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Nothing Says 'Love' Like a Homemade Valentine's Dinner

Prepare this special meal at home and fall in love all over again!

Editor's Note: Chef and caterer Tammy Lipps of Manhattan Beach gives us an amazing sweethearts meal to celebrate and savor at home.

Impress your sweetie with a delicious Valentine’s dinner for two... in the comfort of your home.

What better place to enjoy the feast that such a meal can be, one that tempts the senses and is to be savored. And yet, is easy to prepare.

So here's a menu that will make you feel  “special” and yet comfortable, you can even dine in your pajamas if you'd like.

So let's move to comfort  food, which, to me is love.  

Yes, there are all kinds of menus floating around right now for all the “right” kinds of food to eat for Valentine’s--those that are aphrodisiacs of some sort and of course, healthy, which is fine and what we all strive to do most days of the week, but for me, Valentine’s Day meals at home should be filled with things that make you feel slightly decadent, but not too guilty, that make you fell happy, cared for, and loved! 

You also want to enjoy the time with your dinner guest and not feel like you have worked yourself to death.

Comfort food is different for everyone, but the menu below is a  favorite on my list. It’s one that you can prep and prepare 3 or 4 hours ahead and it’s ready when you are, whatever time that may be, giving you time to set a special table in front of the fire, chill the champagne and actually have a chance to talk with that special someone when they arrive or join you in the kitchen for glass of bubbly while cooking.    

OK,  the best thing about this menu is that so much of it can be done ahead, isn't taxing and still makes you and your guest feel “special" -- simple country French food, but oh sooooo sexy!

The Menu;

Mussels in White Wine-Herbed Cream Sauce served with warm, crusty bread

Endive Salad with Blue Cheese Crumbles and Toasted Walnuts in Classic French Vinaigrette

Coq au Vin Blanc

Profiteroles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

Your favorite Champagne

 Don’t get freaked out by mussels if you have never made them at home. They are so easy and so economical and mmm.

APPETIZER - Mussels in White Wine and Cream Sauce

3 lbs. mussels

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large onion finely chopped

1 large shallot finely chopped

½ cup buttery white wine like a Chardonnay

4 tablespoons chopped parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup crème fraiche or heavy cream (can be omitted if necessary)

Fresh thyme sprigs

Have the fishmonger clean the mussels for you.  Rinse them several times and discard any that are not completely closed. 

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and shallots and sauté until soft but not browned. Add the wine and 2 tablespoons of the parsley.  Bring this mixture to a boil. Add the mussels and season with pepper. Cover the pot and cook the mussels, shaking the pot once or twice to cook evenly, until the shells open, about 5 to 6 minutes. 

Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and place in bowl. Bring the liquid to a boil and boil until it reduces slightly and set aside. Discard any mussels that didn’t open. Whisk in the crème fraiche or cream into the sauce and season to taste.  Pour the sauce over the mussels in the bowl and garnish with the rest of the parsley and fresh thyme sprigs. Serve with warm, crusty bread.  

SALAD - Endive with Yummy Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

5 to 6 heads of Endive

2 cups walnut halves not pieces (I like a lot of walnuts). Use the leftovers to snack on later.

6 oz. of your favorite crumbly blue cheese

3 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Cut the ends of the endive/bottom ends so that you can separate the leaves and arrange on salad plate. Toast the walnuts in the oven at 350 until you can see them brown slightly and smell the aroma. After toasted, remove them from the baking sheet immediately so they don’t continue to cook. Set them aside. 

Whisk together the Dijon mustard and vinegar in a bowl and slowly add the oil until the dressing has emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over plated Endive leaves. Crumble blue cheese over and toss a few walnuts over the whole salad plate. Voila!

ENTREE - Coq au Vin Blanc (Just a fancy French phrase for a one pot chicken dish cooked with white wine. Do not be afraid.)

1 bag frozen pearl onions thawed and drained

10 oz. applewood smoked bacon cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup flat leaf parsley sprigs, chopped

1 fresh thyme sprig

1 Turkish Bay leaf

1  3 ½ to 4 lb. chicken cut into pieces (have the butcher do this), rinsed and patted dry

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups dry white wine

¾ cup chicken stock

1 lb. crimini mushrooms sliced

¼ cup brandy

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup baby peas (optional) If using frozen peas, they should be thawed and drained.

Cook bacon in Dutch oven until browned and fat is rendered. Transfer bacon to paper towel to drain. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat out of Dutch oven and discard. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown chicken pieces in the remaining fat in the Dutch oven. You may have to do this in two batches. 

When all chicken pieces are browned, remove them from Dutch oven and set aside. Add the pearl onions to the skillet and let them brown for 2 minutes. Add the cooked bacon, wine and stock, the parsley, thyme and bay leaf and simmer covered for 15 minutes. 

Add the chicken and simmer covered for another 15 minutes.

While chicken is simmering, sauté mushrooms in 1 tablespoon olive oil until they release their juices. Add the brandy and let the mixture reduce so that almost all of the liquid is gone.  

After the chicken has simmered 15 minutes, add the mushroom mixture to the chicken. Simmer covered until chicken is tender, another 15 minutes or so. 

Remove the chicken to platter. Add the baby peas if using. Mash the butter in a small bowl with fork into the flour. Whisk the flour/butter mixture into the sauce with mushrooms until well incorporated. Let this simmer and thicken slightly. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and serve over the chicken.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. 

This recipe actually serves 4, but you'll have great leftovers if only 2 are dining.

 

The hardest part about choosing recipes for this menu was dessert. Oh my gosh, so many greats that I am listing another option if you feel this one is just too much.

However, desserts are mainly made ahead with a few finishing touches right before serving. Don’t wait til one hour before dinner to do it, you will just stress yourself out.

Make the Profiteroles shells the morning of and they require nothing else until it’s time to fill them with  yummy ice cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce. 

Dessert - Profiteroles with Vanilla or Coffee ice cream (purchased) and oh yeah, Chocolate Sauce (also purchased)

Profiteroles (basic pate a choux dough)

1 cup milk

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 extra large eggs

Pinch of kosher salt

Pastry bag or large zip-lock bag for piping

Parchment paper

Heat the milk, butter and salt in saucepan over medium heat until scalded and butter is melted. Dump the flour in all at once and keep stirring with a wooden spoon.  

The mixture will come together on its own after a minute or two of stirring and create a dough ball in the pan. 

Continue stirring it around and cooking on low heat for an additional 2 minutes.   This is to cook the flour so it doesn’t end up tasting like flour. 

The flour will begin to “coat” the bottom of the pan. This is fine. 

Put the hot dough mixture into a food processor and add the 4 eggs, pulsing until the eggs are incorporated and the mixture becomes thick. 

Using a rubber spatula, scoop dough mixture into pastry bag or large zip lock.  Press the mixture to one corner of the bag if using zip lock. Cut the tip of the corner so you can pipe circles of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Dough should be circles of 1 and ½ to 2 inches and 1-inch high. 

When finished piping, take a damp finger tip and lightly push down the “peaks” of the dough. 

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, until golden, and then turn off the oven and let them sit in the oven for another 10 minutes. 

They should be golden shells when you take them out. Pierce a small hole in the side of each one to release the steam, if any left, and let them cool completely. 

Before filling, slice them in half like you would a burger bun.

They are ready to be filled with your favorite ice cream, place the top of the profiterole on top of the ice cream, and of course, drizzle with your favorite chocolate decadence.

Other options;

Purchased Chocolate Truffles w/Fresh Long Stemmed Strawberries……And Champagne!

Just try this menu  and tell me that you didn’t “feel the love”!!!!

“After all, what experience of food can compare with eating something good made by someone you can hug?” -- Marcella Hazan

Tammy Lipps is chef/owner of Manhattan Beach-based The Ripe Choice, a catering company.

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