Friday, February 19, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner

A couple of weeks ago, I had a last minute opportunity to attend the US Bocuse d'Or final at The Culinary Institute of America. Twelve teams fought to be the US representative at the main Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon, France January 2011.

Chef Thomas Keller, is the President of the US Bocuse d'Or organization and while there I was able to get him to sign my copy of The French Laundry cookbook! (Awesome!)

Anyway.... Part of my Valentine menu was inspired by a recipe in that book and the beef broth I made, *did* come from his instructions and it took all stinking day to make. That's okay though. The flavor of that stock was A-MAZING!!!

Competition floor

Chef Daniel Boulud introducting some of the judges

One of the presentation trays as it passes the judges -- (thank you zoom lens for having the capability to get these shots from my seat in the bleachers!)

At church, we can sign up to feed the missionaries who are serving full-time. Right now, we have the cutest, SWEETEST Sister Missionaries that I just love so when I saw that they didn't have plans on the calendar for Valentine's Day (except church), I put my name down and got to scheming. I like to make food they normally don't get every day and for this holiday, I wanted to make it extra special and extra delicious!

Dinner was served in 3 courses -

{Course #1}
Sweetheart Salad w/ Goat Cheese Croquette & Sweet Potato w/ Rosemary Rolls
I made my roll dough like normal but before adding the flour and salt, I stirred in 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes and 1 Tbsp rosemary. A little extra flour is necessary due to the moistness of the sweet potatoes, but if you gauge it by how the dough pulls together, you'll have just the right amount. I loved how savory these were. Delicious.

The salad was in a parmesan bowl that I made, but I didn't keep them in the oven long enough and they flattened out. They were so delicious with this salad! What I did was use my silpat and sprinkled two semi large circles on the mat (on a cookie sheet) and popped into a 400* oven. Let it melt until nice and golden brown. Remove and let sit for a few minutes so the cheese is cool enough to handle. Slowly pull the cheese up and off the Silpat and place over an upside down bowl. Allow the cheese to cool and harden completely.

My "sweetheart" salad had mini hearts cut out of a red bell pepper, I did a zigzag cut around radishes and when pulled apart, they look like little flowers, I curled green onion sprigs by slicing the chive part and then popping in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Grated carrots, sliced cucumbers, and topped with a goat cheese croquette.

To make the croquette, I cut semi-thick slices off a goat cheese log. Dipped each slice in egg wash (1 egg white + 1 Tbsp water) and then into a bowl of crushed Panko breadcrumbs.
Place all the pieces on a plate and put in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes. Heat a little oil in a small saucepan and carefully put each croquette in to fry. When golden brown on both sides, remove and sit on a paper towel to drain. Put on top of the salad. This ooey, gooey warm bit of goodness is pure heaven!

{Course 2}
Parmesan Polenta Cake, Pan-seared Pork Tenderloin, & Root Vegetable Garnish
Polenta: Bring 2 cups water and 1/2 tsp salt to boil in a saucepan. Add 3/4 cup polenta and cook until thick. Add 1 Tbsp butter and a small handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese. Taste. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Dump out into a 9x13 pan and refrigerate. This can be made a day before hand to cut down prep time. I used a circle cutter to cut out all the cakes. This made 12 rounds. When ready to plate, heat a skillet. Melt butter and carefully place a cake for each person in the pan. Fry until both sides are golden.
Tenderloin: This part was the easiest. Cut thick slices of tenderloin. Season well with salt, pepper, and thyme (fresh is best). Heat a skillet over medium high heat. When hot, drizzle in some olive oil and carefully place each medallion in the pan. Sear for 3-4 minutes on each side. Pop into a 350* oven until the centers are no longer squishy, but still spongy. We don't want to overcook the pork!
Root Vegetable Garnish: Peel and slice celery root into batons (rectangles). Slice those little snack size carrots into quarters. Slice a beet and then cut into very very fine dice (small squares). Take 3 cloves garlic and crush with the side of your knife. Remove the dry skin.
Heat three saucepans up with water. If you don't have three, then just use one and alternate your cooking. Put the carrot and celery root in a small pot of boiling water. Cook until just slightly fork tender (do not overcook!). Strain and put the veggies into ice water immediately to stop them from cooking any further. Drain and set aside.
Boil some more water. This time, add the beet and repeat the same method as above. You want to cook the beet separately because it will bleed color everywhere and you don't want to change the color of the other vegetables.
Finally, we're going to do the exact same thing with the garlic! Boil in water until fork tender, drain, shock with ice bath, drain and set aside.
When you're ready to plate your food, put the veggies in a little saute pan to heat back up with 1 Tbsp butter. Season with salt and pepper. I think some chopped italian parsley would have been perfect for some color. I had used up the last of my parsley to make my beef stock so I wasn't able to do this.
Savory beef sauce: Heat olive oil in a skillet. Saute chopped carrot (2), 1/2 an onion, diced, 2 stalks celery, and 1 bay leaf. When the veggies are cooked through, remove from the pan. Add 1 Tbsp butter and move around the bottom of the pan. When melted, add 1 cup red wine and 3 cups beef stock. Cook over medium high heat until the sauce has reduced by half and is starting to thicken. If it doesn't thicken, stir a little beef stock and a tsp or two of cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk until there aren't any more lumps and then carefully add to the sauce. Stir well. Once thick (not too thick!), drain through a mesh sieve to remove any particles.
When you're ready to plate, put one of the polenta cakes in the center of the plate. Carefully stack two pieces of tenderloin on top. Spoon the vegetable garnish on top, and then drizzle with the beef sauce. Be prepared for pure silence at the dinner table. Everyone will be too busy enjoying every bite of this dish! :)
{Course 3}
Bittersweet Chocolate Charlotte
I'd been eyeing this recipe for awhile and decided it would be perfect for this dinner. What says "I love you" better than chocolate? Come on now.
To improve on the recipe, I made my own chocolate lady fingers. I have to say, WAY better than store bought but with all the eggs you need to make both the Charlotte and Lady fingers, I say buy them if you can find them. (I used over a DOZEN eggs!)
I love individual desserts for special dinners so I lined the inside of my ramekins with a parchment circle on the bottom (for easy releasing) and put lady fingers around the edge. I cut my lady fingers in half so they were flush with the top of the ramekin. Once you have sides covered, spoon in some of the chocolate mousse. Top the mousse with more lady fingers and press slightly to make sure there aren't any air holes. Cover with saran and chill overnight.
When ready to plate, I simply ran a small knife around the inside of the ramekin to unstick any lady fingers then sat a plate on top. Flip them over so the Charlotte pops out (might require some shaking of the ramekin). Pull up the parchment circle if it's still attached to the Charlotte.
I piped on some whipped cream (use fresh whipped if you can. Aerosol whipped cream will melt and deflate all over and will be a huge huge mess), drizzled with a little ganache I had in my fridge, and garnished with a white chocolate heart I made the night before.
The perfect ending to a perfect night! I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's day. When you're looking for a showstopping meal for your loved one, or if you just want to impress the pants off your guests/family, I definitely suggest this meal! You'll be the talk of the town!


Shirley said...


Natalie said...

You met Thomas Keller?! Wow. Even my kids know who he is thanks to Pixar's Ratatoulle. This is a particularly fabulous post, Suzanne!

Scented Candles said...

Wow these look amazing! Wicked post