Valentine’s Day will look a little different for most of us this year. All the things we’ve come to know and expect—crowded restaurants adorned with cherry-hued kitsch, menus dubbed after history’s most famed casanovas—might feel like relics in a world where we are now all-too-familiar with the definition of a lockdown.
That’s the bad news out of the way. The good? So you don’t have to content yourself with last night’s leftovers, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to play Cupid, and have asked some of the world’s most revered chefs to share their favourite date-night dishes with us. And much like dessert, we’ve saved the best for last: all of these mouthwatering meals are easy to follow, without skimping on the wow factor. Food is the fastest way to the heart, after all.
1. Faisal Aldeleigan’s maple chicken salad with caramelised pecans
After a lucrative, decade-long career in finance, Aldeleigan left the corporate world behind to follow his passion for cooking. Today, his Bahrain-based Chef Faisal Consultancy mentors would-be restaurateurs as they navigate the thorny path to running successful eateries.
For the maple dressing:
15ml maple syrup
60ml extra virgin olive oil
20ml Sriracha sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 pinch lemon salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch garlic powder
In a blender, mix all the ingredients. Blend for 1 minute.
For the pecans:
5ml extra virgin olive oil
10ml maple syrup
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch ground cinnamon
Gently heat the oil, syrup, salt and cinnamon until it’s warm. Add the pecans and caramelise them.
For the salad:
130g lollo rosso
100g iceberg lettuce
200g grilled chicken
30g goat’s cheese
A handful of cherry tomatoes
Wash, spin and dice the lettuce and rocket into bite-sized pieces. Cut beetroot and grilled chicken into thin strips. Coat salad leaves evenly in the maple dressing. On a plate, layer the leaves, grilled chicken, followed by the goat’s cheese. Finally, garnish with diced cherry tomatoes, beetroot and caramelised pecans.
2. Dominique Crenn’s truite en papillote
There are only five women in the world who have obtained three Michelin stars—and culinary powerhouse Dominique Crenn is one of them. Billed as the US’s top female chef, Crenn’s French roots and nomadic, freehearted approach to life are reflected in her border-transcending dishes.
For the Béarnaise sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
5 tbsp white wine
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
5 tbsp dry vermouth
4 tbsp butter, diced and room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
Crack eggs into a small bowl and separate the whites from the yolks. Transfer yolks to a medium bowl and set aside.
Fill a small pan with water and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer. In another small pan, add the olive oil and the shallot, and cook for about five minutes until it begins to caramelise. Then deglaze the pan with white wine, vinegar and vermouth, simmering for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is slightly reduced and no longer tastes of alcohol. Remove from heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve, making sure the pieces of shallot are removed. This is your reduction.
Whisk the yolks vigorously over the pan of simmering water. Continue to whisk as the yolks gently cook and begin to form a ribbon. Slowly add the reduction while whisking, being careful not to separate the sauce. Next, add the butter, whisking to incorporate fully. The sauce should be thick and homogenous when complete. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.
For the trout en papillote:
4 medium pieces of trout, 150g each
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Heat your oven to 180°C. Cut four rectangles of baking paper and place them on a baking tray. Season each piece of fish all over with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place one on the bottom half of each parchment sheet. Fold the top down to fully cover the fish. Crimp and roll the edges of the parchment tightly to seal. Bake in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Serve immediately, leaving the trout wrapped en papillote. Cut a slit down the middle of each papillote to reveal the fish, and serve alongside a dish of Béarnaise. Bon appétit!
3. Massimo Bottura‘s squid ink risotto
One of the world’s most-revered chefs, Massimo Bottura has single-handedly redefined contemporary Italian cuisine. In 2016, his three-Michelin-star restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, was voted the best restaurant in the world. This July, Bottura will be inviting guests to join him on a four-day culinary adventure in his own guesthouse in the picturesque hills of Emilia-Romagna.
For the oyster caviar:
100g Belon oyster pulp (liquid reserved)
1g squid ink
0.7g agar-agar (gelling agent)
20g fat obtained from straining fish stock
Strain the oyster liquid and set it aside in the fridge. Blend the oyster pulp and pass it through a sieve. Put 90 per cent of the oyster pulp, the squid ink and agar-agar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Using a medicine dropper or a baster, dispense droplets of the warm, black squid and oyster mixture into a bowl of chilled oyster water. The drops will turn into hardened ‘caviar’ spheres. Keep the spheres in a container and season with remaining oyster pulp and the fish fat.
Store in the fridge at 4°C.
For the black squid cream:
2 shallots, finely chopped
5ml Villa Manodori extra virgin olive oil (or one of your choosing)
20ml sparkling wine
30g cherry tomato confit
100ml squid ink
500ml fish stock
In a pan over low heat, lightly brown the shallots in the olive oil. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the confit tomatoes and squid ink. Stir in the fish stock and reduce by half. Cool, blend and strain. It should be creamy and very black.
For the risotto:
100g Belon oyster pulp (reserve the liquid)
100g Fine de Claire oyster pulp (reserve the liquid)
100ml extra virgin olive oil
280g Acquerello rice
125ml sparkling wine
900ml sea bass stock, strained
20g Calvisius Oscietra gold caviar
Strain the oyster liquids. Heat the olive oil in a risotto pan, add the rice and toast it. Add the wine and let the alcohol burn off. Add the warm fish stock a little at a time over medium heat.
Meanwhile, blend the oyster pulp with a handheld blender and pass through a sieve. Strain it and mix in the oyster water. Finish cooking the risotto with the liquid, keeping the rice al dente. Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the oyster pulp and more olive oil. Plate three-quarters of the rice in a flat ring shape on the plate, leaving a gap in the centre. Mix the remaining rice with a spoonful of black squid cream and place in the centre of the grey rice. Mix the Calvisius Oscietra caviar with 20g oyster caviar. Add a dot of caviar in the centre of the rice.
4. Wolfgang Puck‘s molten lava cake
With multiple Michelin stars, more than 50 restaurants, and a knack for making the ordinary extraordinary (during the first lockdown, his signature fried chicken had ravenous visitors queueing around the block), Wolfgang Puck is one of the biggest names in the industry.
For 8 small cakes
210g dark chocolate
65g plain flour
3 egg yolks
Heat the oven to 160°C. Melt butter and chocolate over a low heat. Add the flour to the butter and chocolate mix. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add the egg mixture to the butter and chocolate mix. Mix well until combined.
Spray aluminium ramekins with oil. Fill each ramekin with mixture and make sure the tops are flat.
Bake for 11 minutes.