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Valentine’s Day Dinner

Reservations are scarce, restaurants are crowded, and the weather can be frightful this time of year — so why brave the Valentine’s Day scramble for a restaurant reservation when you can go to the best restaurant of all: The one in your kitchen. You don’t need to make a reservation, you get to call the shots on the lighting, the music — and most importantly — the menu.

 

 

 

The secret to this menu is fresh, top-quality ingredients simply and deliciously. All you will need to do is a quick shop and do it early in the day if you can, then get out some candles and cue your favorite music for an intimate meal you can have ready in under an hour.

Plus, the act of preparing a meal for, or maybe even with, someone can be a romantic gesture. So, yes, a Valentine’s Day date night at home can be special, memorable, romantic — and delicious. Here’s our ultimate Valentine’s Day dinner menu that feels just as special as a table at a fine dining restaurant, minus the whole going-out hassle and it will leave you plenty of time for relaxed, indulgent dining.

 

 

THE MENU

 

Oysters

Oysters

Start with an appetizer of sweet, briny, velvety oysters: They are  the classic aphrodisiac for lovers and a great at-home treat. You can shuck them yourself — just watch this how-to video.

Serving them can be as simple as placing some lemon wedges and a small bowl of cocktail sauce on the side, or try an easy topping like chimichurri, a fresh, herbal sauce that is an unexpectedly delicious topping for oysters; try this recipe for a simple mild chimichurri sauce with chopped bacon and finely diced jalapeño, a pleasure for bacon lovers.

Oysters can also be served with sriracha and lime, a modern riff on the spicy-tangy combo. Also, a  Classic mignonette sauce, a sophisticated pairing of red-wine vinegar and shallots that’s so easy to make. They will be absolutely delicious.

 

 

Surf & turf: Ribeye Steak and Lobster Tails
Few dishes say “special occasion” like surf and turf, a white tablecloth classic. Pair a beautifully marbled, ribeye with creamy, rich lobster tail.

There’s nothing quite like sharing tender, succulent lobster with someone you love. Wild-caught lobster tails are a fantastic way to indulge,How to Cook: Steamed Lobster Tails with minimal prep and mess (no bibs required!). Steamed lobster is a classic and tops for enjoying the pure taste of the luscious tail meat. Or you can roast the tails with a flavorful herb topping; this easy recipe shows you how.

You will want one or two tails per person, and have extra lemon slices and melted butter on the side, plus some flaky seas salt and cracked pepper — simplicity rules.

 

 

Twice-baked New Potatoes
Baking these creamy, fluffy potatoes twice — once to cook the potato, and again to crisp up the topping — gives a special occasion­–worthy upgrade to an otherwise everyday side dish. The technique results in a much more striking visual presentation than standard mashed potato fare, without being too labor-intensive or tedious. Add an extra-special touch of decadence by topping with chives and caviar.

 

 

Lemony Asparagus Spears
With their juicy stalks and slightly crispy ends, oven-roasted asparagus make a perfect counterpart to a fancy entrée like steak and lobster. Plus, it’s delicious enough to stand on its own without taking over the plate. Steam the spears or blanch them in lightly salted water, and they’ll be ready in minutes; cook them just until they turn bright green and the stalks just turn tender. Drizzle them with a little fresh lemon juice for a subtle pop of acidity and sprinkle of salt and pepper that takes this takes this side dish to the next level. For the roasted version on this dish click on the link here.

Simple roasted asparagus recipe (the perfect spring side dish!) - cookieandkate.com

                   Photo Credit: Cookie+Kate

 

 

Chocolate-covered Strawberries
Chocolate Covered StrawberriesEvery romantic dinner should end things on a sweet note. Chocolate-covered strawberries are an all-time classic romantic dessert, and for good reason: The juicy, sweet-tart berries pair perfectly with the creaminess of milk chocolate or the bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate. For and easy chocolate-covered strawberry recipe click on the link here.

 

 

Don’t Forget the Bubbly
For the requisite champagne, fill your flutes with Jacques Bardelot Brut, a crisp, dry French  Champagne with clean and balanced flavors that will complement, rather than overpower, the meal. Not a fan of bubbly? Consider the wine pairing or H&G Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon with the ribeye.

Another suggestion is a sparkling wine: Toad Hollow Risque French Sparkling Wine,  which is a fruity sparkling wine with a natural delicate sweetness.

And in serving champagne or wine at at home with your special dinner has another benefit to staying in: no corkage fee!

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Feta Stuffed Pork Chops

 

This recipe makes for pork chops that a are flavorful, juicy, and tender. This oven-baked technique will ensure that your pork has a delicious crust and a perfectly cooked interior. Just follow these simple tips below and prepare yourself to reconsider everything you know about this weeknight-friendly cut. The recipe follows.

Tips on Cooking the Perfect Pork Chops

1. Buy the pork chops bone-in and thick.
Typically, bone-in pork chops are thicker than those with the bone removed. A thin pork chop is difficult to cook perfectly with this method, because of the hard sear you give both sides before it goes in the oven. If a chop is too thin, by the time you’ve seared both sides, the thing is practically overcooked! Choosing a thick chop allows you to get a nice golden sear on both sides and a perfectly cooked tender center.

2. Get your skillet HOT.
The goal of this initial sear is to get a golden, crisp crust on your chop without really cooking the center. I find that using a cast iron skillet is the best for cooking pork chops. A hot skillet is so CRUCIAL. Let your pork chops cook a couple minutes undisturbed, then take a peek and see how that golden crust is forming. When you are pleased with the desired golden sear, flip the chops over and brown them again, to get golden on the other side.

3. Brush with butter.
This classic restaurant trick—basting with butter while cooking—makes a great dish worthy f five stars. However, if you are trying to keep it healthy and watch the cholesterol, this step isn’t required, but it will definitely make the pork chops extremely delicious though. For the recipe below, you will be brushing a garlicky rosemary butter on the chops.

4. Use a meat thermometer.
Yes, many parofessional and home cooks will say that you will known the meat is done by instinct, but let’s be real, that takes years of experience by being the kitchen. But if you are not familiar with the “doneness” of your proteins, using a meat thermometer will make your life just a tad bit easier. I know, I know. This is the extra step that often seems fussy, but trust me, it’s worth it. Using a meat thermometer takes the guess work out of cooking pork chops, and that’s “a good thing.” The temperature you pull your chops at is totally up to you, but here’s a quick guide to choosing the right temperature for your taste. As always, give the meat some time to rest before digging in. Five to ten minutes should do the trick.

  1. 120°-130° F: This is comfortably at medium rare. Warning! You will see pink, and that’s is perfectly fine (See the USDA tips for cooking pork). The pork chop will be rosy-pink on the inside and super juicy.
  2. 130°-140° F: For those who are not comfortable with pink pork, this might be the right temperature zone for you. There will be a touch of pink in the center, but for the most part the flesh will be white. The meat will still be nice and juicy.
  3. 140°-145° F: No pink here! The meat will be completely white all the way through. Pork chops at this temperature will still have the potential to be juicy, just be sure to pull them from the oven on the lower end of this spectrum, as the chops will continue to cook even after they’re out of the oven. Anything past 145° F is the danger DRY zone, so keep a close watch.

Other than that, good luck and happy eating!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Feta Cheese Filling:
3 tablespoons feta cheese (crumbled)
2/3 cup diced sun dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil

Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, taste

For the Pork Chops:
4 bone-in pork loin chops
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, taste

For the Glaze:
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Mix feta cheese, tomatoes, parsley and olive oil in a bowl. Use the tip of a sharp boning or paring knife to cut a 3-inch slit in the side of each pork chop, 2 inches deep and 1/4-inch away from the bone, to make a pocket for stuffing. Stuff pork chops with feta cheese filling and secure with toothpicks.

Season pork chops with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl mix together butter, rosemary, and garlic. Set aside.

In cast iron or oven safe skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil then add pork chops. Sear until golden, 4 minutes, flip and cook 4 minutes more. Brush pork chops generously with garlic butter.

Place the skillet in oven and cook until cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Serve with more garlic butter, if desired.

pork-chop-verticalPhoto Credit: Ethan Calabrese, 2018.

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