Perfect Valentine Dinner, At Home

Instead of making a reservation, why not eat a romantic dinner at home? And rather than preparing it yourself, how about ?

The Early Show and specialty home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma concluded their special three-part series, "The Perfect Valentine", with an easy, delicious menu that chef and cookbook author Tori Ritchie designed to be made together, by you and your love.

The series segments originated from the Williams-Sonoma flagship store at Columbus Circle in New York City.

They were hosted by The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. She was joined by in all three segments by culinary expert Ritchie, a San Francisco-based food writer, cooking teacher and host of the long-running "Ultimate Kitchens" on the Food Network. Her latest cookbook is "Party Appetizers: Small Bites, Big Flavors" (Chronicle Books, Fall 2004.

Ritchie has created a delicious menu for two, certain to warm your heart and a perfect menu for a cozy night at home.

Ritchie believes it's more fun to prepare a meal together Valentine's Day than to go out, and eat the same meals as everyone else.

Items on her special menu include Kir Royale, asparagus soup with white wine, beef tenderloin, and chocolate fondant.

Food Terminology:

Kir Royale: "Kir" means an apertif consisting of wine flavored with liquer, and the "royale" part indicates a "Kir" (apertif) made with champagne or a dry sparkling white wine. This is what Ritchie suggests kicking off your Valentine's dinner with, to get you and your partner in the mood to cook.

Sear: The tenderloin filets will be seared. Searing is a method in which you brown the surface of meat by quick-cooking it over high heat, in order to seal in the meat's juices.

Chinois: This is a kitchen tool that Ritchie suggests using to strain your soup and your bordelaise sauce. A chinois is cone-shaped strainer that's considered better when straining soup or sauces, when you want to make sure you remove all seeds or pulp. It's made entirely of stainless steel, with a fine mesh that prevents seeds, pulp and skins from slipping through. But if you have a regular, fine mesh strainer, Ritchie says.

Bordelaise: This is a classic French sauce from the Bordeaux region, a brown sauce flavored with red wine, usually served with beef entrees.

Fondant: You probably thought this refers to icing made of sugar syrup and glucose, which is cooked to a specific temperature and then kneaded to a smooth, soft paste. This paste can then be colored or flavored and used as an icing for cakes and petit fours. However, for this dessert, "fondant" is the French word for dark, or "pure" chocolate, as opposed to milk chocolate or "lait." "Fondant" also derives from the French word fonder, meaning "to melt." This definition is also applicable to Ritchie's dessert, because she does call for melting the chocolate.

RECIPES:

Kir Royale

Ingredients:
5 fl. oz. chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
2 tsp. crème de cassis
1 lemon twist for garnish

Pour the Champagne and crème de cassis into a Champagne flute and stir briefly. Garnish with the lemon twist. Serves 1.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Guides, The Bar Guide, by Ray Foley (Time-Life Books, 1999).

Beef Tenderloin with Bordelaise Sauce, Caramelized Carrots and Shallots
Tender beef filets served with a rich, velvety sauce are what you might envision for a romantic dinner. What comes as a surprise is the simplicity of this recipe.

To save time, you can prepare the bordelaise sauce a day or two in advance and refrigerate it until ready to serve. This dish deserves your best Cabernet Sauvignon or red Bordeaux as an accompaniment.

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Seared Scallops

At La Folie restaurant in San Francisco, the asparagus soup is garnished with a delicate scallop flan. In this simplified version, the soup is topped with a large seared sea scallop (as shown), or you can serve it with several small bay scallops. Chef Roland Passot recommends pouring your favorite Champagne alongside.

Ingredients:
1 lb. asparagus
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 shallots, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups firmly packed chopped spinach
4 oz. fresh sea or bay scallops

Snap off the tough stem ends from the asparagus spears and discard. Cut the tips off 4 of the spears into 2-inch lengths. Set the tips aside. Chop the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Bring a large pot two-thirds full of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the chopped asparagus and cook until bright green and just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon or long-handled strainer, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When the asparagus is cool, drain and set aside. In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, melt 3 Tbs. of the butter. When the butter is just hot, add the shallots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chopped asparagus and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the cream and stock. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook for 2 minutes more.

Transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pass the soup through a chinois into a clean saucepan and keep warm over very low heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. In a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. When it is nearly smoking, add the scallops and cook until evenly browned and slightly translucent in the center, about 2 minutes per side.

Divide the scallops among 2 warmed soup bowls. Add the reserved asparagus tips to the sauté pan and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into the bowls, garnish with the asparagus tips and serve immediately.
Serves 2. Roland Passot, Chef, La Folie, San Francisco.

Ingredients for the bordelaise sauce:
1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 Tbs. freshly cracked pepper
1 bay leaf
6 to 8 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bottle (375ml) Cabernet Sauvignon (about 1 1/3 cups)
2 cups unsalted veal or beef stock
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 beef filets (preferably prime), each 6 oz., well trimmed
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste, plus 1/8 tsp.
1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
2 shallots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To make the bordelaise sauce, in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the pepper, bay leaf and thyme and stir to mix. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, skimming off any excess fat, and cook for 15 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan and keep warm over very low heat.

In a 10-inch fry pan over medium-high heat, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. Season the filets with salt and pepper. When the butter is hot, add the filets and sear until golden underneath, about 2 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, turn the filets, and add the carrot, shallots, the 1/8 tsp. pepper, the thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook for 3 minutes for medium-rare, or until done to your liking. Transfer the filets to warmed individual plates.

Continue cooking the vegetables, uncovered, until just tender, 1 minute more. Add the sauce, bring to a boil and stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaf and discard. Stir in the parsley. Spoon the sauce and vegetables around the filets and serve immediately. Serves 2. Roland Passot, Chef, La Folie, San Francisco.

Chocolate Fondant

Chef Roland Passot of La Folie restaurant in San Francisco has created a simpler version of his chocolate fondant-a rich soufflé-like chocolate cake with a molten center. Paired with vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries, it makes a superb ending to a special meal. Serve with Champagne or port.

Ingredients:
Cocoa powder for dusting
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
4 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
Vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries for serving

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 450ºF. Grease two 6-oz. ramekins and dust lightly with cocoa powder.

In a heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the bowl over but not touching simmering water in a small saucepan and melt the chocolate and butter, stirring often, until smooth and blended. (Do not overcook.) Let cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until completely blended and frothy. Using a large spatula, gently fold in the chocolate mixture until smooth and blended. Sift half of the flour over the batter and gently fold together until just blended, then repeat with the remaining flour.

Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins and bake until the tops are just firm when lightly touched, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and raspberries. Serves 2. Roland Passot, Chef, La Folie, San Francisco.

Instead of making a reservation...why not cook dinner with your valentine? Tori ritchie joins us with an easy, but sophisticated menu that will make you and your valentine happy.
  • Brian Dakss

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