Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anniversary and Valentines Dinner

Before we finally ended up getting married, Jessica and I celebrated our anniversary on February 13th... the day I asked Jessica on a date for the first time back in 1998.

Now, our "official" wedding anniversary is on May 2nd, but we still like to have a mini dating anniversary and Valentines Day celebration each year.

Since restaurants are always problematic anytime near Valentine's Day, we have a long standing tradition of cooking a romantic dinner at home and spending an evening together. We've been doing this for many years, well before I started cooking seriously. This was actually a formative step in my cooking progression, as it provided for one of the few nights a year in which I would  actually throw down and cook a real meal.

This year I really was feeling saffron,  mussels, fennel, and steak. While picking up mussels at Whole Foods, they had some phenomenal looking fresh Stone Crab claws so grabbed some of those as well.

Here's what I ended up with. For an appetizer, I made:

Black Mussels in White Wine Broth with Saffron and Fennel
Wild Black Mussels. White Bordeaux wine. Chicken Stock. Fennel. Carrot. Shallot. Celery. Tomato. Saffron. Black Pepper. Lemon. Parsley.

And for the entrée:

Bone-in, Dry-Aged Prime Filet Mignon with Stone Crab
Oak grilled, dry aged bone in prime filet mignon. Florida stone crab. Perfect roast potatoes with duck fat and garlic confit. Grilled asparagus. Arugula. Fried shallot rings. Red wine veal demi-glace. Chives.

The mussels came out nicely, though I thought the broth was ever so slightly too bright. It had maybe just a little more acidity from the wine and the lemon than I would have liked, no doubt coaxed out further by the fennel. The broth was really almost like a saffron nage. It worked nicely with the mussels, but it felt like it could have used a little more subtlety and with some deeper savory undertones could have been a real showstopper. Not half bad, though, given I completely improvised it with no recipe.

The steak was quite good. i grilled it at 800 degrees in my Grill Dome over lump charcoal with some oak chunks for smoke. Mine came out perfect medium rare, but Jessica's came out medium despite my goal of medium rare. Both had a nice kiss of oak smoke, but not overpoweringly so. I've found that dry age beef seems to have a different temperature curve than regular beef and that it is very easy to overshoot past medium rare, even if you are using a temperature probe. For whatever reason, dry aged beef likes to rocket up 30-40 degrees from around 110F to 145F in almost no time after a much slower rise up to 110. I have a bad habit of sometimes overshooting with dry aged beef, and I need to learn that with 30% of it's moisture weight gone, it behaves very differently chemically. Enough about dry aged, though. I am DEFINITELY a fan of the bone in filet... Gives it more of a masculine, Texas cowboy kind of feel to it and the bone certainly does add flavor.

Whole Foods just happened to have some great looking, fresh Florida stone crab claws when I was there buying mussels. This definitely made a strong case for a surf and turf. I ended up boiling the crab, shelling and picking it, and then sauteeing in clarified butter. I served this atop the steak with some fried shallots.

I have continued to further perfect the "perfect roast potato" recipe that I learned in the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall cookbook. This time, I pan roasted the potatoes at 400F in duck fat mixed with garlic confit after parboiling, fork scratching, and salting. This technique for potatoes consistenly works well for me and typically delivers far better than I've seen in most any restaurant. I also included some asparagus (big pot blanched, then finished on the grill), some arugula, and a shallot, red wine, veal demi-glace sauce.

Overall this was a wonderful, albeit heavy, meal that Jessica and I enjoyed togeher along with some wine, followed by strawberries and chocolate.


  1. I'm the Momma for Jessica, and,I have to tell you, Dan,s camera action is terrific. BUT, it is nothing compered to his poached fish taste. Jimmy & I have, for our 30+ years, enjoyed atleast 10 meals at the very best restaurants around the USA. My mother was a great cook and I can do cleanup but Jessica was raised on TV dinners microwave. What a treat it is to have a dinner prepared by Dan. Having ordered poached fish in top restaurants around the USA, I must say, nothing has touched his poached fish. I tryed many years ago, & my mother couldn't do it either. Neither could either of the top 3 restaurants in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, or Hawaii. He is truly reaching his peak. You have to say he's an amiter because he's not paid for it, but we turned down our last experience with Trulucks (at $1000. for 4) because we experienced a true gourmet dinner that seemed effortless while watching Dan cook. WOW. There's nothing left but WOW! Tks. to you both for giving my great husband (& Jessica's Daddy) a great dinner with the private touch not available in public. My palate may not be perfect because we're in our 60's, but I know superior food when I taste what I see. Dan, your only conflict is whether you continue to make the big bucks as an expert in computer engineering & management of people, or set out as a Professional Chef. WOW!