12:05 a.m. EST February 9, 2016
It has been some time since I’ve had the pleasure of writing a culinary story, other than for my weekly restaurant blog. My first major at Michigan State University was journalism because I have always loved the art of the pen. Although I followed a culinary career, I’ve enjoyed writing in some form or fashion on a regular basis. Writing is for me like cooking — relaxing, yet mentally invigorating.
And there is no greater time to talk about our love for doing something than in February. Valentine’s Day is the celebration of St. Valentine, the patron saint of love. More than a billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent every year. Teachers receive the most. And, many are just signed “Love, Your Valentine” from supposed anonymous admirers.
The heat is on in the kitchen, as we gear up for a busy weekend that includes Friday, Saturday and Valentine’s Day on Sunday. We are prepared everyday as friends and “early (love) birds” celebrate. The biggest challenge for us to ensure a smooth holiday is the pre-planning which started a few weeks ago with sketching out a menu. There is an art to this process, and it can even be interpreted as a “game” to some. Since we wouldn’t have our bid sheets from our meat, fish and produce purveyors until a few days before, we can’t actually write it in stone but instead have to plan an outline of what we may do if we got “X, Y or Z” delicacies.
It reminds me of past culinary competitions when I’d be handed a mystery basket and have four hours to prepare an appetizer, main course with accompaniments and dessert. Mind you, major prior preparation, even without knowing what I’d have to work with, was the key to being awarded a medal or not.
It goes like this: You always know that there will be a protein, pantry items available to all contestants, some sort of unusual produce and, of course – always a odd ingredient of some sort that we needed to incorporate into the competitions meal. If you have a plan to begin with, all of the above can be “plugged” in and voila... the culinary medal challenges were not as easy as I make it sound but the dedicated groundwork and training paid off every time.
Putting our “love” menu together for this weekend involves including our guests’ favorites. For Valentine’s Day, lobster is a must, followed by shrimp and crab based on their popularity. A big, meaty, well marbled steak always has a place at the table and an appetizer and chocolate dessert is mandatory. Just as important as the food, is the drink, so there is always a craft cocktail at the ready. To give you some options this weekend to add to your Valentine’s Day celebrations, I’ve included an easy make-ahead chocolate mousse and our very popular Blushing Lady Martini for your pleasure. We will have both available this weekend along with plenty more.
Whether you’re staying home to share a special meal or dining out, Happy Valentine’s Day.
Mary Brady is a certified executive chef by the American Culinary Federation and owner of Diamond Jim Brady’s Bistro, located in the Novi Town Center. You can reach her by email at email@example.com, or visit www.djbistro.com.
Bistro Chocolate Mousse
1 pound Semi-Sweet Chocolate
2 Cups Whipped Cream
Melt Chocolate over a double boiler. Heat 1 cup of the cream to body temperature and add to melted chocolate, whisking to incorporate. Whip remaining cream to soft peak stage. Slowly fold 1/3 into the cream-chocolate mixture, mixing well. Fold in the other 2/3 of whipped cream.
Divide into ramekins or wine glasses. Chill.
Good with a chocolate dipped lady finger as a garnish or with fresh berries.
2 Parts Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
2 Parts Gypsy (or your favorite) Vodka
1 Part Fresh Pink Grapefruit Juice
Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled, sugar rimmed martini glass.