I’ve been in a Valentine’s mood for the last few weeks. Ever since hearts and cupids started showing up in the stores right after New Years, Valentine’s Day has been playing like a love song in the back of my mind. I even impulsively bought a Valentine’s day mask and heart shaped pendant the other day and I have Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” on repeat in the kitchen. It’s funny because Valentine’s Day was never my favourite holiday. I looked at it as just another excuse for the kids to eat way too much candy. Maybe it’s the Covid quarantines, on and off lockdowns, and the fact that, through forced confinement, our family has grown even closer this past year, but this February I’m all about the hearts, roses, sweet treats, LOVE and yes, even the candy. Really, I can’t wait for a reason to celebrate. Are you feeling the same?
Before the lockdowns began last year, my husband and I had a romantic little impromptu Valentine’s date night at a steakhouse called The Famous. Our reservation was very late – we never really plan these things, so we got the last spot available. The streetlights danced in the puddles as we walked down the road, looking for the side door which was actually the main entrance. Aren’t all the best restaurants the most obscure? A baby grand piano sat in a recessed area near the middle of the restaurant and the pianist was just finishing his last set when we ordered. The meal was phenomenal. A New York Strip Steak finished with bone marrow and coarse sea salt for my husband; a Maine lobster tail with drawn butter and lemon, for me. As for wine, it’s all a bit hazy, but if I remember correctly, it was an Argentine Malbec – very fruit forward and bright.
Taking a little inspiration from my husband’s dish, I decided to create a family-friendly version as a bit of a Valentine’s day prelude – like I said, I can’t wait to celebrate. My husband is a “steak and potatoes” kind of guy. When it comes to steak, the simpler the better – and the rarer the better. Just walk it by the stove and it’s done. My butcher was out of marrow bones (it’s really hit or miss these days, because of Covid), but I did find four beautiful top sirloin steaks, each about 1 inch thick. I seasoned them simply with coarse ground pepper and olive oil, and left them to sit for several hours in the refrigerator. Just before cooking, I sprinkled them generously with sea salt. The steaks were seared briefly in a very hot pan then, because these were quite thick, placed them in the gentle heat of the oven for a few minutes to finish off. On the plate, I sprinkled them with a little finishing salt and, in place of the bone marrow, a knob of shallot-herb compound butter which is a fresher, lighter alternative. (I shared the recipe for the butter on Instagram recently – find it here.) With the steaks I decided to serve crispy, oven roasted rosemary potatoes, tossed with fresh herbs from our indoor herb garden and fragrant whole cloves of garlic. I cooked the potatoes cut side down to caramelize the flesh, then tossed them with the same compound butter just before serving to tie all the flavours together.
Argentine Malbec is a classic steakhouse wine, but I prefer a Bordeaux. With this meal we had an organic Malbec from Maison Raymond in Saint-Laurent-du-Bois – the largest independent organic wine-growing estate in France. Malbec is a most under appreciated grape and it’s a little difficult to find a pure Malbec from this region, though it’s a component in many Bordeaux wines. In the world of wine snobs, it may be considered a second class grape, but there’s a purity and simplicity in its fruity notes that I love, and I think it makes a fantastic single varietal wine, but that’s the subject of another post. This wine, called En Mémoire Du Malbec, was intense with dark fruit, vanilla and French oak – the perfect match to the steak.
While dinner was all about what my husband loves, dessert was for me. And the way to my heart is through chocolate. I made a rich, chocolate tart, sprinkled with fleur de sel. The pastry dough is made with powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar which yields a more tender, delicate crust. A Valentine’s day classic.
Restaurants are just beginning to open again here in Colorado, and we’ve just moved down to Covid level yellow – another reason to celebrate! Even so, we’ll be spending a quiet Valentine’s Day at home. Are you planning a Valentine’s night out, or eating in with your family this year? Either way, I wish you a week of happiness, sweets and loads of candy with those you love.
Seared Steak with Compound Butter
- 4 top sirloin steaks (1/4 pound each, 1 inch thick)
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- sel gris, to taste
- Shallot-Herb Compound butter (see recipe here)
Three to four hours before cooking, pat the steaks dry and rub with olive oil and the pepper. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 425 F/ 220 C.
Heat a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium heat for several minutes. When the skillet is hot, add the steaks. Cook for 1 -2 minutes until golden. Turn and cook another 1 – 2 minutes. Transfer the steaks to the oven and cook an additional 5 minutes for rare, 7 – 8 minutes for medium. Remove from the oven, tent loosely with foil and allow the steaks to rest for 5 minutes.
Place the steaks on serving plates. Sprinkle each steak with a pinch of coarse sel gris and top with a knob of compound butter
Roasted New Potatoes with Herbs and Garlic
- 1 pound small gold new potatoes
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed from stalk and coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 Tablespoon compound butter
Heat the oven to 425 F / 220C. Cut the potatoes in half and place in a large bowl; add the garlic. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the chopped rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss well.
Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure all the potatoes are cut side down. Roast, without turning, for 25 minutes.
When the potatoes are done, place in a serving bowl and add the compound butter. Toss until the butter has melted.
Salted Chocolate Tart
for the crust
- 2 cups flour
- 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
- 1 egg, separated
- 7 TBSP water
- 1 tsp milk
for the filling
- 1 cup cream
- 1/4 cup milk
- 8 oz. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 TBSP sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs
- pinch of fleur de sel
Make the crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until will blended.
Separate the egg; set the white aside for later. Place the yolk in a small bowl and add the water. Whisk with a fork until well blended.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour. Use the pastry blender to mix until combined and the dough starts to stick together. Form the dough into a disk shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until ready to bake.
When ready to bake: On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a large circle, approximately 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the dough to an 11-inch (28 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Press into the sides and bottom of the pan. Trim the excess. Prick the bottom of the crust several times with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F/ 180 C.
Remove the pan from the freezer and line the crust with foil and pie weights or dry beans. Blind bake the crust for 30 -35 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the foil and weights. Whisk the reserved egg white with 1 teaspoon of milk and brush over the crust. Place back in the oven and bake 8 minutes longer, until lightly golden. Remove and cool slightly before adding the filling.
To make the filling: Heat the cream and milk in a small sauce pan until simmering.
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Pour over the hot cream, let sit for 3 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is melted and very smooth.
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Pour into the chocolate mixture. Whisk until smooth and completely incorporated. Pour the filling into the crust and bake 20 – 25 minutes, until the center of the tart is just set. While the tart is still warm, sprinkle evenly with a pinch of fleur de sel. Cool to room temperature before slicing. Serve with freshly whipped cream.