by Nancy Sweet, director, culinary programs and operations, Lincoln Land Community College
Valentine’s Day is almost here. For many, that means a fancy night out at a restaurant. However, I think spending the evening at home with your significant other cooking a nice meal can be ever more fun and special. For this, though, don’t succumb to the pressure to impress by using new ingredients or techniques you’ve never heard of. Stick with what you know, but with some advance planning and attention to detail, you can still pull off an impressive and memorable meal. Here, I’m providing you with several recipes that I think work perfect for a special night-in meal.
Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce and Roasted Wild Mushrooms
Roasted Wild Mushrooms
½ – ¾ pound assorted mushrooms such as cremini, shiitake, oyster or button cut/torn into various sizes
½ tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Heat a large sauté pan over medium high to high heat. Add butter and oil to pan and heat until butter melts and starts to bubble/froth.
Add mushrooms to pan, but do not overcrowd pan. Cook in two batches if needed. This is important. If the pan is overcrowded, it’s going to bring down the temperature of the pan, causing the mushrooms to steam rather than roast. Let the mushrooms sear on one side, season with some salt and pepper, turn over, and let sear on their other side. Remove from heat, transfer mushrooms to paper towel lined plate, and tent with foil to keep warm.
Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce
2, 8 oz Filet Mignon steaks, about 2 inches thick
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 cup red wine½ cup beef stock
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Season steaks generously with kosher salt and pepper.
Heat heavy sauté pan or cast iron pan over medium high to high heat. Add oil and allow to get hot. Add steaks. Sear on one side about 3-4 minutes. Turn steaks over and continue searing for about 3 minutes. Transfer pan to oven. Let cook about 6 minutes (depending on thickness of steaks) for medium rare. Remove steaks from pan and set steaks on a plate or cutting board to let rest for 5-10 minutes.
Place pan back on stovetop over medium to medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add red wine to deglaze pan, and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that have accumulated on the pan. These bits are all part of the drippings from the steaks that will add flavor to the sauce. Let reduce by a little over a half. Add broth and vinegar and again reduce by a little over half.
At this point, mount the butter into the sauce. To do this, turn the heat down to under medium. Pull the pan off the heat for a moment to bring its temperature down if needed. Start to add in the cold butter, one little cube at first. Stir in the piece of butter quickly. As soon as it is melted in, add the next piece of butter and stir quickly until it is fully incorporated, and so on until you have used all the little nubs of butter. If the sauce needs a little heat to help get the butter to melt, put it back over direct heat or turn the heat up, but be cautious.
The trick is to have the sauce hot enough so the butter easily incorporates itself and makes a smooth, shiny, thickened, balanced sauce, but not overly hot so that the butter breaks and does not incorporate into the sauce and instead becomes a greasy red wine broth. You also want to make sure your butter is fairly cold. If the sauce looks like it is about to break (gets a greasy, grainy, un-incorporated look), remove from heat and stir very quickly. Adding one or two drops of water can also help bring it back. Serve immediately with the steak and mushrooms.
Pork Tenderloin with Apple Brandy Sauce
1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch slices
3 tablespoons butter
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper
Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high. Add 1 tablespoon butter and let melt. Add pork medallions and sear on each side for about 2 minutes each. Remove from pan and place on a plate.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to pan. Add shallots and apples and let cook until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add brandy and deglaze pan. Add cider and reduce by half. Add heavy cream and mustard, season with salt and pepper, and reduced until just thickened. Add pork back to pan to reheat.
White Chocolate Martinis
2 ounces vodka
4 ounces white chocolate liqueur
2 ounces half and half
chocolate syrup, for garnishing
grated nutmeg, for garnishing
Decorate martini glasses by drizzling some chocolate syrup on inside walls of glass in a decorative way. Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 full of ice. Add vodka, white chocolate liqueur and half and half. Shake thoroughly until combined and well chilled. Divide between two martini glasses. Garnish with some ground nutmeg.
From Terri Branham, Chef Instructor at LLCC:
Mini Flourless Chocolate Cake
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate bar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or espresso or another liquor)
1 tablespoons of butter, cut into small squares at room temperature
1 teaspoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon sugar
Preheat oven to 325°. Melt 1 teaspoon butter. Brush bottom and sides of 2 ramekins with melted butter. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into ramekin, turning to coat sides and bottom.
In a small saucepan, combine Grand Marnier, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Stir until completely dissolved. Set aside.
Fill a small saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a simmer and keep on low heat. Break chocolate bar into squares and place in a medium bowl. Place bowl over pot of simmering water. Do not let the water boil and be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Or use a double boiler.
Melt chocolate until smooth and creamy, stirring frequently. Remove bowl from heat.
Transfer chocolate to a medium mixing bowl. Slowly beat (since we are making a quarter of the recipe, you will just whisk in the butter) in butter one piece at a time until absorbed. Mix in grand mariner, sugar and salt syrup. Slowly beat in the egg. The batter should be smooth and creamy.
Pour batter into ramekins, divide evenly across prepared ramekins. Place ramekins in large roasting pan. Add enough water to the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of each ramekin. Bake about 20 minutes, until the cakes have risen slightly and the edges are just beginning to set.
Remove from oven, remove ramekins from dish and cool slightly. Use a butter knife to gently loosen the cake from the edges of the ramekin.
Invert each cake onto a plate and invert the cake again onto a baking sheet so that the tops face upwards. Cool to room temperature. Cover baking sheet loosely with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Thirty minutes before serving, remove the baking sheet from refrigerator. Gently remove each cake using a spatula and place on dessert plate. Dust with powdered sugar, spoon raspberry coulis on side, and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Fresh raspberries are a nice garnish too.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 786-4613 or visit http://www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts/ .