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Ellen’s Kitchen & Garden

An easy and romantic Valentine’s Day dinner

Posted Wednesday,
February 12, 2014
0 ·
Photos/Ellen Fox Emerson
Chocolate soufflé, made with Sally Taylor’s recipe.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Valentine’s Day presents that special occasion when those in love express their feelings with cards, candy, flowers, a special dinner out or all of the above.

It has to be the most popular date night. But, I prefer to stay in, set a beautiful table, use my best china and try to make an easy but exceptional meal.

Filet mignon, a favorite for special occasions, is one of the more iconic dishes for Valentine’s Day. It might seem a little pricey, but a great filet justifies the expense. The meat has so much flavor and is so tender that it practically melts in your mouth. And to top it off, cleanup takes no time.

Two side dishes, fresh asparagus and duchess potatoes, also require little effort and make a beautiful presentation. And, for dessert, serve a chocolate soufflé.

Filet Mignon
Serves 2

If at all possible, buy your steaks from the local butcher. They tend to sell locally-raised, naturally-fed, hormone- and steroid-free beef. We have three here in Fauquier: The Whole Ox in The Plains, Wilson Farms Meat Co. in Catlett and the Marshall IGA. The IGA is typically where I go because of convenience and the wonderful learning experience. Holder Trumbo shares so much information on the cuts of meat, that on each visit, I pick up some new bit of advice or tip for cooking — not to mention that he’s a dear friend.

2 8-ounce filets of beef (2 inches thick)
2 slices of bacon (locally cured if possible)

Bring the steaks to room temperature. Just before cooking wrap each steak with a slice of bacon securing it with a toothpick and string.

Prepare your grill. If using a gas grill heat it on high for maybe 5 minutes and then cut back to medium. And if using a charcoal grill, heat until the coals are red hot and then spread them out evenly. Once the grill is ready place the steaks on using tongs (if you use a fork, you’ll pierce it and lose the juices) and cover for 15 minutes; then turn and cook for an additional 5 minutes. The filets will be a perfect rare to medium rare.

Let the steaks rest for five minutes before serving.

Duchess Potatoes

Serves 4

Simply put, this is an elegant way to serve dressed up mashed potatoes. They are relatively easy and can be made a day in advance.

1-½ pounds of russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/3 cup of sour cream
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of fresh chives
¾ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper

Place the potatoes in a pot with enough salted water to cover them and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. Completely drain and place the potatoes in a bowl. Mash the potatoes until smooth and then add the butter, sour cream, egg yolk, chives, salt and pepper and continue mixing until well blended.

Prepare a cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with a piece of parchment paper.

Place the mixture in a pastry bag, using a large decorative tip and pipe it into spiral mounds or any shape you’d like. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a plastic baggy with a small corner cut off to pipe the potatoes.

At this point you can stop and cover the potatoes with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or freeze for later use.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375° and bake for 30 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Serves 2

¼ pound of fresh asparagus
Roasted red pepper, chopped

Trim the asparagus and place in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, cook for one or maybe two minutes longer and then drain and cover with cold water (to prevent from continued cooking). Once cool enough to handle, place on the plate and garnish with chopped roasted red pepper. (The asparagus doesn’t have to be served hot.)

Chocolate Soufflé
Sally Taylor’s recipe
Serves 8 to 10

Typically when one mentions making a soufflé, a wall goes up. Many fear that it’s one of the most fragile dishes to make. Not so — just old wives’ tales — that if the oven door is opened while baking it will cause a draft or if there is a jarring of the rack, either will cause the soufflé to suddenly collapse. So with that said, be brave and make this wonderful chocolate dessert.

½ pound of semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate broken into pieces
9 tablespoons of sweet unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 ex large eggs, separated
¾ cup of sugar
Confectioner’s sugar for garnishing
Cocoa powder for prepping the cake pan
Whipped cream or crème fraiche (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350° and grease a 9-inch spring form pan and dust it with cocoa powder. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler and then let cool. If you don’t have a double boiler you can create one by placing a heatproof bowl that will fit snugly in a saucepan of simmering water. The bowl shouldn’t touch the water (the chocolate may burn).

Beat the yolks with ½ cup of the sugar until thickened and a pale yellow. Whisk in the chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Increase speed and beat in ¼ cup of sugar until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate in 3 or 4 batches. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 50 minutes until firm to touch. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes in the pan and the remove and place on cake stand and dust with confectioners sugar. As an added touch, when serving, offer a dollop of whipped crème or crème fraiche.
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