Forget about calories — the way to a person's heart is through his or her stomach. Whether you're trying to woo your special someone, or reminding that person that you love him or her, this great meal from Chef Lou Lambert, author of Big Ranch, Big City: Recipes from Lambert's Texas Kitchens should seal the deal. He doesn't love to cook at home since he spends his work days in the kitchen, but Valentine's Day is one of those special occasions where he doesn't mind whipping out the pots and pans for his husband, James.
"[Valentine's Day] is the one day of the year that I can give a little back to James for putting up with being married to a chef for the last 16 years. It’s the one day of the year that he gets breakfast in bed and a spectacular dinner party, but only for the two of us," he says."I always plan the menu around foods with bold flavors using recipes that don’t have to be prepared and finished at the last minute. This dinner is about spending time with my man, not hours in the kitchen."
Like Lambert says, Valentine's Day is the day to show your love and appreciation. Show your significant other that you care with this delicious three-course dinner. You can, um, burn off the calories later.
Get the complete menu and recipes from Chef Lambert on the following pages.
Gingered Acorn Squash Soup
makes 8 servings
2 acorn squash (approximately 6 cups cooked squash), quartered and seeded
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, diced small
3 tablespoons finely diced fresh ginger
1/2 cup small-diced fresh or canned pineapple
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
Fresh chopped tarragon, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Arrange the cut squash on a baking sheet and brush the cut sides with the melted butter. Season each piece by sprinkling on the brown sugar and allspice. Bake the squash until the flesh is tender, about 30 minutes. When the squash has cooled enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.
Heat a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and ginger to the pot and cook until the onion becomes soft, about 4 minutes. Add the pineapple, salt, and white pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, heavy cream, and squash and bring to a simmer. Slowly cook the soup, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You can also blend the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.
To make the garnish, stir together the sour cream and honey in a small bowl. To serve, ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls and drizzle the top of each with the sour cream mixture. Garnish with freshly chopped tarragon.
Beef Tenderloin with Blue Crab and Béarnaise
makes 6 servings
6 (6- to 8-ounce) beef tenderloins
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
12 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for bits of shell
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
11/2 cups Béarnaise Sauce
6 tarragon leaves, for garnish
Lightly coat each side of the tenderloins with the olive oil, pepper, and thyme. This seasoning of the meat acts as a light marinade, so it is best to do this a couple of hours before you cook the meat.
When you are ready to cook the meat, heat a large skillet over high heat and coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil. Season both sides of the meat with salt and place in the skillet, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook the meat on the first side until a dark brown crust forms, about 4 minutes. Turn the steaks over and continue cooking on the second side for another 4 minutes. At this point, a 3-inch steak should be about medium rare (125°F). If you have a thicker steak or want a more well-done steak, transfer the pan to an oven that has been preheated to 375°F and continue cooking to the desired doneness.
When the steaks are cooked, transfer to a warm plate to rest. Return the skillet to the stove over low heat. Add the butter and crabmeat to the pan and gently stir just until heated through. Fold in the parsley.
Place the steaks on serving plates and top each with a nice dollop of the crabmeat mixture. Top each serving with warm béarnaise and garnish with a tarragon leaf before serving.
makes 8 servings
3/4 cup sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish
1/2 pint fresh berries, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a small nonstick saucepan, heat the sugar over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally so that it melts evenly. Cook the sugar until it is melted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Divide the caramel evenly among eight 6-ounce ramekins. Set aside.
In a bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, cream, and milk. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the egg mixture, being careful not to incorporate too much air. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a deep baking dish and place in the oven. Carefully add about 1 inch of hot water to the baking dish to create a water bath. Bake until the flans’ centers are set, about 50 minutes.
Remove the ramekins from the water bath and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then cover and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to serve.
To serve, run a sharp knife carefully around the edge of each flan and then dip the bottom of each ramekin in a bowl of hot water to loosen the caramel. Turn the ramekin over your serving plate and unmold, allowing the caramel to drip on top of and around the flan. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a few fresh berries.