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Ultimate Valentine's Day Dinner

What's more romantic for Valentine's Day than dinner by candlelight?

Kerry Heffernan, executive chef of South Gate restaurant in Manhattan's menu to set the mood (including at least one item long thought to have aphrodisiac qualities):• Oysters on the Half Shell• Braised Beef Short Ribs with Wilted Mustard Greens• Chocolate Pot De CrèmeAlso, Kerry's chef's hat was automatically tossed into the "How Low Can You Go?" ring. The "shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients total at the end of the year will be invited back to prepare our holiday feast! Another great Valentine's Day Dinner! "Early Show" recipes galore!FOOD FACTS (all from Epicurious.com):

Oysters on the Half Shell: A phrase commonly used to describe raw oysters served on the bottom shell only, usually on a plate of crushed ice or, in the case of cooked dishes such as oysters Rockefeller, on a bed of rock salt. Some oyster lovers eat these fresh oysters without any condiments, sipping the oyster liquor from its bottom shell. Others adorn theirs with lemon juice, horseradish, Tabasco sauce, cocktail sauce, ketchup or vinegar.

Mustard Greens: The peppery leaves of the mustard plant are a popular soul food ingredient, ranking second only to collard greens. They're both members of the same family along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and kohlrabi. The leaves are a rich, dark green and have a pungent mustard flavor. Though they can be found year-round in some locales, fresh mustard greens are most abundant from December through early March. They're also available frozen and canned. When choosing fresh greens, look for crisp young leaves with a rich green color.

Short Ribs: Rectangles of beef about 2 inches by 3 inches, usually taken from the chuck cut. Short ribs consist of layers of fat and meat and contain pieces of the rib bone. They're very tough and require long, slow, moist-heat cooking.

Pot de crème: French for "pot of cream," this dessert consists of a creamy-rich custard prepared and served in tiny (about 3-ounce) pot-shaped cups. Though the classic flavoring is vanilla, pot de crème comes in many variations including chocolate and coffee.

RECIPES:

Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
INGREDIENTS:
1 dozen Fresh oysters*
Pairing knife
4 tablespoons Red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Coarse crackled black peppercorns
6 sprigs Chives, minced
1 Lemon, sliced in quarters and seeds removed

METHOD:
Oysters
Hold oyster in the palm of your hand with a towel to act as a grip
Position oyster in your hand with cup-side down with the curved shell facing down and the flatter side facing up
Insert a pairing or oyster knife between the shell, near the hinge
Twist the knife so that the oyster's muscle are detached
Remove the top shell
Scrape the meat from the top shell into the bottom shell
Serve it on the half shell with the mignonette sauce

Mignonette sauce
Combine and vinegar and pepper in a small sauce pan. Bring it to just below simmer, remove from heat and cool
Add chives
Splash a teaspoon over the just opened oysters and squeeze a hint of lemon

*Kerry recommends East Coast, West Coast or Sag Harbor varieties

FOR MORE RECIPES, GO TO PAGE 2.

Braised Short Ribs with Wilted Mustard Greens

INGREDIENTS:
3 pounds Short Ribs on the Bone (or 1 1/2 pounds off the bone)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Canola oil
1 Rib of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons Tomato paste
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle Dry red wine
1 quart Veal stock
2 Bay leaves
3 Sprigs thyme
1 Egg
1/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 cup Canola oil
1 bunch Mustard greens, rinsed and stems removed
3 tablespoons coarse mustard seed
5 sprigs Dill, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons Butter

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Season short ribs well with salt & pepper
Heat a 4 quart saucepot to medium-high heat and add canola oil. Allow it to get hot.
Sear the short ribs well on all sides until browned. Remove from heat.
Add celery, carrot and onion and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until tender.
Add tomato paste and garlic, cook an additional 1 minute
Deglaze the pan with red wine, reduce by 1/2 then add veal stock, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil
Add seared short ribs and bring back to a simmer.
Skim fat from the top and place in 325F oven. Allow meat to simmer very slowly for 2-2 1/2 hours until very tender
Remove from oven and let cool in liquid to room temp.
Remove meat from bones in one or two pieces and trim excess fat, cutting the meat into two rectangles. Chill meat in fridge
Take the cooking liquid and strain. Reducing it in the same pot, slowly skimming fat until reduced by approx 1 1/2 cups. Strain again.
Season and reserve.

Beat the eggs and milk together in a small bowl
On the longest sides of the short ribs, bread the rectangles by dredging it in the flour, then beaten eggs and finally the panko, again all on one side only
Heat canola oil in a shallow sauté pan, brown short ribs on breaded side and place into another pan with reduced braising liquid
Transfer to oven a 350 F oven for 15 minutes

Wilt mustard greens in sauté pan seasoning with salt and pepper until tender (the moisture that clings to the greens will be enough to steam it in the pan)
Drain any excess liquid.
Season with salt to taste
Add butter to coat.
Transfer wilted greens to serving platter
Remove ribs from the oven and place over wilted greens
Add coarse mustard and dill to sauce from meat pan
Drizzle over short ribs and wilted greens

Chocolate Pot De Crème

INGREDIENTS:
8 ounces Half and half
4 tablespoons Sugar
Pinch Salt
2 Egg yolks
3 1/2 ounces Best quality 60-70 % cocoa (Semisweet) chocolate, chopped into small bits
2 tablespoons Armagnac or other alcohol if desired
3 ounces Heavy cream
1 ounce Toasted slivered almonds

METHOD:
Heat half and half with 2 tablespoons of sugar and pinch of salt over medium heat to just below boiling. Remove from heat. Let cool for 1 minute.
Place egg yolks and remaining sugar in a small stainless mixing bowl. Whisk very well for approx 30 seconds to blend smoothly.
Add small amounts of half & half mixture into egg mixture being sure it doesn't curdle and beating well after each addition
When the milk and eggs are smoothly combined, add Armagnac and chocolate, let sit for a minute. The warm mixture should melt the chocolate and you should be able to whisk (or use an immersion blender) until very smooth.
Pour the mixture into 2 attractive martini glasses and chill 5 hours
When ready to serve, whip heavy cream rigorously until it forms peaks. Dollop on top of the Pot de Crème and dust with toasted almonds

So, how did Kerry do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

Oysters
oysters $5.49
chives $1.29
lemon $0.40
total $7.18

Braised Short Ribs
short ribs $5.99
celery $1.79
carrot $0.79
onion $0.83
tomato paste $0.59
garlic $0.66
red wine $4.19
beef stock $1.99
bay leaves $0.99
thyme $0.99
Panko $1.99
mustard greens $0.79
mustard seed $1.99
dill $1.29
total $22.87

Chocolate Pot De Crème
half and half $1.29
chocolate $1.79
heavy cream $1.49
almonds $2.00
total $6.57

Grand total: $38.62

He made it onto our leader's board!:

1. Stephen Kalt $37.40
Fornelletto

2. Catherine Cassidy $38.21
Taste of Home

3. Kerry Heffernan $38.62
South Gate

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