Publish by 406 Woman Magazine
By Kristen Ledyard Owner/Executive Chef or John’s Angels Catering LLC
It is the beginning of a new year and the start of better cooking with your pantry. We have added to your pantry, prepared appetizers in a moments notice, created a Holiday dinner, and now it is time for a romantic dinner for two. It is so true that giving of your own time is the greatest gift you can give someone you love.
First, start with the menu planning. I get my best ideas by simply opening my pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and looking at what I have. After my light bulb goes on, I prepare my grocery list of things I need to complete my menu. To make this meal extra special let’s create four courses. This meal should have a “wow” factor, but not be so difficult that you can’t enjoy each other and spend some quality time that all of us need to have together. With some careful planning and a fully stocked pantry, most of the menu can be prepared ahead of time. Remember that simple is better, especially with food.
Valentines Dinner for Two:
Jumbo shrimp with “drunken” cocktail sauce
Mixed greens with mango, avocado, and citrus vinaigrette
Wild King Salmon with fresh lemon and dill
Truffle mashed potatoes
Fresh green beans and julienne carrots in a white wine butter glaze
Chocolate Mousse for Two
Your menu is complete and you will be amazed how easy it will be to put together. You have all of the seasonings required in your pantry, but you will need to purchase the seafood from a good local source. Make sure your shrimp are no smaller than 16/20 size and because it is a special evening, go for the U-15 (the really big ones). On your salmon, make sure it is wild and purchase a filet no smaller than 1 lb (this will give you left overs) that is not towards the tail end. You will need 5 lemons, 2 limes, 2 oranges, 2 mangos, 1 avocado, two handfuls green beans, 2 carrots, mixed greens, fresh dill, and bittersweet chocolate that you may not currently have. I always suggest local organic markets, but during winter you may have to go to the grocery store or check with your local health food markets for produce.
It is time to cook. We are going to start with dessert first so it can set up. This way you can have it plated and in the refrigerator ready to go.
Easy Chocolate Mousse
13 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a microwave safe bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and butter. Heat until melted stirring often. Whisk in the egg yolks and set aside to cool. Pour the cream into a chilled mixer bowl and beat until slightly thickened. Add the vanilla
and sugar slowly and beat until stiff peaks occur. Carefully
fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture and keep chilled until you want to plate.
Now we are on to your appetizer, which, along with your mousse, can be plated and placed in the refrigerator until you want to serve.
Jumbo Shrimp with “Drunken”
Make sure your shrimp are peeled and deveined. In a pot of easy boiling water, squeeze your lemons, lime, orange, and add your salt. Carefully drop your shrimp in only until they turn pink and no longer. Have an ice bath ready to drop the shrimp into. This will stop the cooking process. Pat dry and set aside. Put your ketchup in a bowl and simply add horseradish
to your desired taste. Most people play around too much with cocktail sauce, but I have found that this recipe enhances your beautiful shrimp. The final touch (which is completely optional but really adds the final kick) is to float 1-2tbs of vodka on top of your sauce. Use your artistic touch with plating and if edible flowers are available, they are a perfect garnish. Keep chilled until service time.
On to your salad. Again, this course can be plated ahead of time without the dressing. I often suggest to serve the dressing on the side so each person can put on as much dressing as they wish.
Mixed Green Salad with Mango, Avocado,
and Citrus Dressing:
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Make sure your greens are washed, dried, and set aside. Slice your 2 mangos and avocado so you can make a fan on top of your greens. Slice your lemon and squeeze one half on to your mangos and avocado so they don’t brown. Squeeze the rest of the lemon juice, juice of one lime, and juice of one orange into a bowl. Add your mustard and one glob of honey and whisk. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can add more honey if you would like the dressing sweeter. Cover and set aside at room temperature until service. Again, use your artistic touch to plate each salad. This is a great time to bring out those heirloom plates that never get used along with Grandma’s silverware. These items are to be enjoyed and really add that personal touch to the meal.
With everything done, you can focus
on setting up the main entrée so cooking
will take the least amount of effort.
Main Entrée and Sides
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick. You will cook your salmon filet on this when you are ready. Depending on your oven and how well done you like your salmon (I highly recommend medium rare) the fish should take 10-15 minutes if your oven is preheated to 375 degrees. To prepare your salmon, lightly salt and pepper. Then, thinly slice one lemon and place the circles on top of the filet. Tear some fresh dill and place on top of the lemons. Finally, place some butter pats on top of the filet. Keep chilled until you are ready to bake the salmon.
For your potatoes, skin on or off, boil the number of potatoes you desire. Then set aside and melt butter and milk in a sauce pan. Add a tsp of your truffle oil from your pantry to the mixture. When you are ready to serve all you have to do is add your hot butter mixture to your potatoes and mash. It will warm your potatoes right up without over cooking them or microwaving them.
For your green beans, cut off each end of your beans to remove the string. Peel your carrots and julienne them. You can do this by using a tool designed to perform that task. If you don’t have a tool, thinly slice your carrots into long strands. If you don’t trust your knife skills, use a vegetable peeler. The strands will be a little thicker, but will still look good. When your salmon is cooking, take 1tbs of butter and melt slightly. Add 1 ½ cups white wine and let reduce by half. Add your green beans and carrots. Toss in the liquid and cook until tender but still crunchy.
If your timing is right, it should all come out at once and can be individually plated or served family style. Be sure to use your last lemon for garnish around the salmon. This meal is not only tasty, but a beautiful display of color.
You better go get ready so you can put the final touches on your table such as candle, a personal card, or flowers. Sit back; enjoy each other and the amazing meal you have cooked by scratch. One final touch, I like, is to type up the menu so your honey can see all that work you have done just for them and keep them excited for each course that comes. In the morning, don’t forget to keep up with your inventory so every meal can be as enjoyable and accessible.
Happy VALENTINE’S DAY!