I know, we are barely over all the holiday and New Year’s Eve Celebrations, and already I’m pushing head-long into Valentine’s Day. I guess I’ve got some explaining to do . . .
Years gone by, New Year’s Eve was spent at home. We had a tradition in our house of making a Surf and Turf supper complete with mashed potatoes, a Caesar Salad and ended the evening with Chocolate Souffles. Believe me, it takes some real talent in the timing department to have the souffles served at the stroke of midnight. But then, we needed time between courses to digest all the wonderful food and be ready for a spectacular dessert. I once had a friend tell me that I was setting Kiddo’s future bride up for failure, since he was under the impression that everyone ate souffles at home on New Year’s Eve. My response – who said she had to be the one to make the souffle?
In any case, we don’t spend New Year’s Eve at home anymore. New Year’s Eve has evolved into an expanded “Family Affair” at my sister’s home, with lots of kid-friendly appetizers (love appetizers – all those little bites of delicious goodness – after all variety is the spice of life). We play board games and light sparklers at the stroke of midnight. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy family time. It’s always wonderful to spend time with dear old Dad and reminisce about the days when New Year’s Eve meant Guy Lombardo and Auld Lang Syne. However; I miss the steaks, the lobster and most of all I miss the Souffles. I miss making them, I miss eating them, I miss everything about them. Missing those traditional suppers got me to thinking . . .
And that’s when the light bulb came on. Just because our New Year’s Eve has changed doesn’t mean I can’t mark another day of celebration in the same way – say Valentine’s Day for instance.
Valentine’s Day as a day of romance dates back to the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-Century England, the day evolved into an occasion for young lovers to express their feelings for one another with the exchange of gifts, poetry, hand-written cards, sweets and flowers. Popular among the gifts were keys – said to be the keys to the giver’s heart with an invitation to the receiver to open a heart filled with love. I don’t know about you, but I find that romantic. By the 19th-Century had written cards had given way to mass produced greeting cards, and keys were replaced with jewelry. Since then, the price tag for romance has continued to escalate.
While the menu may seem a bit complicated, taken in small steps over a period of several days, it all comes together with ease. The Tarragon Garlic Butter and marinated orange zest are prepared two days in advance to give the flavors time to fully develop. The Vanilla Grand Marnier Sauce is intended to be served well-chilled and a day in the refrigerator will achieve that optimal temperature. Everything else on the menu is prepared the day of serving. Hubby grills, I cook and Kiddo lends a hand all the way around. Truth be told, I find cooking together almost as romantic as giving someone the keys to our hearts. I love it when Hubby and I get to spend time in the kitchen together. Somehow it seems magical and I am a firm believer in magic.
On The Menu
- Grilled Filet Mignon served in a Red Wine Reduction Sauce with Tarragon Garlic Butter
- Broiled Lobster Tails Brushed with Butter with extra Butter for dipping
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Chocolate Grand Mariner Souffle served with two sauces (chilled Vanilla Grand Marnier Sauce and Warm Chocolate Grand Marnier Sauce)
Additional suggested vegetables that would be lovely, bringing more color to the plate:
Smokey Pan Seared Asparagus
Brown Sugar Kahlua Glazed Baby Carrots
Prepare 2 Days in Advance
- Tarragon Garlic Butter – Recipe below
- Marinated Orange Zest – Recipe follows
Tarragon Garlic Butter is great on just about any kind of steak, can be used to butter warm bread or melted for crab legs. A pat or two of Tarragon Garlic Butter is also good with vegetables such as Pan Seared Asparagus or Saute Squash. It will keep up to a week in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer.
Tarragon Garlic Butter
½ Cup Butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
Combine butter, garlic and parsley. Refrigerate until semi-firm.
Remove from refrigerator, form into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Marinated Orange Zest is used in the Vanilla Sauce for the Souffles. It adds a beautiful flavor and a hint of color to the sauce.
Marinated Orange Zest
3 Teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
Combine Orange zest and Grand Marnier.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
Prepare 1 Day in Advance
- Vanilla Grand Marnier Sauce – Recipe follows
- Thaw Lobster Tails, if frozen (early in the morning is best)
The Vanilla Sauce and the Chocolate sauce are equally optional. You can make just one type of sauce or serve the Souffle with both. I like to put my sauces into little silver pitchers to accompany the Souffles and let everyone pour (or spoon) on the sauces to their heart’s content. Hubby is a Chocolate on Chocolate kind of guy, I adore the chilled Vanilla Grand Marnier Sauce and Kiddo likes to divide his Souffle with one half in Chocolate Sauce, the other in Vanilla Sauce. Serving the sauces for the Souffle in tiny pitches just seems to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to the overall presentation. But that’s just me.
Vanilla Grand Marnier Sauce
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Marinated Orange Zest
Dash of salt
Place 2 egg yolks in a medium bowl.
Combine whole milk and 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat; heat to 180-degrees or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil).
Gradually add hot milk mixture to 2 egg yolks, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Return mixture to pan; cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 3 minutes), stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, marinated orange zest and dash of salt.
Pour into a glass or ceramic bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare Day Of Serving
- Broiled Lobster Tails
- Grilled Filet Mignon with Wine Reduction Sauce
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Cesar Salad
- Chocolate Grand Marnier Sauce – Warm for Souffles
- Chocolate Grand Marnier Souffles
Broiled Lobster Tails Brushed with Butter
4 small, fully cooked Lobster Tails
1/2 Stick CLARIFIED butter (drawn)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 Teaspoon White Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
Dash of Paprika
Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a sauté pan. DO NOT stir butter while melting. Carefully tilt pan to draw out clear butter, leaving cream at bottom of pan.
Place clarified butter into a small bowl. Add lemon juice, white pepper, sea salt, garlic powder and a dash of paprika. Blend and set aside.
Preheat broiler of oven. Adjust rack so that tails are cooked 4-5 inches away from heating element.
Place THAWED tails on working surface. Flatten slightly. Using kitchen scissors cut right side of shell at wide side (opposite “tail”) lengthwise toward “tail”. Repeat on left side. Carefully lift shell. Snip at tail, removing the cut strip of shell. Run sharp knife down center of exposed meat to butterfly, flatten to open slightly. Set aside, and make clarified butter.
Lightly brush tails with seasoned clarified butter. Place lobster tails under the broiler, heat until golden and warm. DO NOT over-cook. Broil 2 minute per ounce. Small tails, 8-10 minutes or until meat pulls away from shell easily, brush with remaining clarified butter as needed to keep moist.
Remove from broiler and serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.
Butter for lobster can be served in small cups or better still, warm butter dishes.
Dipping Butter – Plain
1/2 lb butter, melted
Lemons, cut in half
Divide butter among warmers, light candles and let the butter melt gently. Or melt over very low heat in a pan, pour into dipping containers such as small cups or ramekin dishes.
Slice lemons in half, wrap in cheesecloth and serve with lobsters.
Dipping Butter – Tarragon
1/2 lb butter, melted
Tarragon Leaves – Finely minced
As above, melt butter in warmers. Add Tarragon to taste and serve. If melting butter in a pan, add tarragon at the end, just as butter is removed from heat.
Grilled Filet Mignon in a Red Wine Reduction Sauce with Melted Tarragon Butter
Grilled Filet Mignon
4 Filet Mignons, about 1-½-2 inches thick
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
3 Garlic Cloves, pressed
½ Cup Red Wine
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Season Filet Mignons with salt and pepper. Rub with garlic. Mix together wine and balsamic vinegar. Pour over steaks.
Let sit for 20 minutes, turning once. Build fire for grilling steaks.
Grill Steaks over a hot fire until medium-rare, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill.
Slice butter log into 4 rounds. Place one round on each steak. Tent to keep warm, allow to reset for 5-10 minutes.
Red Wine Reduction Sauce
1 Cup Full Bodied Red Wine
2 Small Onions, chopped
2 Tablespoons Beef Demi-Glaze*
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Bay Leaf
2 Tablespoons Butter, chilled
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Peel and finely chop onions, set aside until ready to use.
Combine wine, onions, demi-glaze, thyme and bay leaf in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a full boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until reduced to 3-4 tablespoons, about 10 minutes.
Once the wine sauce has reduced and thickened, remove from heat. Whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until smooth and well blended. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon reduction sauce onto plates. Place filet mignons on top of sauce. Serve at once.
*Demi-glaze is a royal pain – it requires the bone marrow of veal and choice cuts of beef. So I cheat – I use I packet of Swanson’s Flavor Boost. You can also purchase Demi-Glaze from William-Sonoma or other specialty markets.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
10 medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 Cup WHOLE milk
1/4 Cup butter
3 Garlic Cloves, pressed
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional: Chives or Parsley, finely chopped for garnish
Peel and cut potatoes. Rinse potatoes in a colander under cold water until water runs clear, about 1 minute; drain well. Place in a large pot with enough water to cover potatoes by 1 inch.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and slow-boil until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat milk, butter, pressed garlic, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking until smooth, about 3 minutes. Cover and keep warm.
Carefully pour contents of Dutch-oven into colander, drain potatoes well, then return potatoes to pot. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until potatoes are thoroughly dried, about 1 minute.
Using a standing mixer, whip potatoes until smooth. Add milk/butter mixture, whip until well blended.
Just before serving, plate potatoes and garnish with chives or parsley if using.
Optional serving suggestions:
- Fill pastry bag fitted with a large star with mashed potatoes. Pipe stars onto plate, serving filet on one side and lobster on the other.
- Use Heart-Shaped Cookie Cutter dipped in olive oil as a mold, position on plate as desired and fill with mashed potatoes. Smooth top, lift cutter and serve.
1 Head Romaine Lettuce
Caesar Garlic Croutons
Parmesan Cheese, Shaved
Caesar Salad Dressing – Favorite
Tear lettuce leaves into large pieces. Pour a small amount of Caesar Dressing on lettuce leaves, just enough to lightly coat leaves, toss to blend.
Plate on small salad plates, top with a sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese and croutons. Serve immediately.
Chocolate Grand Marnier Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a small saucepan, heat the cream and butter.
Whisk in the Grand Marnier, then bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and whisk in chocolate pieces until all the chocolate is incorporated. Serve warm.
Chocolate Grand Mariner Souffle
Butter, for ramekins
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra to coat ramekins
4 eggs, separated
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 ounces chocolate, melted
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1/2 cup chocolate sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 450-degrees with the oven rack in the lowest position.
Brush 4 small ramekins with butter, making sure to coat thoroughly, including rims. Coat completely with sugar, gently tapping out any excess.
In a small saucepan melt chocolate over low heat. Remove from the heat, whisk in the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and pour into a large bowl. Stir in the grated orange zest and Grand Marnier.
In another bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar to soft peaks, add remaining sugar and beat just until stiff. Add half of whites to chocolate mixture, stirring to lighten mixture and incorporate completely. Gently fold in remaining whites, keeping batter as light as you can. Some white streaks may remain. Spoon batter into prepared ramekins.
Bake the soufflé for 5 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 400-degrees and bake until the soufflé has risen 3 to 4 inches above the top of the mold and is springy to the touch, another 4 to 5 minutes.
Serve immediately, dusted with confectioners’ sugar , with desired sauces on the side.
Hubby once told me he didn’t need Valentine’s Day to be special – that every day with me was as special as Valentine’s Day no matter what we were doing.
Here’s to wishing you a lifetime of love and holding hands.