Cupid is drawing back his bow and love is in the air. How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? An intimate candle-lit dinner at a table for two, dancing the night away at the trendiest club or perhaps creating a culinary masterpiece of your own to share with your love in the glow of a warm fire?
If the passing of January is at all indicative of how quickly 2013 will be moving, Valentine’s Day will likely be upon us before we know it and I intend on being as prepared as possible.
If you are considering a simple meal at home, here are a couple of recipes to jump start the brain. Please keep in mind this is not a “menu” so to speak. Each item is separate from the other and each one is designed to “plant a seed” or to start the creative processes bubbling and brewing while preparing the menu.
Steamed Mussels in White Wine
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1/4 onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 4 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Place shallot, onion, wine, butter, and vinegar in a large heavy pot. Add mussels, cover, and bring to a boil. Cook, gently shaking pot once or twice, until mussels open, 3–5 minutes ~ Be sure to be your seafood as fresh as fresh as possible, any mussels that do not open need to be discarded.
Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl, set aside.
Transfer mussels to a large bowl, using a slotted spoon. Pour mixture in pot through prepared strainer. Season broth with pepper and pour over mussels. Sprinkle with parsley.
Asparagus and Bearnaise Sauce
Although asparagus is a spring vegetable, it is available in the market throughout the entire year. As you can see, it is a beautiful addition to any dinner table.
When choosing asparagus choose straight, firm spears, uniform in size with closed tips and that are refrigerated or on ice. They should be used within two or three days of purchase to maintain freshness. The best way to store them is to place spears upright in a small bowl or vase in about an inch of cold water.
Rinse asparagus, especially the tips, in cold water and snap off the woody base of each spear where it breaks easily. You will find this around the bottom third of the spear and where the woody part begins to turn tender. For aesthetics, scrape off the scales on the spears with a vegetable peeler. This gives it a clean look.
There are several ways to cook asparagus ~ Since this recipe calls for them to be gently covered in delicious Bearnaise, I will show just two.
Simmer: Lay the asparagus spears in a large skillet and top with 1 inch of water. Lightly salt the water and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
Steam: Place a steamer basket in a saucepan. Add water to just below the bottom of the basket. Bring water to boiling. Add asparagus to steamer basket. Cover and reduce heat. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/4 cup very finely chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon leaf
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1/2-3/4 cup unsalted butter, very soft
lemon juice, if desired
- Combine vinegar, wine, shallots, black pepper, and 1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon in a small saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 tablespoon, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of water to reduced vinegar mixture.
- Whisk until thick and pale, about 2 minutes.
- Set pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed reaching bottom and insides of pan, where eggs tend to overcook.
- Moderate the heat by frequently move pan off burner for a few seconds, then back on.
- As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, then thicken.
- When the bottom of the pan is visible in the streaks left by the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from heat.
- By spoonfuls, add soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition.
- As the emulsion forms, add butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed.
- Continue incorporating butter until sauce has thickened to consistency desired.
- Season with salt, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped tarragon and, if desired, pepper.
- Add a few droplets of lemon juice.
Photo Credit: Chefs Little Helper
Rosemary Roast Pork
This is a delicious dish that is delightfully simple and has a very basic shopping list. You may already have these items in your pantry; butter, scallions, salt, ground cumin, dried oregano, black peppercorns, pepperoni, (yes, pepperoni ), rosemary leaves, garlic, pork shoulder roast, black pepper, sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Follow the link to 2Chow and Chefslittlehelper.com While you are there, browse the site and check out some of the recipes.
Ally’s Kitchen’s Chocolate Cake Vodka Balls
Photo Credit: Ally’s Kitchen
One of my dear friends, Alice D’Antoni Phillips, of Ally’s Kitchen has created a tempting treat that caught my eye. Well, actually it was the name that caught my eye, these little gems are full of flavor. The ingredients list is simple, chocolate cake, chocolate icing, cream cheese and vodka. For garnish, the sky’s the limit as creativity knows no bounds. Follow the link to Ally’s site for the full recipe, poke around while you are there, and print out more of her amazing recipes!