get to this dessert it won’t matter what you serve. She will be impressed and appreciate all the effort you have made.

Berries and Roses Individual Pavlovas for Two

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After all the rich and complex flavors of the other courses, it’s time to lighten things up for dessert. After all, now is no time to feel full and sick. Pavlova is the perfect light ending to a rich meal. Made with egg whites and sugar, it’s sweet but contains no fat.

If you don’t have rosewater, you can substitute vanilla, but the scent and delicate flavor of the rosewater blends beautifully with the berries. And, if you forgot to buy flowers, just tell her that they’re in the dessert! Rosewater is readily available at Indian and Pakistani markets. It is inexpensive, and a little goes a very long way.

Make the shell components the day before, assemble the “pavs” before dinner, let them sit in the fridge, and they’re ready to go when the time is right. Don’t quote me on this, but I hear they’re even good for breakfast!

For the shells

2 egg whites from medium eggs, about 2 ounces
4 ounces superfine sugar or powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon rosewater or vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 250F. Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a non-stick silicone mat.

In the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until frothy. Add 1 ounce of sugar, the salt, lemon juice and rose water.

Whip until soft peaks form, and add the rest of the sugar a spoonful at a time.

Whip until glossy, medium-stiff peaks form.

Spoon the meringue into two mounds about 5″ in diameter. Dip a large spoon into hot water and then press the bowl of the spoon into the center of each mound, making a bowl shape.

Bake for 40 minutes. Turn off the oven, crack the door and let the shells cool completely in the oven.

For the berries

1 bag frozen any type of red berry or mixed berries
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon rosewater or vanilla
sugar, to taste

Heat the berries, lemon juice, salt, rosewater and enough sugar to sweeten to your taste over medium-high heat.

Once the berries are thawed and the mixture is starting to simmer, strain out 1 cup of whole berries. Refrigerate for later.

Bring the rest of the berries to a boil and then let simmer until the juices are starting the thicken, about ten minutes. Spoon off any foam that forms.

Carefully transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on any solids until nothing remains in the strainer but seeds. Scrape the bottom of the strainer to make sure you don’t waste any puree.

Cover syrup and chill.

For the cream

1/3 cup cold heavy cream
2-3 drops rosewater or vanilla
pinch of salt
1-2 Tablespoons sugar, to taste

1 Tablespoons berry juice (or enough to make the cream a lovely shade of pink)

Whip all ingredients except for berry juice together until you reach medium peaks.

Add a bit of berry juice, and continue whipping to stiff peaks. Add a little more juice if you’d like the cream to be a bit more pink.

To serve

Place a pool of berry sauce into the center of two plates.

Put a Pavlova shell down in the middle of the pool of sauce.

Spread a thin layer of cream into each shell. Top with half of the reserved berries.

Put another dollop of cream on top and drizzle a bit more berry sauce randomly over the Pavlovas.

If you want to be really romantic, use a pesticide-free rose bud as garnish.

Individual Pavlovas Video Demonstration

The recipe for Individual Pavlovas came from my good friend Jenni Field, an accomplished baker and pastry chef. Not only did she offer me this recipe, she created a whole cooking video demonstrating step-by-step how to prepare it at home. Thank you Jenni.

If you are interested in more cooking videos that I’ve picked out to help demonstrate important cooking techniques, check out my Reluctant Gourmet’s Favorite Cooking Videos.

Valentine's Day Dessert Suggestions

Too Good To Be True

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Served with a little of the bubbly, it doesn't get any more romantic than this. Make them yourselves or purchase them at the store, this is a quick and easy way to end the meal.
Molton Chocolate Cake Recipe
Rich, decadent, a little more work, this is one of my favorite desserts of all time..... that is after Key Lime Pie. Learned this at one of the top local restaurants just outside Philadelphia, this one is impressive.
Is There a Recipe for a Cool Whip Substitute?
So you are in a hurry and you don't want to make your own whip cream and are thinking of buying some Cool Whip. Take Chef Jenni's advice and don't do it. Read her wonderful blog post and suggestions for alternatives.
Lavender Ice Cream
From my very popular Squidoo friend Chef Keem, this recipe for Lavender Ice Cream features his Agasweet Lavender agave syrup. And if you don't want to make your own ice cream, you can always squirt some of his agave syrup on top of store bought ice cream for a boost in flavor.

What Do You Think About Dining In On Valentine's Day

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for staying in on Valentine’s Day.
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  • jesslynn1990 Jan 12, 2014 @ 3:24 pm
    Love all the ideas here. The way to my heart is definitely through my stomach!
  • bekat Jan 11, 2014 @ 7:53 pm
    I think I'll have to celebrate Valentine's Week this year, with all these scrumptious recipes I can't choose! Excellent page you've got here. Bookmarked it!
  • ReluctantGourmet Jan 12, 2014 @ 1:54 pm
    Thank you so very much bekat. Personally, I prefer to eat in on Valentine's Day with some good food, good wine, good music and the company of my wife and two teenage daughters.
  • Lewisgirl Jan 11, 2014 @ 3:31 pm
    I think it is more romantic to dine in.
  • ReluctantGourmet Jan 12, 2014 @ 1:55 pm
    I agree with you Lewisgirl.
  • katiecolette Jan 11, 2014 @ 12:08 pm
    Sounds like a great idea! Love your Valentine's Day menu suggestions. Brie en Croute is my all-time favorite appetizer :)
  • ReluctantGourmet Jan 11, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
    Thanks katiecolette, much appreciated.
  • TheLifestyleChanger Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:14 pm
    I would definitely stay at home for Valentine's Day dinner if you were cooking! Just the scallops would do the job!
  • ReluctantGourmet Jan 11, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
    Too kind and thank you.
  • RubyHRose Feb 14, 2013 @ 12:05 am
    Wow, these are incredible recipes, can't wait to try some of them for our special dinner.

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