We are all familiar with the idiom, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Arguably, it’s true for any of the sexes, but no one tells you what to expect after the main course is finished. Perhaps a decadent dessert is in order to keep your love simmering long after the kitchen table and into the happily ever after.
The association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love, sweets and the exchange of love letters is a feast of legend and myth. Some argue that the tradition extends to the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, which concluded with male and female couples paired for the year through a lottery which often ended in marriage.
St. Valentine was introduced by fifth century Pope Gelasius. One intriguing story claims that St. Valentine fell in love with a jailer’s daughter while he was imprisoned and would sign each of his missives with “Your Valentine.”
Popular French and English culture of the Middle Ages believed that Feb. 14 was the start of mating season for birds of the air, and of course, the perfect time for humans to follow suit. Chaucer captured this in his poem “Parliament of Fowls,” penned in 1382: “For this was on Saint Valentine’s day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate ...”
And finally, we must not forget that perfect pairing – love and chocolate. Richard Cadbury of, you guessed it, the Cadbury chocolate company, began packaging chocolates in heart-shaped boxes in 1861 for the holiday.
With a slight nod to tradition, here are some recipes and wine pairings offered by Durango’s top culinary minds for that amorous home cook looking to satisfy an empty stomach and any mountain bird looking to land a nest this Valentine’s Day.
Baked Pears in Créme Anglaise or Bread PuddingRecipe provided by Chef Dennis Morrisroe of Seasons Rotisserie and Grill.“Pears are in season and this is a simple dish that’s really luxurious,” Morrisroe said. “Let the pears ripen for 3-4 days at room temperature until the aroma develops into a floral, sweet almost fermented smell; that is a prime pear. The most difficult part of this recipe is the crème anglaise. It’s tricky and involves what I call a “falling-down-the-stairs” motion – once you start you don’t stop until you’re at the bottom.”Baked Pears:Ingredients:3 to 4 pearsButterVanilla bean paste SugarMethod:Halve pears and remove seeds.
Coat in melted butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste.
Roast at 275 F for 90-minutes turning every 20-minutes until pears are soft and yielding.
Créme Anglaise:Ingredients:4 egg yolks½ cup sugar2 cups whipping cream or whole milkMethod:Mix egg yolks and sugar
In a sauce pan, heat cream to boiling and remove from heat.
Slowly add heated cream to egg mixture (Go slow! You don’t want to cook or emulsify the egg) and whisk.
Return mixture to sauce pan on low/medium heat and stir continually until the sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon. About 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
Pour over the baked pears.
“Créme anglaise is a classic technique and becomes the base for a lot of our desserts. You can keep it simple and pour it over the pears or add a little sponge cake. I also use crème anglaise with sourdough bread from Bread Bakery to make a nice bread pudding and that would go well with the pears too,” Morrisroe said.HHHChocolate Ganache, Dipped Strawberries and TrufflesRecipe provided by Carley Snider, owner and chocolate maker at Animas Chocolate Company.“The key to ganache is its versatility; just remember chocolate is a messy ingredient. Don’t wait to the last second to try and impress your date with a homemade truffle or ganache. Practice ahead of time, and of course, we are here as your backup or even your go-to and you can just say that you made the treats yourself,” Snider said.
Dipped Strawberries:Ingredients:Bulk ACC milk or dark chocolateFresh strawberriesMethod:Heat chocolate in a double boiler to 108 degrees. (This process can also be done in the microwave. Heat chocolate at 20-second intervals and stir at each interval. Snider cautions that you can easily burn the chocolate this way.)
Remove chocolate from heat and use a dipping fork to evenly coat strawberries.
Top with shredded coconut or cacao nibs.
Ganache:Ingredients:Bulk milk or dark chocolate Equal parts creamMethod:Chocolate should be at room temperature. Heat cream to boiling and remove from heat. Pour heated cream over chocolate. Patience is essential. Stir slowly, allow the mixture to emulsify. If you stir too fast the fats will separate and you will have to start with a fresh batch. Once the mixture is silky smooth add any flavorings you might want. If you’re adding alcohol, Snider recommends reducing the volume of cream. Use an immersion blender for any remaining lumps in the mixture.
Pour over fruit, cake, ice cream etc.
Truffles:These are difficult and not for the faint at heart cautions Snider.Method:Prepare the ganache and if you’re hand-rolling the truffles, reduce the amount of cream.
Temper milk or dark chocolate to coat the ganache. Heat chocolate to 108 degrees. Remove from heat and “seed” the melted chocolate with callets of already tempered chocolate. Continually stir until the chocolate reaches 88 degrees. Coat the rolled ganache in melted chocolate and top with roasted nuts or cacao powder.
HHHStrawberry Chocolate and Ham & Gruyere CrepesRecipe provided by Michel Poumay, owner and chef at Michel’s Corner.“Crepes are a very simple product and I think that for a Valentine’s dessert, strawberries and chocolate would be a good one. And I think that a savory ham and gruyere is a good next-morning crepe after your crazy night out,” Poumay said. “I use all homemade strawberry jam and chocolate sauce for the dessert crepe and for the savory one, I top it with fresh basil, olive oil, chilitos or toasted chilies, and add a touch of fresh vanilla to really bring out the flavor.”Crepe batter:Ingredients:1 cup white flour½ cup buckwheat flour½ cup whole wheat flour4 eggs2 cups whole milk(1 teaspoon vanilla for savory ham and gruyere)Method:
Whisk wet and dry ingredients together. Ladle batter out thin on a hot griddle or in a pan. Smooth batter into a round-shape. Cook 3 to 5 minutes each side.
For Poumay’s gluten-free version he uses a high-end GF flour blend and advises that water, instead of milk, yields a better and more consistent GF crepe.Dessert Filling:Fresh strawberriesStrawberry jamChocolate sauceToasted hazelnuts Whip creamCinnamonSavory Filling:1 eggHam slicedGruyere cheese slicedFresh BasilOlive oilGreen onionRoasted red chile/chilitos