This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday. In our house, we observe the “No Meat On Fridays” rule for Catholics. I know it’s old-fashion and most Catholics today don’t abide by the “old rules” – it’s just our thing.
Needless to say, I needed to create a menu that was both romantic and “meatless” in keeping with Church teachings. Easier said than done, since my guys are big meat-eaters. The menu is basic, straightforward with plenty of short-cuts (buy the pastry shell for the pie rather than make one from scratch). If your house is like mine, you’ve got helpers in the kitchen to make quick work of the chopping, prepping and all that other stuff. I have two helpers in my kitchen. There’s my husband of nearly 30 years. One would think after all these years of marriage, he might know his way around the kitchen if left on his own. He doesn’t – but he’s great at following directions (when he wants to) and is usually assigned clean-up duty. (Which is a whole other subject for another day). My second “helper” is my right-hand man. My grandson has been my “assistant” since he could pull up the step-stool to reach the kitchen counter. He’s a full-grown man today, and he knows a thing or two about cooking.
Enough about the family (for now) . . . let’s get down to the business of menus and recipes, shall we?
The Menu: Pan Seared Scallops in a Lemon Sauce; Shrimp Risotto; Steamed Broccoli and for dessert French Silk Chocolate Pie
The beauty of this menu is that the dessert and the lemon sauce can be made a day ahead; leaving just the scallops and Risotto to make on Valentine’s Day. Sounds good to me.
Years ago, my husband and I fell in love with French Silk Pie. What’s not to love, right? (I’ll confess right now – I’m a pushover for anything Chocolate – and most things French – so this was a no-brainier!)
Ingredients – French Silk Chocolate Pie
1 Commercial Chocolate Gram Cracker Crust
1 Cup Heavy Cream, chilled
3 Large Eggs ¾ Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Water
8 Oz Bittersweet Chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
8 Tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and softened
Using an electric HAND-HELD mixer, whip cream on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Cover and refrigerate.
Combine eggs, sugar and water in a large, heatproof bowl set over medium saucepan filled with ½ inch barely simmering water. Using electric HAND-HELD mixer, beat mixture on medium speed until thickened and registers 160 degrees, 7-10 minutes.
Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, about 6-8 minutes.
Beat in chocolate and vanilla until incorporated. Beat in butter a few pieces at a time until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in whipped cream until no streaks remain.
Scrape filling into prepared pie crust and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours, up to 24-hours.
Ingredients – Lemon Sauce for the Scallops
1 ½ Cups dry white Wine
¼ cup Shallots, sliced
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled & Crushed
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon Ground Turmeric
Slice Shallots, set aside. Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (yellow part only) from lemon in long strips.
Squeeze 1 1/2 tablespoons juice from lemon. Combine wine, shallots, garlic, and lemon peel in heavy small saucepan. Boil until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.
Add cream and turmeric and boil until mixture thickens and is reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 13 minutes.
Pour mixture through fine strainer; discard solids in strainer.
Return sauce to pan. Whisk in 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tip: Sauce can be made a day or two ahead of time. Let sauce cool; then cover and refrigerate. Before serving, bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally.
Ingredients – Pan Seared Scallops
3 lbs Large Scallops
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat.
Working in batches, add scallops to skillet and sear until browned and almost opaque in center, adding remaining 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil to skillet as needed, about 1 minute per side.
Transfer scallops to rimmed baking sheet.
DO AHEAD TIP: The scallops can be made 20 minutes ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Divide your time. Prepare everything for the risotto, then start the scallops. While the scallops are resting, finish the risotto.
When ready; bake scallops until just opaque in center and heated through, about 3 minutes. Divide sauce among plates. Arrange scallops atop sauce and serve.
Ingredients – Shrimp Risotto
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 finely chopped shallots
1 cup risotto rice, Arborio or Carnaroli
1/2 cup white wine
5 Cups (more or less) Shrimp or fish stock (you can substitute chicken stock)
1/2 cup chopped cooked shrimp
1 Tablespoon finely chopped dill or fennel fronds
1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives or the green parts of scallions
Zest of a lemon
Chop chives or green scallions. Set aside.
In a heavy, medium-sized pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes until it’s good and hot.
Add the chopped shallot and stir with a wooden spoon to cook without browning for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the uncooked rice and stir well with the wooden spoon. Coat the rice with the oil and shallot mixture and saute for a minute or two.
Sprinkle about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt over it all, then add the white wine and stir well. It will sputter at first, then settle into a good solid boil. Stir well.
When the wine is almost cooked away, start adding the seafood, fish or chicken stock. Ideally you would use shrimp stock, but the key here is to add flavor. Begin by adding about a 1/2 cup of stock, and stir it well to combine.
Continue to add stock in 1/2 cup additions and stir Risotto frequently. Let liquid almost cook away between additions, about 25 minutes total, or until rice is cooked al dente, still a bit firm.
Once you have the rice at a good consistency, turn the heat down to medium, add a touch more liquid (about 2 tablespoons), and then add the shrimp, the lemon zest and all but a about a teaspoon of the dill and chives. Stir well to combine.
To serve, either pile it free-form on the plate or pack it into a circle mold. (A small cup will work. Simply invert rice onto serving platter or individual plate). Top with the remaining chopped herbs. If you do the circle mold trick, top the risotto with some delicacy, such as caviar. You could prop up put a whole shrimp or a shelled crab or lobster claw. Maybe add a tomato rosette. Use your imagination!
Ingredients – Steamed Broccoli
1 Bunch Broccoli
3/4 Cup Butter
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
Steam for about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender.
While broccoli steams, in a saucepan, place butter and soften over low-heat until almost melted, shaking vigorously.
Add garlic, swirl and cook 2-3 minutes or until butter lightly browns (not burnt, just a golden amber color).
Drizzle butter over steamed broccoli and serve.