I’m officially sick of all of the snow we have been getting in the Boston area. We got about a foot of snow on Wednesday and now it is snowing again. I’m getting to the point where I would like to hibernate for the rest of winter and wait until it all melts to leave the house again. Needless to say a snow blower has been added to next year’s budget.
However, with nowhere to be or go today, I am kind of enjoying the winter wonderland outside 🙂 .
So, it is the perfect day to be snowed in and cook a romantic Valentine’s dinner. We are celebrating a day late because, to be honest, the thought of cooking an involved dinner on Friday night after work just didn’t sound exciting to me.
The tablescape…well without an actual kitchen or dining room table this will be a breakfast bar scape. Since it is not a full table, I am also limited in space so I kept it simple with the red roses my husband got me and some candles.
I decided to do a nice French themed dinner. I didn’t plan on it being French, but it just kind of turned out that way. I’m making two of my husband’s favorites…French Onion Soup for the appetizer and Filet Mignon au Poivre with Cognac Sauce and baked potatoes for the main course.
Classic French Onion Soup
Adapted from finecooking.com
Serves about 2-4
As I mentioned, French Onion Soup is one of my husband’s favorites. And anytime we go out to eat and he sees it on the menu he orders it. So I decided to attempt to make it. This was first attempt and I have heard it is not that easy so I was not expecting much, but it actually turned out great! It takes a long time to caramelize the onions properly so I decided to make the soup earlier in the day so that I was not going crazy trying to time everything. You can definitely make this ahead of time because you end up putting it in the oven prior to serving it anyways.
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 2 medium-large yellow onions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1 small baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 4 cups lower-salt canned beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cups grated Gruyère
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and season with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Reduce the heat to low. Press a piece of foil onto the onions to cover them completely, cover the pot with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally (you will have to lift the foil), until the onions are very soft but not falling apart, 35 to 45 minutes. I think I may have cooked my onions a few minutes too long because they did start to fall apart, so as they begin to get soft check them more frequently. Remove the lid and foil, raise the heat to medium high, and stir in the sugar. Cook, stirring often, until very deeply browned (another 10 to 15 minutes).
Add the broth and bay leaf to the caramelized onions and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the croûtes (baguette toasts), pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Make 1 to 2 croûtes per bowl of soup. Arrange the baguette slices on the sheet in a single layer. Bake until the bread is crisp and lightly browned, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside. These can also be made ahead of time.
When you are ready to serve the soup, heat the broiler to high. Put ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet. Put 1 or 2 croûtes in each bowl and ladle the soup on top. Sprinkle with the cheese and broil until the top is browned and bubbly. This will only take a few minutes. Serve immediately.
Filet Mignon au Poivre
Adapted from finecooking.com
Steak au Poivre is a traditional French dish that consists of steak with a peppercorn crust. It can be made with Filet Mignon, NY Strip Steaks, etc. This dish looks fancy, but it was actually pretty easy and quick to cook so don’t be intimidated by it. The key to making a great steak is first buying quality meat (it is expensive, but it is worth it) and letting it rest before and after cooking. I decided to pair the steak with a simple baked potato…meat and potatoes our favorite! My husband paired his with a Sam Adams beer and I would have paired mine with a nice glass of red wine if I wasn’t fighting a cold right now.
- 1 Tbs. whole black peppercorns
- Kosher salt
- Two Filet Mignon steaks (about 2 lb. total)
- 1 Tbs. canola oil
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup finely diced shallot (about 1 large)
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. Cognac or brandy
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Crack the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, crack the peppercorns on a cutting board, using a meat pounder or rolling pin.
Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt evenly on both sides of the steaks and then pat the cracked peppercorns on both sides to create a thin crust. Let the steaks sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 10- or 11-inch ovenproof skillet (I used a cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat. You may want to turn on the stove’s exhaust fan, things could get smoky. Once it is hot, add the steaks and cook on each side until they are nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes for each side.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the steaks until a thermometer inserted in the center reads 125°F for rare, 130°F for medium rare, and 135°F for medium. Transfer the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and let them rest while you prepare the sauce.
To prepare the Cognac sauce, melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until softened. Add 1/3 cup of the Cognac or brandy and cook until the Cognac reduces to a glazy consistency, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced. Stir in the remaining 1 tsp. Cognac and season to taste with salt. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.
I hope you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day as much as we did!