Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate with those you love. Why put added pressure on yourself by preparing an overly elaborate meal when a few special dishes can win your valentine's heart?
Here are two dishes, an appetizer of scallops and a chocolate-coated pear for dessert. Both recipes can be made in advance allowing you time to relax and enjoy your valentine.
There is something seductive about scallops. In the following recipe the delicate flavor of the scallop contrasts with the sharp bite of the parmesan-reggiano crust.
Also, nothing is more romantic than fruit and chocolate, especially when they are combined into one dessert. Here is a slight twist on one of our most popular desserts at Z Bistro. We take a simple pear, poach it and then cover it in chocolate - a perfect way to end a meal.
Coquille St. Jacques
Makes 4 servings
12 large scallops
1 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon Spanish paprika
1 dash of crystal hot sauce
salt to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan-reggiano cheese
4 scallop shells (found at World Market) or a small gratin dish
Dry scallops with paper towel and season. Warm a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil. When oil is hot, place scallops in pan and sear each side, about 2 minutes per side. Set scallops aside, add the butter and shallots to the pan, stirring until shallots soften. Add vermouth and reduce by half. Add paprika and cream to pan and reduce by half again. Add the dash of hot sauce and salt to taste. Set aside until liquid is tepid.
If using the scallop shells place the shells on a baking sheet then add three of the seared scallops to each shell and cover with sauce; sprinkle grated cheese on top, repeat for all four shells.
If using a gratin dish, place all seared scallops in dish, cover with sauce and add grated cheese.
At this point you can cover the scallops and refrigerate until ready to serve. If serving immediately, place scallop shells on baking sheet under the preheated broiler for 2 minutes or until the top starts to develop a crust. If you refrigerated the dish place the scallop shells on a baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, then broil.
Serve the hot and fragrant scallop shells on individual plates. Enjoy.
Makes 4 servings
1 quart water
1 quart Sauvignon blanc wine
zest in strips of one orange
zest in strips of one lemon
2 cups sugar
juice of one lemon
4 Bosc pears, medium ripe with stems
8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
1/2 cup cream
Peel pears carefully leaving the stem attached. Place in a bowl of water with a little lemon juice.
In a large pot, bring the water and wine to a boil then add all other ingredients except the pears. When sugar is dissolved, place the pears in the liquid and simmer for 1 hour, shaking the pan gently to move the pears around. Don't stir the liquid or the pears will bruise.
If made in advance, store the pears in the poaching liquid. Drain the pears and let sit for a half hour before coating with chocolate.
In a bowl over simmering water add the chocolate and cream; stir until chocolate is melted. Dip the bulbous part of the poached pear into the chocolate, holding the pear by the stem, leaving the top of the pear bare. Place pear with chocolate coating on individual serving plates and serve.
• Gilles Halhaut and his wife Tina own Z Bistro, 725 Basque Way.