Featuring a heart-warming French menu to beat the winter chill. (Ooh la la!)
It's date night at your place tonight — so what's cooking for dinner?
Before you ransack your kitchen pantry in desperation ... or worse: resort to your go-to (read: boring) chicken alfredo pasta, there are plenty of easy-to-whip-up dishes perfect for a relaxing, romantic at-home dinner for two. There's no need to make dinner reservations at an expensive restaurant.
We think staying in is the new sexy. That's why we've kicked off our Dinner For Two series! This week, we're serving up a mouthwatering menu that's sure to impress your date — sneakily flavored with aphrodisiac ingredients, like this traditional French beef stew.
We know, the Polar Vortex isn't exactly conducive to a steamy date night. But a hearty, fresh-from-the oven meal is just the right remedy. Pot-au-feu — translating literally into "pot on the fire" — is the perfect date night winter meal warm your bones. This flavorful stew — made with tender bites of beef and colorful vegetables — is slowly brought to a simmer in a pot. This gives you both plenty of time to unwind and get to know one another, drinks in hand. As for the other romance-inducing additions on this French-inspired menu? A zesty, sexy twist on the classic French 75 cocktail, fluffy, cheese-baked biscuits, and an oozy, gluten-free chocolate soufflé. What could be a more perfect menu for a cozy date night at home?
Blood Orange French 75
By Jeremy LeBlanc and Christine Dionese of The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending With Flair
Image: Sean Cassidy of Cassidy Images
With ingredients bearing a resemblance to the powerful kick of a French 75 mm field gun, this drink was created in Paris and brought to New York in the 1930's. This cocktail would an exciting alternative to the mimosa.
Yields 2 cocktails
- 4 oz Nolet's Gin
- 3 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 oz Freshly squeezed blood orange juice
- 20 pieces of Ice
- 1 oz Chilled Champagne
- Blood Orange Twist for garnish
1. In a bar tin add gin, juices and 20 pieces of ice (or 1 scoop of 475 mL shaker). Shake with vigor. To demonstrate it's namesake, pour dramatically into a collins glass and top with champagne. Garnish with blood orange peels.
The Side: Flaky Chive Goat Cheese Biscuits
By Alanna Taylor-Tobin of The Bojon Gourmet
- 2 cups (10 ounces) einkorn (or all-purpose) flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 3/4 oz. grated parmesan (3/4 cup)
- 6 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, in 1/2" chunks
- 1 bunch chives, finely sliced
- 3 oz. fresh goat cheese, plus 3 more ounces for sprinkling (about 1 cup total)
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Add the parmesan and butter, and work with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the butter is semi-incorporated with lots of almond-sized butter chunks remaining. Stir in the chives and crumble in 3 ounces of the goat cheese. Add the buttermilk little by little, stirring until the dough just begins to clump together and no dry, floury bits remain. Gently knead the dough in the bowl a few times to bring the dough together into a ball.
2. If the dough is sticky, or if it becomes soft or sticky at any time, chill it in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle that is a scant 1/2" thick and roughly twice as wide as it is tall. Crumble 2/3 of the remaining goat cheese over the center square of the dough. Fold the outer short edges in to meet at the center. Sprinkle the remaining goat cheese over one long side of dough, then fold the dough in half, like closing a book. You should have a long rectangle of dough layered with cheese. Press down gently to flatten, then roll the rectangle into a loose spiral, starting with a skinny end.
4. Roll the layered dough into a 7x7" square that is 3/4" thick. Trim the edges away (you can bake them alongside the biscuits), then cut the dough into 16 squares. Place the biscuits on a small baking sheet in a single layer and place the pan in the freezer while you position a rack in the upper third of the oven and pre-heat to 450ºF.
5. When the biscuits are fairly firm (they don't have to be frozen solid), Place them 2" apart on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (Alternately, store the frozen biscuits in double zip-lock bags to bake off when you like.)
6. Bake the biscuits until they're golden on top, 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before devouring.
7. The biscuits are best the day they've been baked, but extras will keep at room temperature for a few days. Be sure to re-heat them in an oven or toaster oven until crispy.
The Main Dish: Pot-au-Feu
By Yolanda NiTuairisc of Lemon Love Notes
- Beef (sirloin, leg, marrow & shin)
- 4 Baby carrots
- 4 Baby new potatoes
- 4 Cherry tomatoes
- 4 Asparagus shoots
- 1 Stem of leek
- 1 Big white onion
- 2 Spring onions
- 2 Green garlic stems
- 3 or 4 Bay leaves
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp. of Crushed cloves
- Coriander seeds
- 1 Branch of rosemary
- 2 tsp. of dehydrated bio vegetables
- A small bunch of parsley
- A pinch of Camargue salt (fleur de sel)
- Sumac or ground pepper or crushed mustard seeds for decoration
1. Wash all the veggies and put the chunks of beef in a large saucepan. Add water just enough to cover the meaty bones and the lean beef cubes. Add the bay leaves, 1 tsp of coriander seeds, 1 tsp of dehydrated vegetables and the cinnamon stick. Cover with a lid and let them simmer for an hour. Although not in the original recipe, I took the liberty of adding a cinnamon stick (I love cinnamon and I use it often with beef) and to my relief, it gave the broth an interesting flavour.
2. I chopped and diced some of the vegetables (the leek, the parsley and the white onion) but because I used mainly baby veggies, I kept the rest intact.
3. Watch over the beef as you need to scoop the scum that rises at the surface of the water. After 40 minutes of simmering add the chopped white onion (cut in quarters) and let it infuse its sweetness for 40 minutes or so.
4. Have a different pot ready and after approx 1.20 hours of simmering, remove the beef bones and set them aside to cool down. Sieve the soup in the new deep saucepan. Discard the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick.
This way, you will filter the soup and no sharp shards of bone will find their way through the broth.
5. Carve the meat off the bones, keep the lean parts and dump the fatty collagen-looking bits. Put them back into the clear soup and add the baby potatoes, the carrots, the cherry tomatoes, 1 tsp of dehydrated vegetables, and a small branch of rosemary. Return the saucepan to the cooker and continue simmering.
6. Thirty minutes before the end, add all the green vegetables: the leek, the green garlic, the spring onions, the asparagus shoots.
7. Taste and season with crushed cloves, fleur de sel, and thyme.
8. Decorate with finely chopped parsley and sumac. Sumac is lemony and I love the blend of flavours and textures. The baby carrots and the white onion taste so sweet,while the meat is so tender that it basically melts in your mouth. The soup is clear, but the tiny specks of dehydrated vegetables (onion, carrot, parsley root, parsnip, celery and tomato flakes) have now expanded and formed a delicious kaleidoscope within the soup.
The Dessert: (Gluten-Free) Valrhona Cœur de Guanaja Chocolate Soufflé with Bitter Chocolate Sauce & Whipped Cream
By Executive Chef Colin Bedford of The Fearrington House
- 1.5# 100% chocolate
- 4 cup 2% milk
- 5 tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 cups egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 oz 100% chocolate
- 4 cup cream
- 11/4 cup sugar
- Whipped cream
- 2 cup cream
- 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
1. Melt the chocolate on a double boiler until hot to the touch. Reserve 1/4 cup of milk and pour slowly into the cornstarch stirring to prevent lumps.
2. Bring the milk to a simmer and slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Then simmer for two minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5mins. Pour the chocolate into a mixer with the paddle attachment. Divide the milk up into five pours. Pour in intervals into the melted chocolate allow the one before to be incorporated until you add the next. Turn on high for 1 minute once all the milk has been added. Then place in a container. This can be stored
3. Bring the cream to a simmer, add the rest of the ingredients using a hand blender to help incorporate fully. Reserve in a container.
4. Combine all the ingredients and whip to soft peak and place into a piping bag.
5. Have an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees. Butter and sugar the molds a few hours prior to making the soufflés in order for that to set. Heat the base and the sauce in a water bath until warm. Place two cups of egg whites in to a mixing bowl with the whisk. Whisk until foamy and then slowly add the 1 cup of sugar. Whisk until a medium peak. Add 8 oz of warm base to a mixing bowl and then whisk in 1/3 of the whipped egg whites. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
6. Spoon into sugared molds and repeatedly tap the mold removing air bubbles them blow torch.
7. Place into the oven rotate after five minutes and cook for a total of 10 minutes.
8. To serve, remove from the oven, using the back of the spoon push in the middle of the soufflé making a hole. Pour in the chocolate sauce and add the whipped cream.
9. Using egg whites that were prepped the day before and molds that than been sugared the day before will help to making a straight consistent soufflé. The remaining soufflé base will hold in the fridge in a covered container for up to one week.