Dining • Culinary Shop
EVOO Cooking School

Recipe for romance

With a couple hours to kill at the airport between planes, I am writing this article as I wait for my flight. Although I enjoy traveling I am much more a homebody, especially when Lenore is there and I am here. I truly appreciate our life together and the relationship we have. Relationships, now there’s a neat segue. With Valentines Day right around the corner and my nostalgia for Lenore, I am in the perfect mood to write this. Valentine’s day, incidentally a day created by the greeting card industry, has early memories of cutting out hearts from a variety of craft papers nervously wondering if my cards and sentiments would be reciprocated. Who cares if we were only in third grade, it mattered! As we matured it became more about flowers, candy and dining out.

Dining in might make more of an impression. Everyone who otherwise never dines out is out to dinner on this night. Prices might be elevated and food is made “cute” to accommodate the theme of the holiday. I know this because I have done that on my own menus past. Now days, I am motivated to create an experience that makes my “date” feel special. And I do mean “date” as on that night Lenore is my date. So guys this is for you. Listen and learn. It’s time to step up and take the V- day challenge to create your own romantic night in your home-restaurant for two. I’ll get to the food in a minute, after we set the mood, table, and timeline.

Remember that in order to make the evening special, your focus is on pleasing your date. The fact that you never cook, might be enough in itself, but this night is all about sparing no inconvenience to you, and rather putting your partner’s needs first! Only you know best what you need to do. You need to detail it out and then follow through. If ironing the tablecloth and napkins are on the list, just do it. You may not care or notice such things yourself, but you know it will add up for her. Candles are a must, but remember not to get the scented ones that interfere with food aromas. Plan to get some flowers—her favorite if you can, so you should be ordering them right now to be certain they are here in time. (For me that is a gardenia.) The table needs to be set correctly and with polished flatware and glassware. If you don’t have decent stemware for the wine, you might consider a purchase of two very nice crystal glasses as part of your gift. And last but for certain extra points, print the menu on a nice place card to set on the table.

Now let’s consider the ambiance. A clean room free of clutter is the only way to go. Run the vacuum before you set the table. And plan for a clean kitchen, which means you will need to clean as you go. Set up a soapy sink of water and drop the pots and tools into it as you go. Put away the ingredients as you finish with them and try to remember where they go. Now consider the background music. A little theme music like you might hear in a Parisian bistro if your menu is French inspired will add to the mood.

Being organized will make you a hero. Believe in the timeline you’ve plotted out to do the shopping, cleaning, table setting, and cooking. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t get rushed. Don’t forget to ask her to be your date, and suggest she do something for herself during the day while you cook.

As for the menu itself, remember that even macaroni and cheese can be special when presented in a romantic atmosphere. But hey gentlemen, if you can actually make mac and cheese, then you can make a French inspired menu like mine. And for the wine, you can find some brilliant examples of local sparkling wines under $25 or even champagne like Veuve Cliquot for under $40.

Stick with your plan and your success is imminent. Call me if this isn’t the most rewarding V-day gift you have ever given. Bon Chance & Bon Appetite!

February 14, 2009
My Valentine Dinner Menu
Fannie Bay Oyster Paired with Horseradish Champagne mignonette
David Hill Sparkling 06
Gratin of French Onion Soup Paired with Rillette of rabbit on grilled pane rustica
Stangland Rose of Tempranillo 07
Coquille St Jacques revisited, Pan seared scallops, bacon, caramelized leek, Verjus butter
Pepper Crusted Strip loin of Beef, Confit garlic and marrow enriched glace &
Beets, fennel, fingerling potatoes with hazelnut & maple vinegar emulsion
Cathedral Ridge Cabernet Merlot 06
Bittersweet chocolate fallen soufflé cake
Vanilla bean cherry custard and French tuile
Caffe Umbria dark roast Arco Entrusca

If you still think all this is over your head—still get her those flowers and bring your date to EVOO for the Dinner Show and enjoy some of my French inspired cooking!

French Onion Soup
2 TBS butter
3-4 cups sliced onions
1 TBS water
2 c chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 TBS apple brandy
½ tsp sea salt
To taste fresh ground pepperand coriander
½ cup heavy cream, heated
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
As needed for garnish, apples, small julienne
Method: In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the onions and sauté slowly until tender and golden brown about 30 minutes. Stir towards the end to ensure onions do not scorch. Add more water if necessary to prevent scorching. Prepare cheese cracker by placing 1 TBS at a time onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart; bake 350 for 10 min At service, stir stock, brandy, and seasoning into the onions. Over medium heat simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cream to taste. Float a cheese cracker on top. Top cheese cracker with small amount of julienne apple. Serve immediately.
4 TBS rosemary, minced
4 TBS parsley, minced1 egg white, frothed with 1 TBS water
2 each New York strip steaks,
6 oz each
As needed sea salt, ground pepper, ground coriander3 TBS vegetable oil
1shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, paste
¼ cup red wine
1 cup demi glace
Steak method: combine herbs; brush strip loin with egg white and coat with herbs; season and allow to marinade in herbs for a minimum of 1 hour before cooking. At service, place oil in large sauté pan to heat well; place steaks herb side down and sear well; cook 21 minute; turn and repeat coking until you reach desired doneness. Sprinkle with finishing salt before serving.Demi method: place oil in heated sauté pan; add shallot and garlic cooking until aromatic; add wine and reduce by half; add demi and reduce by 1/3; remove from heat and strain; adjust seasoning with salt an coriander.
6 oz bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
6 TBS salted butter
1 tsp espresso powder
3 eggs¾ cup sugar
5 TBS plus 1 ½ tsp cornstarch, sifted
1 qt. half and half cream
10 each egg yolks
10 oz sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Method: combine chocolate, butter and espresso in double boiler; melt. Meanwhile whisk eggs and sugar until sugar dissolves; whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture; gently whisk starch until blended – do not over whisk.Line a sheet pan with parchment; place six, 4” diameter by 1” high rings on the paper; divide batter between rings coming up ¾ of the way; bake at 325ºF for approximately 10 – 15 minutes or until tops have formed crusts and cake is soft to touch.Anglaise: Heat cream to a boil; reduce to simmer. Meanwhile, whisk yolks with sugar until frothy; temper yolks with cream until completely incorporated; place mixture back onto stove using a double boiler; heat until cream is thick enough to coat a spoon; cool in an ice bath for approx. 1 hour before using.