Nothing, not even a pandemic, can withstand the universal power of love. February means Valentine’s Day, a glorious celebration of intimacy, mutual support, unselfish devotion and that almost indefinable spirit that binds our hearts and souls with another. These recipes were inspired by experiences at some of my memories of elegantly romantic restaurant venues: Antoine’s, LeRuth’s and Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, The Breakers in Palm Beach, the Seelbach in Louisville and The Peabody in Memphis. I’ve modified them for simplicity, keeping everything rich and beautiful.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 package (9 ounces) fresh spinach, torn
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds coarse Kosher salt
2 dozen fresh oysters in the shell, washed
In a large skillet, saute onion in butter until tender. Add spinach; cook and stir until wilted. Remove from the heat; stir in cheese, lemon juice and pepper. Spread kosher salt into 2 ungreased 15x10x1-in. baking pans. Shuck oysters, reserving oyster and its liquid in bottom shell. Lightly press oyster shells down into the salt, using salt to keep oysters level. Top each with 2-1/2 tsp. spinach mixture. Add drops of Pernod, Herbsaint or Absinthe.
Bake, uncovered, at 450° until oysters are plump, 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately
Rack of Lamb for Lovers
1 Frenched lamb rib rack with 7 to 8 ribs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Marinate lamb in rub: Rub rib rack(s) all over with mixture of rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Place in a thick plastic bag with olive oil.
Spread oil around so that it coats the lamb rack(s) all over. Squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag and seal. Place in a container so that if the bag leaks, the container catches the leak.
Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours as the lamb is coming to room temperature in the next step.
2 Bring lamb to room temp: Remove lamb rack from refrigerator to 1 1/2 to 2 hours before you cook it so that it comes to room temp. (If the meat is not at room temperature it will be hard for it to cook evenly.)
3 Preheat oven to 450°F, arrange the oven rack so that the lamb will be in the middle of the oven.
4 Score the fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, wrap bones in foil, place in pan fat side up: Score the fat, by making sharp shallow cuts through the fat, spaced about an inch apart.
Sprinkle the rack all over with salt and pepper. Place the lamb rack bone side down (fat side up) on a roasting pan lined with foil. Wrap the exposed rib bones in a little foil so that they don’t burn.5 Roast first at high heat to brown, then reduce heat to finish: Place the roast in the oven roast at 450°F for 10 minutes (longer if roasting more than one rack), or until the surface of the roast is nicely browned.
Then lower the heat to 300°F. Cook for 10-20 minutes longer (depending on the size of the lamb rack, if you are roasting more than one rack, and how rare or well done you want your lamb), until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat 125°F on a for rare or 135°F for medium rare. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
Cut lamb chops away from the rack by slicing between the bones.
6 slices day-old bread
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup seedless raisins
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Break bread in small pieces in 1 12-quart baking dish. Sprinkle cinnamon over bread and add raisins and melted butter. Lightly toast bread mixture in oven at about 350° (10–15 minutes or so). Then add mixture of eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla after mixing well. Bake about 30 minutes or until solid. Served with rum sauce (whisk together butter, powdered sugar, and a little rum).
4 cups fresh cherries, pitted, or two 12-ounce bags frozen pitted cherries
? cup brandy
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (2 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted
½ cup grated dark chocolate
In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries and brandy. Bring to a simmer and cook until the cherries are soft but still hold their shape, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the heavy cream and sugar and mix on low speed to combine. Increase the speed and whip until firm peaks form.
Place 6 ladyfingers in the bottom of a 2½-quart bowl. Top with half the cherries and their juices, ¼ cup of the almonds, ¼ cup of the chocolate, and half the cream mixture. Continue to layer with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate, covered, for 3 hours or until set. Divide among individual bowls.
4 cups quartered strawberries (approximately 2 pints)
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
½ cup heavy cream
In a medium bowl, combine quartered strawberries, confectioner’s sugar and Grand Marnier liqueur. Stir gently and mix well. Allow to sit for 20 minutes to macerate.
While the strawberries macerate, in a medium bowl, mix sour cream, brown sugar and brandy. Stir to combine until the sugar is fully dissolved. Set aside.
In a separate chilled metal bowl, whip heavy cream into stiff peaks. Fold heavy cream into sour cream mixture and blend well.
When ready to serve, spoon macerated strawberries into individual serving bowls. Spoon whipped cream mixture over the top.
Sir Verde’s Wine Suggestion: Saint-Amour. The red wine from Burgundy is forever blessed with this romantic name and label. The bonus for Valentine’s dinner: it’s also delicious. For the Oysters, keep everything French with a Meursault.
Stay safe. Bonne dégustation. Love one another.