If procrastinating is your strong suit and you still haven’t made dinner reservations to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Danielle’s cupids are here to save the day and make you look like a super hero! Here are some full-proof steps for planning a heartfelt dinner at home:
Make the dinner occasion extra special by drawing up some beautiful invitations and popping them in the mail. Snail mail is far more romantic than Paperless Post.
Peruse your home for an unexpected location to enjoy your delightful meal. We loved the plush, warm library for this cozy occasion.
Plan a menu that you know will titillate the taste buds of your guests. Ours’ represents a hearty yet delicate feast from the soul!
Get your hands dirty in the kitchen and whip up your festive vittles! Work together with your lover in the kitchen—our short ribs recipe is simple enough to make the clumsiest of men feel like an epicurean master.
GRAPEFRUIT AND BEET SALAD WITH CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE
½ lb red beets (2 or 3), trimmed
good quality extra virgin olive oil
dash Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large red grapefruit, peeled, white pith removed
1 large pink grapefruit, peeled, white pith removed
1 bunch watercress, stemmed and trimmed (about 2 cups)
¼ cup Champagne vinegar
1 shallot, finely diced
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp reserved grapefruit juice
1. The Beets – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the beets on one end of a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with about 3 Tbsp olive oil, and season with salt. Fold over the remaining foil and crimp the edges to seal. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until fork tender. Cool and peel, then slice into 7-inch-thick half-moons.
2. The Grapefruit – Segment the grapefruit and set aside the membrane. Gently pat the segments dry with a paper towel. Squeeze 1 teaspoon of juice from the membrane and reserve.
3. The Champagne Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing (can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator) Combine shallot, reserved grapefruit juice, Champagne vinegar, and salt to taste in a bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in mustard and 1 cup olive oil until they emulsify to become thick and richly golden in color. This can be done in a food processor, blender, or even a jar shaken very hard—the important part is to fully emulsify the dressing so the oil and vinegar do not separate. Season to taste!
4. Come Together – In a large bowl, add the beets, grapefruit segments, and watercress. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gently fold the dressing into the salad and serve.
BRAISED SHORT RIBS WITH RED WINE AND THYME REDUCTION
While this may seem labor intensive, the actual cooking is mostly unattended. You can even do the preparations in steps over several days to lessen the pain!
The Bouquet Garni
1 strip bacon
2 springs rosemary
4-6 sprigs thyme
2 Turkish bay leaves
2 celery stalks, trimmed of leaves
The Meat of It:
Short ribs, 1-2 per person (purchase the leanest you can find)
Freshly ground pepper
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
1 large sweet onion, cut into 1” pieces
15 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
6 large shallots, peeled and chopped
15 black peppercorns, cracked
4 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 bottles dry red wine, ex: Cabernet Sauvignon
4 cups Ruby Port
5 cups beef broth or stock
6 cups chicken broth or stock
5 large plum tomatoes or basket of cherry tomatoes
The Saucy Conclusion:
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. copped fresh thyme
It is important to get a pot large enough to hold all of these ingredients. A large Dutch oven or turkey roaster is suggested.
1. Preparing the Bouquet Garni (can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated) – Lay the bacon strip out. Lay the rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and celery stalks atop one end of the bacon. Roll up the bacon and tie with kitchen string/twine.
2. Ribs (can also be done ahead of time and refrigerated) – Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven (or other oven proof pan large enough to hold the ingredients above) heat the vegetable oil until medium hot. Add as many ribs as will comfortably fit, and brown them evenly on all sides (about 10 minutes.) Remove the browned ribs to a plate, and then repeat this browning process with the remaining ribs. Remove all but about ½ cut of the fat from the pan.
3. Preparing the Pot (down to the wire now, this is to be done on the day you are preparing to serve) – Add to the Dutch oven the carrots, onions, garlic, shallots, and peppercorns. Cook, stirring often, until all are golden brown (about 10 minutes.) Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often (about 2 minutes.) Add the flour and stir until fully blended. Add that eagerly awaiting Bouquet Garni, the wine (is there any left?), and the port. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds (about 45 minutes.) Pat yourself on the back and proceed to Step 4.
4. Putting It All Together – Return the ribs to the pot. Add the beef stock/broth and tomatoes and bring mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot loosely with foil and place it in the oven. Bake for 3 ½ hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork. Enjoy a few hours of relaxation.
ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE
2-3 cups brussels sprouts, sliced in half
dash salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic glaze, ex. Modenaceti Balsamic Glaze, commercially available and a little bit thicker than plain old balsamic vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Whisk the vinegar, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly incorporate the olive oil until a dressing is formed.
3. Place the brussels sprouts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the sprouts and gently toss to coat.
4. Bake for 25 minutes, turning once. Sprouts are done when they are lightly browned. Deliciously simple!
THYME AND MAPLE PARSNIP PURÉE
3 parsnips, large
butter, a think slice (or two)
4 small sprigs of thyme
2 tsp maple syrup
freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the parsnips and remove the tops. Slice each in half (unless they are gigantic and you feel that quarters might be better.) Put them into a roasting pan with a nice slice of butter and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 – 40 minutes, or until soft and golden.
2. Remove from oven and add thyme leaves and maple syrup, turning the parsnips as you go. Continue to roast for 20 more minutes, or until the surface is sticky and golden and the insides are soft and tender.
3. To purée, add the roasted parsnips to a food processor or stand mixer. Add either more butter or some hot milk to help the purée along. Beat in with a whisk or wooden spoon to introduce air. Blend until smooth.
RASPBERRY SOUFFLÉ WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE
½ cup sugar
1 pint fresh raspberries
1. Combine ¼ cup water and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Pour sugar-water mixture into a blender; add raspberries. Blend until smooth, then strain through a mesh colander over a bowl and reserve.
The Main Event
1 Tbsp butter, for the dishes
8 Tbsp sugar, plus more for the dishes
9 large eggs
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 8 small soufflé dishes and lightly dust the insides with 2 Tbsp of sugar.
2. Separate the eggs, being careful not to get any yolk in the whites. Place 6 yolks in one bowl and 3 yolks in another bowl. Reserve egg whites in yet another bowl.
3. Mix 6 yolks with 3 Tbsp of the sugar, the flour, and the vanilla. Heat milk in a pan, and, whisking rapidly, add the yolk-sugar-flour mixture. Boil until thick, then remove from heat. Slowly, so eggs won’t scramble, add remaining 3 egg yolks, stirring to combine.
4. Beat egg whites in a large bowl with the remaining 3 Tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form. (When you run the whisk through the whites, they should stand like a mountain range and not fall back down.) Carefully fold egg whites into the pan of milk and yolks, stirring rapidly to combine. Swirl in ½ cup Raspberry Sauce, reserving the rest for garnish. Using a spatula, pour the batter into the prepared soufflé dishes.
5. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until top forms a perfect dome. Gently remove from oven and serve immediately with remaining Raspberry Sauce and extra fresh raspberries to garnish!
Lovingly dress the table with your most romantic china. We chose this whimsical place setting, Syracuse Rose by Mottahedeh, and topped everything off with crisp linen napkins from Matouk. Finally, vintage raspberry-colored glasses tie together our excess of rosy accouterment.
No Valentine’s Day is complete without flowers. We veered away from the old standard Rose and chose delectable Ranunculus in varying hues of pink.
When the big moment arrives (and your super hero cape has been cast aside), light the candles, set the place cards, pour the champagne, and let the romance begin!
Special thanks to the following for contributing to this blog: The Printery for their fabulous stationery, Matouk for the exquisite table linens, Mottahedeh for the gorgeous china, Ginna Dunlap Emmet Calligraphy for her incredible artistic penmanship, and Ali Shinall for her phenomenal photography.