Cooking School

Valentine's Day food Q&A: Oysters, ice champagnes, tips for husbands and more

By: Christine Picheca

Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

Valentine's Day food Q&A: Oysters, ice champagnes, tips for husbands and more

By: Christine Picheca
Planning a special Valentine's Day dinner? We've got you covered for the big night.

Steak & chocolate -- together?
My husband loves steak and I love chocolate, but I find the combination of the two too heavy for one meal. Do you have a suggestion for compromise so we don't end up with sick bellies?
- Fisher

A. Fisher,
How about a hot Latin-themed dinner; you can make a strip steak with a mole sauce -- that is a Mexican sauce made with chocolate. The spiciness also acts as a digestive to avoid feeling bloated for romance later! If you don't want to give up your chocolate sweets entirely, have a small box of the best quality Belgian chocolate on your bedside stand to keep your energy up.

Freezing phyllo pastry
Phyllo means fancy to my special someone. Do you know of a commercial phyllo dough product that has smaller amounts? Plus, how far in advance can I wrap my tasties (I was thinking a small form of soft cheese with honey and chopped hazelnuts and individual little bites in a few savory flavours -- maybe olive or chicken curry).
- Tummystuffer

A. Dear Tummystuffer,
You are right, phyllo dough does not refreeze well and it is too much for two. But the great thing about it is that after you have made your little pastries you can freeze them and bake them from frozen. I love your honey and nut idea because honey is known as the nectar of Aphrodite -- a great aphrodisaic food! Why not make up all of the phyllo, freeeze the pastries and use the extras as ready-made appetizers for entertaining, or on another Saturday night when you and your partner want to evoke the spirit of Aphrodite.

Sexy side dishes and ice champagne
What vegetable dish or side dishes you would recommend to go with veal scallopini that are reasonably seasonal (is there a way to make root vegetables "pop" for a special meal)?
- Jenn

A. Hi Jenn,
I think that sauteed rapini is the perfect compliment to veal scalopini, and keeps things simple so you have more time to woo - just go easy on the garlic. Plus, rapini are in season. This Basic Rapini recipe has a variation for a sundried tomato and pine nut rapini. A good root veg would be roasted beets - also seasonal and the perfect colour for Valentine's day.

Page 1 of 4 -- Find tips on melting chocolate, overcoming oyster phobia and serving sexy finger food on page 2
How to melt chocolate and keep it liquid
How do you melt chocolate so it's smooth & delicious and not lumpy and gross. Also, how can it stay liquidy as it cools?
- Veronica

A. Good question Veronica,
You have to melt chocolate very gently so that it does not scorch and go lumpy. The best way to do this melt the chocolate in a glass or metal bowl over a pot with a small amount of simmering water, keep stirring the chocolate and take it off the heat before it is completely melted, keep stirring the residual heat will melt the remaining chocolate.

Make sure when you are doing this to not get any water in the chocolate, water will make chocolate seize (stick together and get lumpy). The mircowave is also an OK way to melt chocolate, use a low temperature and stir often. To keep it liquid, you can place it over a bowl of warm water.

Getting over oyster phobia
I'd really like to start enjoying seafood more. This is the perfect time to learn to shuck oysters and feed them to myself and my boyfriend, but I admit I'm kind of afraid of shellfish. Seriously. Are they alive when you eat them? How do you know when you have a bad oyster? Can it kill you? Do I chew the oyster or just suck it back? How many oysters do you serve per person? What food do you serve with oysters? Any advice to get me over this phobia would be great.
- Butterlover

A. Hi Butterlover! Let's get you over your fear.
1- Are they alive when you eat them?
Well - once you open it, it's no longer alive so no.

2- How do you know when you have a bad oyster? Can it kill you?
A bad oyster won't kill you but it can make you sick. But this is really over blown - usually when you shuck a bad oyster the smell will give it away and it will be discarded. It should have a nice clean, briny smell.

3- Do I chew the oyster or just suck it back?

You can do either -- a novice might just suck it back but a real oyster lover is going to chew!

4- How many oysters do you serve per person?

I have a brother-in-law that can eat 50 himself! He is a bit of a machine though. As an appetizer 6 should do it, at a party judge about 3 for dinner 12 or more.

5- What food do you serve with oysters?

A salad, some really good bread like pumperknickle and a soup to start would be nice. You just have to dive in an try them - it's a mind over matter thing. They are really delicious and quite good for you as well - low in fat so you can indulge guilt free. Also washing them down with lots of champagne will make them go down for you easier.

Sexy substitution for oysters on the halfshell

Hello Christine. Similar question to the one above, about oysters. But I just can't stomach them! Smoked aren't bad but those just aren't as sexy. Any suggestions for a sexy substitution appetizer for the classic oyster on the halfshell?
- Meghan

A. Welcome Meghan,
If you don't like raw oysters but like them smoked -- maybe you would like them baked. Oysters Rockefeller is a classic way to prepare them with a fancy presentation served on the half shell. Discover more about oysters and find oyster recipes here.

Sexy finger food menu
I think eating wonderful food with your hands is very sexy. I like mixing the different textures, tastes, look and smells of food with touch. Could you suggest a menu that my Valentine and I could have that would be an experience for the senses?
- Desperately Seeking Romance

A. Dear DSR,
I agree that a finger friendly menu is the way to go for Valentine's. Sushi is great option that mixes a variety of textures and you can feed each other, also it is not crazy filling so does not leave you bloated.

This Valentine for the whole family menu is designed for a family but has all finger food options in it. It also ends with a chocolate fondue that is the perfect finger food to feed to each other!

Find everything you need for Valentine's Day here!

Page 2 of 4 -- Find barbecue ideas, a kid-friendly special menu and recipes for gourmet eggs on page 3
A wife-friendly romantic barbecue
How can I work some BBQ into our meal? My wife has left me in charge of the romantic meal this year.
- Go leafs

A. So you want to use your mastery of fire to show your love. Here are a couple of ideas: Lobster is great on the BBQ. Split it in two lengthwise and throw it on the grill face down for 15-20 minutes until it is cooked through, it get a nice caramelized smoked flavour that compliment the sweet meat very well. You can serve it with drawn butter or a spicy salsa and a simple green salad, some good bread and don't forget to buy the champagne.

A Chateaubraind is also a classic dinner for two, it is usually roasted but it will be great on the BBQ. This piece of meat is the cap of the beef fillet. Add some steamed veggies; broccolli, cauliflower or carrots and serve with a bernaise sauce -- your wife will be very impressed. You're going to need a good full bodied red wine for this one (Cabernet or Shiraz). This link has a recipe for bearnaise sauce if you want to give it a try: Seafood Crêpes with Bearnaise Sauce.

Romantic, kid-friendly and shellfish-free
Would you have any suggestions for 2 adults and 2 kids aged 4 and 5 that don't deal with seafood as we are all allergic to shellfish and don't really enjoy fish in general?
- Andrea

A. Yes -- we have a great family menu that would be perfect. It's all-finger food, so is fun for the kids to eat -- and it does not have any fish in it.

Beautiful poached eggs
I recently ate out at a very fine french restaurant where my meal began with a barely poached duck egg with black truffle shavings on top. The whole thing came wrapped in a "purse" which was a very delicate deep fried pastry bundle. It was the most sensuous thing I have ever tasted. My question is this; Is there a simpler (and maybe less expensive) dish that I can prepare at home for V-day that will evoke (obviously not duplicate) the taste and texture of this fabulous dish for my hubby?
- Nancyforn

A. Here is a fancy way to poached an egg: very carefully crack the egg onto a square of plastic wrap, bring the sides of the plastic wrap together and twist the top together so you have a pouch, tie the top with a piece of string. Poach the egg pouch in very lightly simmering water, when you unwrap the egg, it will look like a little shaped dumpling. You can serve it in the classic French style on frissee with lardons (bacon that has been diced and fried).

If you want to emulate the truffles, roast a selection of whatever interesting mushrooms you can find. Slice them up, toss with olive oil, a bit of garlic and some fresh thyme. Serve the egg on a bed of mushrooms and drizzle with truffle oil (a cheaper way to get the flavour of truffles without as much expense).

Find everything you need for Valentine's Day here!

Page 3 of 4 -- Find menu options for vegetarians and loved ones on a diet on page 4
A vegetarian chocolate hater
My husband is a vegetarian and hates chocolate, and when I think of sexy food, I think of oysters and chocolate. Do you have any good ideas for trying to spice up the table this Valentine's Day? What would you consider a sexy vegetarian dish?
- Marnimoreau

A. How about a fondue -- you could make it cheese or do it with a veggie broth. and it is romantic to sit around an open flame. Try these recipes from our Fondue party menu. Or, host a raclette party -- it's a fun interactive way to eat as well.

Some other ideas include Beet Risotto (oozy, sexy and red), or Crepes with Roasted Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs (with asparagus -- a classic aphrodisiac food, thought to stimulate hormones and it naturally mimics a certain "member" of anatomy). Have fun!

A dieting wife

Christine, I hate Valentine's Day, and I know my wife is trying to diet and lose weight. She's said nothing about celebrating V-day but if I make no effort this year I know she'll be upset. We don't have a lot of money so I won't do take-out. What do you suggest for a guy who doesn't cook much and hates V-day but wants to do something nice for his dieting wife?
- William

William - don't be such a buzzkill, embrace the day and you will get more mileage out of it! First of all, if you are cooking and she isn't she's going to love it no matter what it is, so you really don't need to try that hard. I would stick to something you already cook well and focus on serving it in a nice way. Light some candles, buy a some sparkling wine - there are plenty of reasonably priced ones out there, and put a rose in a vase for the table. Try to dig up the fancy linens if you can find them and run her a bath for when she gets home so she doesn't have particpate at all in the prepping of dinner. Simple omlettes and a salad make a nice elegant dinner.

Don't forget to clean up. Leaving her with a mess will be a set back after all of your effort! Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day!

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Valentine's Day food Q&A: Oysters, ice champagnes, tips for husbands and more