Valentine's Day dinner might be the oldest tradition Bryan and I share as a couple. After working in restaurants for many years, I vowed never again to visit a restaurant on Valentines Day for dinner (so busy, so cliché!)
On our very first Valentine's Day together, Bryan bought me flowers (so cliché! But Bryan if you are reading this, please keep doing that) and I made steak and potatoes. It might be the only time each year we eat steak and potatoes- mostly because these are incredibly indulgent. Every year I make the same recipe: My version of Joel Robuchon's Michelin star-winning purée de pommes. This week, we received some center cut lamb leg steaks in our meat CSA. The simple arugula and celery salad is dressed with a bracingly tart French vinaigrette to cut the richness of the steak and potatoes.
Lately I have been obsessing over mendiants, beautiful French Christmastime chocolates that appear to be studded with gems like an assortment of nuts and dried fruit. My adaptation incorporates essential oils like rose and wild sweet orange whisked in with the melted chocolate. My favorite thing of all is that while these look stunning, they are one of the easiest desserts to make.
Decadent Mashed Potatoes
About 2 pounds fingerling potatoes (or other waxy potato like Yukon Gold)
1 cup of milk
1/2 pound of unsalted butter, cubed
Kosher salt to taste
*Makes 4-6 servings, but they are versatile leftovers!
Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. When water comes to a rolling boil, add unpeeled potatoes. Boil uncovered for 25 minutes. Test with fork to check for doneness. You should be able to pierce the potatoes easily with a fork, but they should still maintain their shape. Strain into a colander and let cool until you can handle them with your bare hands. Prick each potato and peel just the skin off gently with your hands.
Meanwhile, heat the milk on the stove on low heat until it comes to a simmer. The Robuchon recipe says to use a food mill, but I don't have one so I use the smallest side of a cheese grater to grate each potato. You'll notice they start to take on a gummy consistency- you're working the glutens of the potatoes and this is part of what makes this dish so special. You'll end up with some un-grated end pieces, throw them in too- I like the uneven consistency they create. Put the potatoes in a medium-sized pot over medium heat and slowly stir in the warmed milk. Once the potatoes and milk are creamy and incorporated, add in the butter little by little. Add kosher salt to taste.
2x About .75 pound steaks (filet mignon, rib eye, center cut lamb steak, or your cut of choice)
1 tablespoon Hawaiian rock salt (sea or kosher salt can work in a pinch)
*Makes 2 servings
Rub both sides of the steak with salt. Leave in fridge at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove from fridge 2 hours before cooking. Get a cast iron smoking hot (this takes a bit of time over medium high heat) and add a bit of butter. Cook each side for 4 minutes for a medium rare consistency. Cook for more or less time depending on how you like your steak. Be careful not to overcrowd pan. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve. This can also be barbecued on a grill.
Simple Roast Chicken
Eggplant au Poivre
Simple Arugula and Celery Salad
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon mustard
Sprinkle of Kosher salt
3 cups arugula
1 stem celery with outside peeled, top and bottom parts removed. Slice thinly on a mandolin, if you have one
*Makes 2 servings
Whisk first four ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Drizzle onto arugula and celery a little at a time, being careful not to overdress. Toss with tongs or your hands.
Rose and Pistachio Chocolate Jewels
About 1/2 of one 11.5 ounce bag of best quality (I like Guittard) extra dark chocolate baking chips
2-3 drops food-quality rose essential oil
1 tablespoon roasted unsalted pistachios, crushed
1 tablespoon dried rose petals, crushed (I blitzed them in a blender beforehand)
*Makes about 15 mendiants
Set aside a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil, but parchment is best.
Fill a big pot of water about halfway up and bring it to a boil. Put a small metal mixing bowl, filled with HALF the 11.5 ounce bag of chocolate chips. Hold the bowl with your hands or if it's too hot with tongs while continuously stirring chocolate with a small rubber spatula. When the chocolate is completely melted, add 2-3 drops of essential oil and stir again. Test for scent and flavor.
Fill a pastry bag or ziplock bag with melted chocolate, being careful that the chocolate is not so hot it will melt the bag. I like to fold the tops over so chocolate doesn't get everywhere. Snip a corner of the bag (not too small, you're making chocolate coins!) with kitchen scissors. Drop chocolate onto parchment about 2" away from each other. When you are finished, smooth the top down with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle pistachios and crushed rose petals on top. Put in refrigerator and chill for 20-25 minutes.
Another combination I love is wild sweet orange essential oil-infused chocolates topped with dried calendula flower petals and thinly sliced candied ginger pieces. Follow the same recipe as above, just swapping out essential oil and toppings.