In the past, I’ve been pretty suspicious of Valentine’s Day.
The holiday seemed to revolve around spending money and making people feel bad. Objectively, it’s one of the worst days to work at a restaurant. People are seated with a sort of forced romantic cheer and you’re run off your feet trying to meet their unrealistic expectations.
Plus, it invites comparison. Social media feeds are chock-a-block with happy couples celebrating Valentine’s Day. I also see the wastefulness of it all: cheesy heart-shaped boxes of chocolate that have been mass-produced and overpriced wilted roses that grocery stores will toss the next day.
No wonder some of us end up with a kind of bone-deep hatred of this mid-winter holiday.
That said, winter is harsh, and no winter has been as harsh as this one. I’ve kind of come around to the idea that a bit of break, a little celebration, isn’t such a bad thing.
Charred leek, parsley, citrus salad with juniper sea salt
Consider what’s in season as a starting point for your menu. In Newfoundland, it’s not too much, but thanks to some local hydroponic growers like Living Water Farm, leafy greens and herbs are available across the Island year-round. I love their parsley.
4 medium leeks
¼ cup of capers
¼ cup of green olives
¼ cup coarsely chopped dill, preferably from a local grower
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley, preferably from a local grower
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Newfoundland sea salt with juniper, to taste
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more
3 oranges (I like to use different kinds of oranges)
Put a tiny bit of olive oil in a cast-iron pan. Throw leeks into a pan and let them get lovely and dark. This might take about 10 minutes. Now, smash olives using the side of your chef’s knife and remove the pits. Toss those with your capers. Set aside in a medium bowl.
Now, cut leeks into rounds and add to bowl with olives and capers. Now toss in your dill, parsley, vinegar, a big pinch of salt, and 3 tablespoons of your oil. Remove the peel and pith from your oranges with a pairing knife. Slice your oranges into rounds. Season with juniper sea salt.
Assemble! I like to place the oranges on the bottom of the plate and heap everything else on top.
Braised beef, rabbit or moose stew with red wine
OK, the main course! If it’s within your budget, I’d recommend supporting a local butcher shop. I live in St. John’s, and I’m pretty partial to Waterwest and Halliday’s.
If you don’t have access to a local butcher shop, this recipe works for any meat you might have frozen in the freezer: moose, rabbit or beef.
Ingredients for your marinade:
First, marinate your meat in this overnight. Also, I use alder pepper in this marinade. Locally, you can pick some up from Shawn Dawson of the Barking Kettle or make your own. You can also replace this ingredient with regular cracked black pepper.
2 tsp salt
1 cup red wine (nothing fancy)
8 garlic cloves, grated
2 sprigs of rosemary
An herb sachet of alder or sprinkle some alder pepper onto your meat
Ingredients for the stew:
¼ cup canola oil
1 large onion
3 carrots, chopped finely
2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup dry red wine
1 cup of beef broth
1 cup of tomato puree
1 bay leaf
½ cup barley (optional)
2 lbs beef, cut into cubes (or rabbit, or moose)
¼ cup flour
1 tbsp rosemary
Now remove the meat and discard the marinade. Pat your meat dry and season with salt and pepper. Seasoning is a personal thing, but use a bit more salt than you would normally be comfortable with.
Toss your meat with ¼ cup flour. Get the pieces nice and evenly coated. Heat your oil on medium-high. Working in batches, sear all of the meat. We want a nice even browning and a good crust. Things should sizzle when it hits the pan. Each piece should take about three minutes.
Remove your meat and place off to the side on a separate plate. Now add your onions, celery, and carrots. Let those cook and brown for about five minutes, then toss in your garlic. Garlic burns so quickly, so just a minute on the heat.
Now, we’re going to deglaze the pan using a dry red wine—boxed wine will do! The wine doesn’t need to be fancy;
save your fancy wines for drinking. Use a spoon to scrape all the delicious brown bits off the bottom. Don’t toss those brown bits; just get them loose. Add your meat back into the pot. Add your tomato puree and stock. Add a little water here, not much, just half a cup maximum. Bring to a boil. Add your bay leaf. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Remove the meat from the pot and pick the meat off the bones if you’re using a rabbit. Get that meat back to the pot, add your barley and herbs. Cook for another 15 minutes on low-medium heat. Your stew should be thick, red and delicious. Serve with wine, maybe a salad, and bread or biscuits for dunking.
Chocolate tart with spicy honey almonds and pomegranate
OK, chocolate for Valentine’s Day isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but sometimes classics are classics for a reason. I love these spicy honey almonds. Support a local honey maker like Tucker’s Bee Farm. Their honey is so flavourful.
2 tbsp of cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup cold butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
1 large egg yolk
Spicy Honey Almonds Ingredients:
½ cup almonds
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tbsp local honey
¼ tsp salt
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup of whipping cream
3 tbsp of local honey
1 tsp salt
To make the crust, mix cocoa, sugar, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Add in the butter using a pastry cutter or fork. It should look like a coarse meal. Beat your yolk and water together in a smallish bowl.
Add to the flour mixture being careful not to overmix or overwork things. Form into a round disc and chill for about three hours.
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Roll your dough into a circle shape, aiming for about 12 inches. You want this to be just a little bigger than your tart pan. Transfer to your tart pan, gently pressing into the edges. You should have about a 1-inch overhang; fold that into the pan. Prick the bottom with a fork and freeze for about 30 minutes. This should help you avoid the dreaded pastry shrinkage.
Remove from the freezer, cover with parchments, place pie weights on the dough, and bake for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and remove the patch and foot weights. Let it cook for another 5 minutes sans foot weights.
Transfer to a cutting board or wire rack, and do not fill until it’s completely cool.
To make the almonds, reheat the oven to 350 F and toast your almonds for about five or six minutes. Let ’em cool. Bring your almonds, brown sugar, chili flakes, honey, salt and about a ¼ cup water to a boil in a medium pan. After about 5 minutes, this should look browned and very tasty. Remove from heat and then chop it up.
For your filling, place chocolate and butter in a mixing bowl together. Bring the whipping cream, honey, and salt to a boil, occasionally whisking so that the honey melts. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and butter and whisk so everything dissolves gorgeously. Pour the filling into the thoroughly cooled crust!
Let it sit for about six hours before serving top with honey almonds, sea salt and pomegranate seeds.
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