Editor's Note: Tammy Lipps' gourmet but easy, decadent but delicious Valentine's dinner menu was a big hit on Manhattan Beach Patch last year, so we're pleased she accepted our invitation to share another "eat in," romantic, flavorful menu for Valentine's Day 2012.
It’s me again with that decadent, romantic, comfort food dinner for two. What’s on the menu?
- Individual Lobster Pot Pies
- Baby Greens With Edible Flowers, Fresh Mint, Heart-Shaped Strawberries, Candied Pecans in Champagne Vinaigrette
- Flourless Chocolate Cake With Fresh Raspberries, Raspberry Coulis and Whipped Cream if you MUST…
- Your favorite Champagne!!!!
***How do you cut a strawberry into a heart shape?
If you look closely at the berry BEFORE you do anything to it, you can already see that if you carefully remove the green top with a paring knife, you have to do very little to actually shape the strawberry into a heart.
At the top, cut into the side of the green top on two sides, into the center, as if you are “coring” the berry, leaving the two round mounds (as if it were a heart). You may have to do a little creative shaping with the paring knife.
Then, after washing, slice through the berry vertically to create two or three thick strawberry heart-shaped slices (depending on size and thickness of the berry).
Easy and Elegant Baby Greens and Herb Salad With Edible Flowers, Heart-Shaped Strawberries and Champagne Vinaigrette
1 pint fresh strawberries
1 package/bag of mixed baby greens
1 Herbed Salad mix with fresh mint. Just purchase mint separately and add if not available in your store.
1 small package of edible flowers. Found in produce section of better markets
1 red onion sliced
1 small bag of candied pecans
Wash and spin lettuces in salad spinner and toss together in salad bowl with edible flowers, onion, candied pecans, fresh mint and heart-shaped strawberry slices. (Or place the strawberries on top of the dressed salad for a romantic touch). Lightly dress with Champagne Vinaigrette right before serving.
½ teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix all ingredients together in small bowl. Slowly Whisk in the olive oil until the oil and other ingredients have emulsified. Set aside until ready to dress the salad.
Individual Lobster Pot Pies
This is my variation of a recipe that I love by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.
1 large yellow onion, chopped
½ small fennel bulb, chopped
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups clam juice
1 tablespoon Pernod (optional: this licorice-like liqueur flavor is also created by using the fresh tarragon)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 pound cooked fresh lobster meat
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 cup frozen small whole onions
¼ cup fresh tarragon, chopped
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
2 store bought puff pastry sheets
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter and sauté onions and fennel in large sauté pan on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes or until slightly translucent.
You are now making the roux for the filling of the pot pie by adding the flour and cooking another few minutes. Flour has to be cooked so it doesn’t taste like flour in the filling. Stir the flour mixture every minute or so.
Slowly add the clam juice (it is better to add at room temperature than straight out of the fridge and cold), Pernod if using, salt and pepper and simmer, stirring every so often while sauce thickens. You are looking for a “pot pie filling” thickness here. If it gets too thick, add a little more clam juice or even warm water or cream to loosen. Then add the cream. Stir into the sauce and turn off heat.
Cut lobster meat into nice meaty chunks so it is not lost and shredded into nothingness. Add the lobster, frozen peas, frozen onions, fresh parsley and tarragon into the sauce, taste for seasoning and set aside.
Butter two entrée size ramekins or individual baking dishes of your choice.
Open your puff pastry sheets. (It is easier to work with cold sheets, not frozen, so allow some time on the counter to thaw slightly.)
Measure the opening of your entrée ramekins and cut a piece/circle of the puff pastry, slightly larger than the opening of your dish so that when placed on top of the filling in the dish, it will hang over the sides and create an amazing butter crust for the lobster filling.
Add the lobster mixture to the buttered ramekins/baking dishes and top them with the puff pastry circles. You may crimp them, as if you were making a pie, around the edges or just leave them hanging but secure them slightly by pressing them into the outside of the baking dish to keep all the lobster goodness inside while baking.
***Optional: Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter and cut out smaller heart-shaped pastry to add to the top of the crust for decoration. Just "glue" the heart to the unbaked crust top by using a drop of water.
Make a few cuts (you can do this in a decorative pattern) with a small paring knife into the crust to vent while baking.
Brush the top of the pastry crust with a little egg wash (one large egg and 1 tablespoon of water whisked together) with a pastry brush for a glistening finished crust.
Pop into the preheated oven to bake for 45 minutes or so, or until the pies are bubbling and crust is puffed and golden. Let rest a few minutes before serving.
***You can do all of this ahead/same day, before baking (except for the egg wash step) and keep in fridge for a few hours. Remove from fridge with enough time to let the dish come to room temp. Pop in the oven while enjoying champagne and appetizers then remove from oven and serve.
Flourless Chocolate Cake With Raspberry Coulis, Fresh Raspberries and Whipped Cream
Simple, easy, elegant and definitely do ahead!
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or morsels
2 sticks unsalted butter
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar or baker’s sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, more for dusting
2 pints fresh raspberries
Purchased whipped cream
1 9- or 10-inch spring form pan
You need a 9- or 10-inch round spring form pan, buttered with buttered parchment paper. Butter the pan by placing the parchment round on the bottom of the pan to help unmold cleanly after baking, and then butter the parchment paper in the pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter over a baine marie or double boiler (simmering water in a sauce pan with a metal mixing bowl set on top for melting the chocolate butter mixture without burning it).
Once melted and mixed together until smooth, remove from heat and whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Sift cocoa powder into the chocolate mixture just until combined. Pour batter into pan and bake until the toothpick test comes out with moist crumbs, about 35 minutes. (Everyone’s oven is different…I always check baked goods after 20 minutes to see how they are doing.)
Cool cake in pan until cool enough to release from the pan, invert on plate to remove the parchment paper and invert again onto platter for pretty presentation. Dust cake with additional cocoa powder.
Rinse all the raspberries and drain. Reserve 1/3 of the berries for topping the cake. Blend the rest of the berries in a food processor or blender to make the puree or coulis. You may add a small amount of sugar if berries are not quite sweet enough for you. Pour the coulis into a container to save for serving with the cake.
When ready to serve, cut small wedges of cake, it is very intense and rich. Before putting wedges on plates, pour a puddle of raspberry coulis in the center of the plate. Place cake wedge on top of coulis puddle. Drop several berries randomly over the top of cake wedges. Top with whipped cream if desired and serve.
Enjoy a COMFORTable dinner at home with someone you love or just like A LOT!