Impress your partner this Valentine’s Day with a gastronomic delight. Try your hand at one (or all) of these colorful recipes for an unforgettable evening.
Red Hot Margaritas by (Chef Rick Bayless)
Combine the Red Hots, water, cinnamon, brown sugar, orange zest, and clove in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until the Red Hots have dissolved. Pour the infusion through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
To make the limeade, combine the lime juice, granulated sugar and water in a medium sized bowl. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and refrigerate.
To finish up the margaritas, mix together 2 cups of the Red Hot infusion, 1 1/3 cups of the limeade, the tequila, and the orange liqueur in a pitcher. (You can mix up a batch of the margaritas up to 2 hours in advance and refrigerate.) Pour a generous 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of the mixture into a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds, and then pour through the strainer spout into your favorite margarita or martini glass. Garnish with a few lime slices.
Chef’s Notes: Think Drinks! After a round of Red Hot Margaritas, switch to sparkling limeade, made by combining lime juice with sparkling water and sweetening with simple syrup.
Curry Kaffir Lime Soup (Chef Takashi Yagihashi)
To cook the tapioca pearls, pour the water into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tapioca pearls, reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer, and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until all the pearls are translucent. Don’t worry if some break into pieces. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water, and transfer to a bowl. You should have 2 cups.
To make the soup, heat the oil over low heat in a saucepan. Add the onion, tomato, carrot, leek, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the curry powder, mix well, and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and simmer over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the coconut milk, vinegar, and sugar, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and carefully place some of the vegetables and liquid in a blender. Process very slowly to a smooth, silky puree. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a saucepan, forcing the liquid through the sieve with a rubber spatula. Repeat in small batches with the remaining vegetables and liquid. Season with salt and pepper and reheat over low heat to serving temperature.
To prepare the garnishes, put the shrimp in a microwave-safe bowl, season with salt and pepper, and add the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for about 2 minutes on full power (the timing will depend on the microwave), or until the shrimp are pink and opaque throughout. Keep warm. To serve, have ready sixteen 1/2-cup demitasse or sake cups. Thread 1 shrimp, 1 mango slice, and 1 cilantro sprig onto each of 16 decorative picks. Put 1/4 cup of the hot soup into each cup, and then add 2 tablespoons tapioca pearls. Place a skewer on the rim of each cup and serve immediately.
Gnocci Gratin with Gorgonzola (Chef Wolfgang Puck)
To make the gnocchi, combine the potatoes with water to cover in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and when cool enough to handle, scrape off the skins. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or ricer.
Dust a work surface with flour and mound the potatoes on the work surface. Make a well in the center, and add the egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg, flour, and Parmesan cheese to the well. Gently fold together all the ingredients until they are evenly incorporated. To test if the dough is ready, press it with your finger. If the indentation pops back, the dough is ready to roll.
Cut the dough into several section with a knife on a floured work surface. Using your fingers and palms, gently roll each section into a rope about 1 inch in diameter. Cut the ropes into 3/4-inch lengths.
Preheat the broiler to 550°F. Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and boil for about 2 minutes, or until they float. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a platter.
Combine the butter and cream over medium heat in a broiler-proof sauté pan, bring to a simmer, and cook until the cream is reduced by half. Add the gnocchi and turn gently to coat with the sauce. Gently stir in the Gorgonzola; do not allow it to dissolve, or it will be gritty.
Slide the sauté pan under the broiler and broil just until the gnocchi are browned. Transfer to a warmed platter or individual plates. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.
Chef’s Notes: Think Drinks! “The evening is all about celebrating,” says Wolfgang, “and nothing goes with a celebration better than Champagne. This is a great time to splurge and try something really special.” A crisp, dry bubbly will go with everything on this menu, from the appetizers to the dessert. Krug and Veuve Clicquot are two of Wolfgang’s favorites.
Goat Cheese Fondue (Chef Todd English)
To make the roux, add the butter and flour to saute pan and cook on medium high heat, stiffing with wooden spoon. Cook until it smells nutty and has a light brown color. Store in refrigerator or at room temperature.
To make the fondue, cook shallots and garlic in olive oil for 3 minutes in a medium sauce pot and season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pot with wine na cook for 1 minute. Add cream and cheese and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and place large electric mixer into pot and turn on high. While mixing and simmering, add roux to allow thickening.Once thick and smooth, remove from heat and season to taste. Garnish with toasted bread, figs, dates, and fresh chives.
Butterscotch Budino with Caramel Sauce (Chef Nancy Silverton)
To make the Budino, combine the cream and milk and set aside in a large bowl.
In a large, heavy pot, combine the brown sugar, water, and salt and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally to keep the mixture from scorching, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the mixture is a deep brown and smells nutty and caramelized. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk the cream mixture into the caramelized sugar to stop the cooking. The mixture will steam vigorously and the sugar will seize. Use caution to keep from getting burned by the bubbling mixture. Whisk until smooth and the caramel is fully incorporated. Return to high heat, bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and cornstarch. While whisking constantly, add about half of the caramel cream, 1/2 cup at a time, to the egg mixture. Pour the combined mixtures back into the saucepan holding the remaining caramel cream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 2 minutes, or until a very thick custard forms.
Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and rum. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into ten 3/4-cup ramekins or glasses, dividing it evenly and filling to within 1/2 inch of the rim. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until well chilled, or for up to 3 days.
To make the caramel sauce, pour the cream into a small saucepan. With the tip of a knife, scrape the seeds from the split vanilla bean into the bowl, and then add the pod. Place the pan over medium heat and heat for about 3 minutes, or until the cream comes to a simmer. Add the butter, remove from the heat, and set aside.
Have ready a large bowl filled with ice water. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the corn syrup and sugar. Add enough of the water to make a wet, sandy texture. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and cook without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan slightly to gauge the caramelization, for about 10 minutes, or until the sugar turns a medium amber.Remove from the heat, add the cream mixturebe careful, as it will steam and bubble vigorouslyand whisk to combine. Place the pan in the ice-water bath and let cool.
In a chilled bowl, whip the cream with a whisk until it begins to thicken. Add the crème fraîche and beat until thick and fluffy. This may be done up to 3 hours ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
Just before serving, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator. Reheat the sauce over medium heat, discard the vanilla pod, and spoon 1 tablespoon of the sauce over each budino. Top each with about 1/8 teaspoon Maldon salt and a dollop of the whipped cream. Serve the cookies on the side.
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