A Romantic Dinner to Remember
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with Valentine’s Day’s historic past, you can start planning your future with this Valentine’s Day menu. Ask any chef and they’ll tell you that Valentine’s Day is one of the worst days of the year to dine in restaurants. They’re often overbooked and offer a set menu that can be rolled out quickly, so staff can turn tables. That’s not what anyone wants!
That’s why I’m recommending that you indulge your lover at home with this romantic Valentine’s Day dinner menu. You don’t have to make all the dishes on the list. After all, the key to a great romantic evening is treating your love to the things they like best. So if your amour hates bananas or can’t stand the sight of broccoli, by all means switch out a dish for something that will spell success.
Oysters on the half shell with Mignonette sauce
Mixed Baby Greens with Asian Vinaigrette
Wild Mushroom Beef Tenderloin with Broccoli Rabe
Oysters on the half shell with Mignonette Sauce
-Shucked ice cold oysters on the half shell (*See note)
-For Mignonette Sauce: ½ cup of champagne vinegar
1 large lemon, zested and juiced.
2 shallots, minced
-Reduce/simmer the vinegar, lemon juice, and any oyster liquid together in a small pan until about half the liquid remains.
-Add shallots to simmer briefly
-Cool to room temperature or chill if desired
-Add cooled sauce to each oyster half shell, as much as desired
-Garnish with lemon zest
*Note: Shucking oysters can be difficult, particularly for those with no experience. Most purveyors, (like Bristol Farms, Whole Foods or any fresh fish store) will shuck them for you, and leave the lids resting on top.) However, shucking them yourself allows you to harvest the luscious liquid inside each oyster to add to the sauce, which you lose if someone else does it for you.
Mixed Baby Greens with Asian Vinaigrette
-Bag of mixed baby greens or mesclun greens
-Green onions, sliced thinly
-Blue cheese, crumbled
Method for dressing
-Mix sesame oil and rice vinegar together to taste. Classically, the ratio is 3 parts oil to one part vinegar. However, I like it in about equal parts.
-Toss the salad greens in just enough dressing to coat. (Don’t over dress, or the greens will be soggy.)
-Serve on a pretty plate or bowl with the green onions, pine nuts, and blue cheese sprinkled on top for garnish.
Beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms and broccoli rabe
The main event for your Valentine’s Day dinner menu should be simple yet unforgettable. If your lover is not a fan of beef, you can substitute with a firm fish steak. After all, fish is considered among the playthings of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love!
For the beef tenderloin
-2 filet mignon steaks, about 4 oz each
-Dry rub: salt, freshly ground pepper, and cayenne to taste. (Go easy on the cayenne!)
-Assorted mushrooms, about 12 oz (*See note)
-Season the steaks with the dry rub on each side, and let them come to room temperature before cooking.
-Grill the steaks for several minutes on each side, or as long as it takes to create good black grill marks. Finish the steaks in a 400 degree oven, which can take 5-10 minutes depending on how rare you like your steak. Alternatively, you can close the grill to finish them right on the grill, placed in a cooler spot. (*See note)
-To make the mushrooms, slice thinly, and saute in butter until brown on both sides, and the mushrooms have rendered most of their moisture.
-Serve on a large plate with the mushrooms on top of the steak. (The potato and broccoli rabe go on the plate as sides.)
*Note 1: The mushrooms come in many varieties; an assortment makes the taste more intriguing. Try a shitake, cremini, and oyster mushroom combination, or use your imagination. (Common button mushrooms work fine, too.) When sautéing the shrooms, remember to have an even layer in the pan, without overcrowding on top of each other.
*Note 2: For the steaks, be aware of the concept of carry over cooking. Even though you take the steaks off the grill or out of the oven, they will continue to cook for the next 5-10 minutes as they cool at room temperature. Don’t cut into the steaks before they have had a chance to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes. This allows the juice to be reabsorbed.
For the Broccoli rabe (Also called Rapini)
-1 bunch of broccoli rabe
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-Small onion, thinly sliced
-Olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons.
-Salt and freshly ground black pepper
-Clean the broccoli rabe in cold running water, and then tear into long pieces, removing any stems that seem too thick, or cutting them thinly.
-Blanche in hot boiling water for just a few minutes, then remove and dry.
-Sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the minced garlic, and sauté gently for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the broccoli rabe, and sauté until tender yet still crisp. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
The sweet finish to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner menu
-2 ripe bananas, each sliced in half lengthwise
-4 Tablespoons brown sugar
-6-10 Tablespoons butter
-Rum, about 2 ounces
-Vanilla ice cream
-Melt butter in a 10 inch skillet. Add brown sugar and mix well, melting sugar to create a butterscotch sauce.
-Add the bananas, being careful not to break them. Cook gently, spooning the sauce over the bananas, until the bananas are warm.
-Now for the fun part: Make sure the skillet and ingredients are warm, then add the rum. Immediately light the rum either with the gas stovetop flame or with a match or lighter, being careful not to burn yourself! The flame will die down quickly, so make the most of it while it lasts! (Turn down the lights, and say “Flambé!”)
-Serve on a plate with the sauce over the bananas, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
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