Celebrate Valentine's Day

By Aaron Walters

With Valentine's Day fast approaching I thought it appropriate to put together a food and wine pairing dinner that personifies this special day. So, without further adieu let's jump right into my menu for a flawless Valentine's Dinner.


First course: Strawberry Salad

Wine Pairing: Gerard Bertrand Thomas Jefferson Cuvee

It starts with a nice light strawberry salad with pomegranate seeds and a vanilla vinaigrette. I like to pair that with some bubbles, because, ya know, bubbles are great!  

For the Salad:

  • 10 Strawberries, quartered (washed and stemmed)
  • Seeds from 1 Pomegranate
  • 1 pkg 50/50 Salad Mix
  • 1 small red chili, diced very small
  • Shaved Parmesan

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. hot water
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. honey (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp. dried tarragon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Preparation:

Place the oil, vanilla bean pods and seeds into a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring the oil up to a low simmer, and then remove from heat and let stand at least 1 hour to infuse the vanilla flavor. Strain the oil through a fine sieve to remove the vanilla pod (the seeds will remain in the oil). Cool completely. Combine all ingredients except the oil in a small immersion blender or food processor, pulsing until the mixture is completely blended and smooth. Slowly add the oil while blending until the mixture is completely emulsified. Transfer to a small bowl or squeeze bottle and chill before dressing salad. Toss the greens with the fruits and chili in a large bowl with the vinaigrette. Shave the Parmesan on top.


Main Course: "kissing shrimp" with Cheddar Whipped Potatoes and vegetable lei

Wine Pairing: Saved Magic Maker Rosé

I like to get the largest shrimp I can find that still have the heads and shells on. When shelling the shrimp, save the heads and shells and place in a saucepan with a pound of unsalted butter and heat over low heat for about an hour to infuse the butter. Strain through a fine mesh strainer pressing down on the shells to extract as much flavor as possible. Let that cool to room temperature and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

For the Shrimp:

  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 lbs. Jumbo Raw Shrimp (de-shelled and deveined)
  • 1 shallot
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • ½ cup Laxas Albarino
  • 2 Tbsp. shrimp butter

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the shallot and saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Deglaze with the Albarino and add the thyme sprigs. Add the shrimp to the pan. Cook, tossing the shrimp for about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp butter and continue cooking for 4-5 more minutes.


For the Whipped Potatoes:

  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • butter
  • 1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
  • heavy cream

Preparation:

Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and add butter, cream and the grated cheese. Whip until completely smooth.


For the Vegetable lei:

  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  • ½ lb. Fresh Green Beans
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper

Slice the green beans in half lengthwise. Julienne the red bell pepper and the zucchini. Heat the butter in a skillet and saute the veggies until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Assembly:

Mound the potatoes in the center of your plate. Intertwine 2 of the jumbo shrimp on top of the potatoes. Arrange the vegetables in a circle around the outside of the potatoes. Drizzle a little of the pan juice from the shrimp over the top and garnish with a sprig of thyme.


dessert

Wine Pairing: Rosa di Rosa Sparkling Wine

For dessert, why not stick to the classic strawberries and chocolate. After all, you do already have some strawberries. Melt down some high quality chocolate like some Ghiradelli. Once it's melted add a little of the heavy cream and whisk until the chocolate has a sheen to it. Drizzle over your strawberries and enjoy. Pair these with Rosa di Rosa Sparkling Wine for a perfect ending to your Valentine's Day meal.