I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day fan. I never cared for it when I was single, and even after 10 years in a relationship with the same person, I still find it to be a challenging day.
Valentine’s Day is about conformity (red roses and chocolate, anyone?) and saccharin sentimentalism. I just hate it. I’m not much of a romantic. I take pride in eschewing silly and meaningless gestures in favor of the staunch pragmatism that I embrace honestly coming from a long line of pioneers, farmers, and fishermen. The greeting card aisle at Target in February makes me break out in hives. That cute teddy bear embroidered with “I Love You” eventually ends up in Value Village, where I buy it for a quarter for my dogs. And I’ll take a new pair of UGG boots over a dozen roses any day of the year.
But I do make dinner every Valentine’s Day. I’ll use any excuse to indulge my culinary spirit – even a cheap, greeting card holiday. And in a recent Value Village excursion to buy stuffed animals (including last year’s Valentine’s Day teddy bears) to use as dog toys (if you own a pit bull rescue, you understand), I found something special on a shelf surrounded by the usual discarded, dust-catching detritus. It was a Coeur à la crème mold, and it called my name from its spot between a fake Hummel and a hideous orange ashtray.
If the universe sends you a Coeur à la crème mold, then you must make Coeur à la crème. To not do so would guarantee bad culinary karma for years to come. So, I made a Coeur à la crème for Valentine’s Day, preceded by a porterhouse steak covered with onions and mushrooms, sautéed scallops, and sautéed butternut squash.
And at the end of the night, after everything had been cleaned up, and Valentine’s Day 2011 was in its waning hours, I sat on the sofa watching Casablanca (my favorite movie) next to my two snoring dogs and my one snoring sweetie. It turned out to be a terrible, windy Valentine’s Day night. The kind of night that makes you glad you stayed home and made a Coeur à la crème instead of reservations. The kind of night that makes one grateful to be snuggling under a blanket on her sofa with a couple of snoring dogs, instead of fighting for personal space with thousands of other post-dinner Valentine’s Day victims on the Red Line. As the wind raged outside, I watched Humphrey Bogart abandon his own dogged pragmatism for romance and sentiment, and maybe I caught just a wee bit of pathetic Valentine’s Day sentimental spirit when Rick reminded Ilsa that they would always have Paris.
Maybe I’m a little more of a sap than I thought. Don’t tell anyone.
Coeur à la Crème with Passion Fruit Raspberry Coulis
If you want to see a master pastry chef do this way better than me, check this out:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup marscarpone
6 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon very finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the ingredients and beat together the whisk attachment until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.
Line a heart-shaped ceramic Coeur à la crème mold with 2 layers of dampened cheesecloth. Pour the cheese mixture into the mold and fold the over-hanging cheesecloth over the top.
Refrigerate the mold on a rimmed plate to catch any drips for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 2 days.
To serve, unmold the Coeur à la crème on a dessert plate, and carefully peel away the cheesecloth. This is very hard to reposition, so get its placement right the first time.
Drizzle the raspberry passion fruit coulis around the plate and garnish with the fresh raspberries.
Raspberry Passion Fruit Coulis
2 cups raspberries (about 12 ounces), rinsed
1/2 cup syrup, (made by dissolving ½ cup of sugar in ½ cup of water, and letting cool)
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons Alizé (passion fruit liqueur)
Reserve a few raspberries for garnish.
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
Strain mixture over a bowl to remove the raspberry seeds.
Stir in Alizé to taste. I used about 3 tablespoons.
Butternut Squash Saute
(awesome with sautéed scallops!)
2 slices thick-cut, all-natural, nitrate-free bacon, diced (cut bacon in thirds lengthwise, and then cut into 1/8-inch dice)
one medium sized butternut squash, cut into brunoise (small dice) – about 2-3 cups of diced butternut squash
1/2 red onion, diced
finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Make sure that all ingredients (squash, bacon, and onions) are diced to about 1/8 inch. It’s important that they are small, and that they are the same size.
Sauté bacon over medium high heat in a large skillet until most of the fat is rendered, but bacon is not quite done.
Add butternut squash to the skillet with the bacon, and sauté until squash is just starting to get soft and is just starting to caramelize.
Add onion and rosemary, and continue to sauté until onion and butternut squash are soft and caramelized, and squash is still holding its shape but is just about to break down. Remove from heat before the squash reaches the point where it loses its shape and breaks down.
Stir in butter, and salt and pepper to taste.