Happy Valentine's Day!
Tonight is the night when we celebrate love and romance. Because it is also a Friday, the popular date spots will be very busy. Perhaps some of you are going out to dinner, to the movies or bringing flowers and candy to your loved ones. Perhaps you want to skip the lines and bustle and enjoy a quiet romantic evening at home.
When I celebrate Valentine's day, that is what I like to do best. Enjoy a quiet evening at home with my wife. We pack our son off to Grandma's, light candles, pour the wine and cook a nice meal together. Cooking at home is great because we know we will get our meals the way we like. This year, I picked up some avocadoes for a pureed avocado soup, beef tenderloin, mixed red and white baby potatoes, asparagus and peppers for the main, and homemade vanilla bean creme brulee and red wine poached pear for dessert.
To celebrate the occasion, here is the recipe for vanilla bean creme brulee and poached pear for you to enjoy and perhaps make as part of a meal you cook for your sweetheart!
Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Makes: 8 servings
4 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 pod Vanilla bean, scraped
8 Egg yolks
3/4 cup Sugar
8 Tablespoons Sugar for topping
Preheat the oven to 300F. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the cream and vanilla pod and warm over moderate heat until the surface begins to shimmer, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, stir the egg yolks and sugar until blended. Pour in the hot cream slowly and stir gently to avoid forming air bubbles. Strain the custard into a large measuring glass and skim off and surface air bubbles.
Place 8 3/4-cup ramekins in a roasting pan. Pour the custard into the ramekins, filling them up to the rim. Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour in enough warm water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Cover loosely with foil and bake for 1 hour or until the custard is firm around the edges. (It may still be wobbly in the center but it will firm up as it chills.) Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool.
Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. (The custards can be prepared to this point up to 2 days ahead. If small pools of liquid develop on the surfaces, blot with a paper towel before proceeding.)
Preheat the broiler or a salamander. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet. Sieve 1 tablespoon of brown sugar over the top of each custard in a thin layer. Broil the custards as close to the heat as possible until the sugar is caramelized, 30 seconds to 2 minutes; watch carefully. Let cool and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
Poached Pear in Red Wine Reduction
Makes: 6 servings
3 Bartlett pears (Medium ripeness)
1 tsp butter
1 cup Merlot
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Slice pears in 1/2 and core them. In a medium saucepan, melt butter, and heat until it starts to brown. Add sliced pears face down until they start to caramelize. Turn over once caramelized. Add the merlot to deglaze the pears. Then add the sugar and reduce until pears are cooked and sauce has thickened. When pears are cooked through, stir in vanilla. Serve and enjoy.