Valentine's Day is around the corner! Pandemic aside, I’m always a fan of a cozy Valentine’s dinner at home. If you’re staying in this year, and you need some inspiration, here’s how to have a cozy and sweet Valentine’s Day dinner at home.
First, I like to set the mood. And, let me just preface that the mood need not be specifically romantic. When you have kids, the mood can be playful and cute. Either way, it’s about conveying love to the ones you’re celebrating with. At the beginning of February, I like to adorn my home with things like candy filled dishes, heart décor in random places, a collection of poetry books bound together with a ribbon on a table, and roses or tulips in a vase in the entry. On Valentine’s Day, I like preparing a meal that will fill my home with delicious aromas. I add to the mood by choosing a couple of music playlists to listen to not just while I’m cooking, but during dinner, as well. I create a dining room tablescape that reflects red, white, pink, and a touch of sparkle. Sometimes, I use actual Valentine themed dishes… and let’s not forget the candlelight. As for the meal, I am sharing a couple of my favorite recipes that I love making this time of year… not just on Valentine’s Day. After you’ve put the time and effort into these two recipes, your S.O. or family will be feeling the love!
The Braised Short Ribs recipe is courtesy of Balthazar, my favorite NYC restaurant located in SOHO. My husband and I first dined there in the Fall of 2000, and I fell in love with their short ribs and chocolate pot de créme. Lucky for me, a cookbook came out shortly after, and I’ve been making these two recipes ever since. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do!
BALTHAZAR’S BRAISED SHORT RIBS (SERVES 6)
I recommend serving these over your favorite mashed potatoes or polenta.
6 beef short ribs (5 to 7 pounds)
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk, halved
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 shallots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ruby port
4 cups full-bodied red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon
6 cups veal stock (I cheat here and use beef stock)
Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Bind each rib with cotton kitchen twine. Place the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf between the two celery halves and bind with kitchen twine.
- Season the short ribs with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over a high flame until it smokes.
- In two batches, brown the short ribs well on both sides, about 3 minutes per side, pouring off all but 3 tablespoons of oil between batches.
- Remove the ribs and set aside when done.
- Lower the flame to medium, and add the carrots, onion, shallots, and garlic to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and light brown.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the flour and stir well to combine. Add the port, red wine, and the celery-herb bundle.
- Raise the flame to high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by a third, about 20 minutes.
- Return the ribs to the pot (they will stack into two layers.)
- Add the stock and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; if the stock doesn’t cover the ribs by at least 1 inch, add water up to that level.
- Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, transfer to the preheated oven, and cook for 3 hours. Visit the pot occasionally and stir the ribs, bringing the ones on the bottom up to the top—they’re done when the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone.
- Transfer the ribs to a large platter and remove the strings.
- Skim any fat from the surface of the sauce, and then strain through a sieve into a medium saucepan.
- Discard the solids.
- Over medium heat, bring the sauce to a strong simmer and reduce the liquid until slightly less than half (4 cups) remains, about 1 hour.
- Return the ribs to the pot, simmer for 10 minutes to reheat, and serve.
CHOCOLATE POT DE CRÈME