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This Valentine’s Day, make a restaurant-worthy spread at home – The Denver Post

By David Tanis, The New York Times

We all love a one-pot meal, especially these (pandemic) days, when home cooking is a given, all day, every day. But for a special occasion, like Valentine’s Day, or perhaps when you’re just craving something a bit fancier, consider this more complex menu.

I would call it restaurant-level, but eminently doable for the home cook. The key is organization: doing the work in stages and getting ahead on the prep. This is not a menu to accomplish in one session. Dedicate a little time to it over the course of two days — or more, if you prefer — and it will be very easy to pull off.

The recipes are meant for a table of four to six, for a family or quarantine pod celebration. But they are quite simple to scale down for two.

For a first course, a savory mushroom tart is elegant and impressive. A quickly homemade puff pastry (prepared a day or two in advance) is spread with a thin layer of crème fraîche, then topped with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions. A touch of garlic and thyme perfumes the mixture. It is heavenly, emerging from the oven beautifully bronzed and flaky.

You could use store-bought puff pastry, if you wish, but this dough is straightforward and fun to make. The recipe yields enough for two tarts, so you can store half of it in the freezer for future use. You can even roll out the pastry and freeze it, so it’s ready to top and bake.

Use chanterelles or other pale wild mushrooms if possible. If using cultivated mushrooms, a combination of sliced shiitake, white button, oyster or king trumpet would be nice. (Portobellos or cremini make a rather dark and somber-looking, though certainly tasty, tart.)

For an equally impressive main course that is no trouble to execute, look to wild sea scallops. Ask your fishmonger for large, dry-packed “day boat” scallops; usually there are 12 to a pound.

Sear the scallops slowly, cooking them mostly on one side in a cast-iron or other nonstick skillet, to expose a well-browned crisp top once they are flipped. Then, they just need a minute or two more to finish. Some people like scallops that are nearly raw inside, but I prefer them fully cooked — firm but still juicy — so the recipe reflects that.

To offset the scallops’ sweetness, I chose to make a spicy carrot coulis. (A coulis, pronounced koo-LEE, is a thin, pourable sauce, often made from tomatoes for savory dishes, or from berries for desserts.) This brilliant orange sauce gets a splash of vinegar for a hit of acidity and pinch of cayenne for heat.

It is a nearly effortless dish, provided the carrot coulis is prepared in advance. Then, it’s just a matter of searing the scallops and adding the green garnishes: chives, cilantro and lime.

For Valentine’s Day or other special occasions, you want something luscious and somewhat thrilling for dessert, so it’s good to have an exemplary chocolate mousse recipe in your repertoire.

Mousse is French for “foam,” and a classic chocolate mousse gets its foamy consistency from stiffly beaten egg whites, folded into dark, rich melted chocolate. This one also has a hint of orange liqueur and a splash of espresso. From my days working in a French pastry shop and making chocolate mousse on a regular basis, I can tell you: This is not a difficult dessert. Though many recipes call for folding in whipped cream, this one does not, the better to savor the intense chocolate experience.

I like to garnish mine with a little dollop of whipped cream just before serving and a sprinkling of chopped crystallized ginger for a little extra punch.

This menu requires using more gear than the single-pot meals many home cooks have come to desire, but it will be worth the extra effort for the happy result. If you get into the habit of washing the pots and pans as you go, you may not be opposed to occasional multiple-pot projects in future. Better yet, since there are no doubt other available hands in your household, learn the gentle art of delegating labor.

Wild Mushroom Tart

Yield: 4 generous or 6 restrained portions

Time: 1 1/2 hours


For the dough:

  • 2 cups (255 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (225 grams) cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut in 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) ice water

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more as needed
  • 1 onion, any kind, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 10 ounces (300 grams) wild mushrooms, such as chanterelle, or cultivated shiitake, oyster or king trumpet mushrooms, sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • Pinch of red-pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) crème fraîche
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


1. Make the tart dough: Put the 2 cups flour and salt in the chilled bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (If you don’t have one, you can prepare the dough by hand.) With the mixer set on low speed, work half of the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add remaining butter cubes and ice water, and mix just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very soft, studded with butter chunks and a bit sticky — this is correct.

2. You should have 20 ounces (550 grams) of dough. Divide into 2 (10-ounce/275-gram) balls. Dust each with a little flour and press into a disk about 1-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Dust the work surface with flour. Press one disk into a rough square, then roll it into a 6-by-12-inch sheet. Fold the sheet in half, making a 6-inch square. Dust with flour lightly, as necessary, and roll the square into a 6-by-12-inch sheet again, then fold in half to make a 6-inch square. Finally, roll dough into a 6-by-18-inch sheet, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate, wrapped, for 30 minutes to keep dough from shrinking when baked, or freeze. (Roll out the rest of the dough at your leisure, then freeze for the future, or refrigerate and use within 2 days.)

4. Make the filling: Set a wide skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is wavy, add onions. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove onions and set aside.

5. In the same pan over medium-high heat, add mushrooms (and a little more oil if necessary). Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and red-pepper flakes (if using), stir well and turn off heat. Combine mushrooms and onions, set aside and let cool to room temperature. (Filling can be made several hours in advance and left at room temperature, if desired.)

6. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a small rubber spatula, spread crème fraîche over the pastry sheet, leaving a 1-inch border. Distribute onion-mushroom mixture evenly over the crème fraîche. Dust with Parmesan and fold pastry edges up, pinching at the corners to form a low rim. Bake until pastry is crisp and golden and top of mixture is lightly browned, about 30 to 35 minutes.

7. Slide baked tart onto a cutting board and pull away the parchment. Let tart cool slightly before cutting. Sprinkle with parsley and cut tart crosswise into wide slices (or, if preferred, into wedges). Serve warm.

Seared Sea Scallops With Spicy Carrot Coulis

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 45 minutes


For the carrot coulis:

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced young carrots
  • 12 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • Generous pinch of ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
  • 2 cups chicken broth, light vegetable stock or water

For the scallops:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 18 large dry-packed sea scallops, cleaned and patted dry (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems (from 1 small bunch)
  • 2 tablespoons finely cut chives or green scallion tops
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced Fresno, serrano or jalapeño chiles
  • Lime wedges, for serving


1. Make the coulis: Put carrots, garlic, onion, vinegar, cayenne, salt, honey and broth in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until carrots are very soft, about 15 minutes. Purée all ingredients thoroughly in a blender and strain if necessary — it should be very smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Coulis should not be too thick, but rather similar to a thin milkshake. Keep warm if not made ahead.

2. Prepare the scallops: Set 2 wide cast-iron skillets or a large griddle over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, film with olive oil. As oil heats and just before cooking, season scallops with salt and pepper on both sides. When oil is wavy, place scallops in pan without crowding. Leave scallops undisturbed to brown well and crisp on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until cooked through, but juicy. Place scallops browned side up on paper towels to blot bottoms.

3. To serve, ladle about 1/4 cup warm coulis onto individual warmed dinner plates. Set scallops on top, browned side up. Sprinkle with cilantro, chives and sliced chiles. Serve with lime wedges.

Dark Chocolate Mousse With Candied Ginger

Yield: 6 (4-ounce) servings

Time: 20 minutes, plus 2 hours’ chilling


  • 6 ounces (170 grams) 70% dark chocolate (not unsweetened baking chocolate), in small chunks (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) espresso
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whipping cream, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • Drop of vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 1/2 ounces (40 grams) crystallized ginger, chopped or slivered, for garnish (about 1/4 cup)


1. Set a medium bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. (Don’t let water touch the bottom of the bowl.) Reduce heat to a simmer. Add the chocolate, butter, orange liqueur and espresso. When chocolate is completely melted, about 10 minutes, remove from heat.

2. Add sugar and beat with a wire whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly, then quickly whisk in the egg yolks to incorporate.

3. In a clean, dry medium bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it.

4. Gently fold in the remaining whites to incorporate, taking care not to deflate. (It’s OK if mixture looks a little streaky.)

5. Pour mixture into 4-ounce ramekins or other vessels, like teacups or wineglasses. For a large version, pour into an attractive bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days in advance.

6. To serve, whip the cream to soft peaks. (Add a tablespoon of sugar and a drop of vanilla extract, if you wish.) Top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and some crystallized ginger.

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