Food & Drink

Gulf Coast Cooking: Try cooking up something special for Valentine’s Day

There is no better way of expressing your affection for someone than taking the time to prepare a special meal to share with them and Valentine’s Day may be the best day for it.

The two saints that this holiday was named for, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, had no romantic connection, that bit of lore was added in the 14th century. Since that time we have been giving gifts, writing Valentine cards and trying to be as romantic as our nature allows on the 14th of February.

Buying a gift for someone is special, but why not consider taking the time and to use your own hands to prepare an amorous meal?

Do a few special things to make it as romantic as you can. Use a nice tablecloth, add candles and reduce the lighting. Play soft music in the background. Think about the presentation of the food in advance so you can buy the special garnishes you want.

A single flower on the plate of the lady would be nice. Go by your wine shop and tell them what you are making and ask for the wines that would pair best with what you are making. If they don’t have a clue find another wine merchant to do business with or just use the suggestions presented here.

Salmon, crème fraiche, capers and red onion

This is a classic combination and is absolutely delicious. It is light and not filling and so is a perfect way to start. The smoked salmon can be purchased as a whole filet or in thin slices. If you use the filet cut it into large cubes. If you are using the thin slices roll them into little cups.

1 package smoked salmon

Crème fraiche

Chopped red onions

Capers

Arrange the salmon on small individual dishes, top with a dollop of crème fraiche and sprinkle with red onions and capers. Serve with a good Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling.

Crab cakes with hollandaise

Crab cakes can be as elegant a meal as can be imagined, care must only be given to presentation. The hollandaise sauce is a great accompaniment, but if you are unsure of that skill mix capers and their liquid with a good quality mayonnaise, add a green garnish and you are done. Jumbo lump crab is best but it is pricy. Buy the best you can afford. If your purse is light one can of crab meat can be made into two crab cakes.

16 ounce crab meat (6-8 cakes)

3 ounces of Panko bread crumbs

1 medium chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

3-4 cloves chopped garlic

2 slices bacon

1-2 eggs

2-3 tablespoons capers

Black pepper

Red pepper flakes

Italian seasoning

Butter

Cook the bacon until crispy, remove and chop, set aside. In the same pan sauté the onion in a little butter for 5 minutes, season as you go, add the celery and cook for 10 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat and in a large bowl mix the vegetables, breadcrumbs and bacon, allow to cool slightly and then add the eggs and crab. Be careful not to break up the lump crab. Form into cakes of the same size and sauté in butter until well browned. Serve topped with the hollandaise sauce and garnished with a few capers. This is one of those cases where you could serve a red wine or a white wine, it’s up only to your preference. Try a nice pinot noir; the Washington State pinots are taking the world by storm, or a pinot grigio.

Hollandaise sauce

4 egg yolks

1 stick cold butter

White pepper

Lemon juice

Bain-marie (double boiler)

Heat the water in the bain-marie to just over tepid, just hot enough to melt the butter. Add the egg yolks and warm, stirring constantly, as they begin to thicken add the cold butter 1/2 inch slice at a time, whisk until the butter has melted before adding more.

When the butter has all been melted, season with just a pinch of white pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. The sauce can be held over very low heat, but if you allow it to become too warm it will curdle and you will have scrambled eggs. If it does not thicken sufficiently raise the heat slightly, but use caution.

Brie and local honey

This is a very simple way to finish a romantic meal, the brie is not terribly expensive, although if you’ve got a few coins extra by all means invest in a

Formager d’Affinois, a French cow’s milk, double cream cheese. The cheese is brought to room temperature, topped with honey, preferably one that you bought from a local farmers market.

If you’re not crazy about using honey use a locally made jam, figs do exceptionally well as do pairs. You could also use fresh figs.

Serve this with a cold moscato or Chablis.

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