Happy Valentine’s Day. I am sure many of you are planning on going out to dinner to celebrate with possibly some sparkling wine and maybe a gift or two. That is great; but what if you are afraid of the coming snow storm or maybe you just want to try something a little more intimate? With a little planning ahead and little shopping you too can make an easy and delicious dinner at home! You know; set a nice table, buy a nice/reasonably priced bottle of sparkling wine, light some candles, put on some music that means something to the two of you and see where the evening takes you. It may sound daunting at first but it really isn’t that difficult and I guarantee it will mean more to the two of you than just going through the same motions you always go through. Who knows, maybe you will like it so much that you will do it for each other more than once a year. Remember; you can go out to dinner, to any of our great restaurants in and around Ocean City anytime, why not try something different and make it special. Here is a sample menu and recipes that will hopefully get your imagination going.
2 Live Lobsters 1 ½ lbs. each
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cups white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
1/4 cup sugar
1 lb unsalted butter
1/2 cup kosher salt
In a large pot fill half way with cold water. Cut 2 lemons in half. Squeeze juice of both into water and then add spent lemons. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, white wine, sugar, ½ lb of butter and salt. Bring to a lively boil. When water is boiling place lobster in, head first and upside down, this will help the tail not to curl. Cover and cook at a light boil for 15 minutes. Remove lobster to a sheet pan and repeat for number two. Keep lobsters warm in the oven at the lowest possible setting (usually 170 degrees). While lobsters are cooking melt the remaining ½ lb of butter slowly over the stove and add a pinch of butter. When butter is completely melted, skim off the butter fat that has formed on the surface. Zest remaining lemon and add zest to the now clarified butter and keep warm. Serve the lobster split in half length-wise with nut crackers to get to the claw meat and with the warm drawn citrus butter.
I like serving lobsters with sautéed asparagus and Middle Eastern Cous Cous but feel free to serve whatever you like. Some suggestions are roasted potatoes, fried rice, French fried potatoes, sautéed vegetables, cole slaw or just a plain tossed salad.
For Dessert let me suggest something in a nice puff pastry. With the advent of good quality puff pastry dough being sold in grocery stores these desserts are quick, easy and always show stoppers.
Fresh Apple Tart
1 lb. chilled puff pastry dough (allow frozen dough to thaw in the fridge overnight and try to buy dough made with real butter)
3 Granny Smith apples
¼ cup sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup apricot glaze
Recipe: take 1 cup of apricot preserves and buzz it in your food processor. In a small saucepan add puree and 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of dark rum. Bring to a boil and reduce until thick. Keep warm.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle 1/8 in. thick and trim to 15 in. long and 6 in. wide (does not need to be exact). Working quickly, roll onto your pin and unroll it onto a buttered sheet pan. Using cold water and a pastry brush paint a ½ inch border around rectangle and then fold the sides over this to create a rim. Using a fork, crimp down the inner edges to prevent the rim from separating. With the tips of your fork prick the inside surface of the dough all over. Refrigerate dough for at least ½ hour.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
While dough is chilling, peel, halve and core out the apples. Slice the apples, somewhat thinly, crosswise.
To assemble: Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly into the tart shell. Arrange apples in a fan design, alternating directions with each row. Sprinkle the remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture over the apples.
Bake the tart in the upper middle level of the pre-heated oven. It is done when the pastry is lightly browned; the apples will color slightly and should be perfectly tender.
While tart is still hot paint with the apricot glaze.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
I hope this gives you some ideas for this Valentine’s Day or any other day. I am pretty sure your significant other will be impressed and who knows you might even get lucky!