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    Valentine's Day

    This menu was as fun to come up with as it is to eat. They say oysters are an aphrodisiac but as shucking a raw one can be lethal, I steam mine just until they open and I can easily pry off the shell. They are easy to prepare and look very impressive on the table. The poussins (Cornish hens) require very little by way of preparation. The artichoke makes a great side and the heart is the best part. The molten chocolate cakes are also quick and very sexy, oozing with chocolate on the plate. Happy Valentine’s Day.

    Love,
    gp

    Menu

    • Fried Oysters with Curried Crème Fraîche
    • Roasted Poussins and Potatoes
    • Steamed Artichokes with Cheat’s Aioli
    • Molten Chocolate Cakes

    Fried Oysters with Curried Crème Fraîche

    This is indulgent, but if you’re just making it for two (yourself included), it’s a delicious, decadent gesture. Feel free to use any kind of caviar (salmon roe would be good), or none at all.

    Serves: 2
    Time: 20 minutes

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 shallot, very finely minced
    • 1/8 teaspoon curry powder
    • 1/3 cup champagne
    • 1/3 cup crème fraîche
    • 8 oysters
    • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • peanut oil for frying
    • 1 tablespoon caviar (optional)

    1.Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring for about four minutes or until just softened. Add the curry and cook for another minute. Add the champagne, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until reduced by half, about three minutes. Stir in the crème fraîche and keep warm over a low flame.

    2.Meanwhile, steam the oysters for five minutes. Using a butter knife, shuck them open, drain out the juice and remove the oysters from their shells (use the knife to separate them from the abductor muscle) being sure to reserve both the oysters and their rounded shells. Rinse and dry the shells.

    3.Pour enough peanut oil in a skillet to cover it by ¼" (about a cup in a medium skillet). Heat over a medium flame. Dredge the oysters in the flour. Test the temperature of the oil with a drop of water or a pinch of flour – it should sizzle on contact. Fry the oysters in the hot oil for about a minute on each side, or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

    4.Put a spoonful of the crème fraîche sauce into each shell, top with a crispy oyster and a small spoonful of caviar.

    Roasted Poussins and Potatoes

    Here I use salt from Mallorca that’s infused with hibiscus – it’s floral and delicious, but regular salt is more than okay.

    Serves: 2
    Time: 1 hour

    • 2 poussins (Cornish hens)
    • coarse salt
    • 1 lemon
    • 1 clove finely minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
    • 1/2 teaspoon Mallorcan hibiscus salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • a dozen small creamer potatoes
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

    1.Preheat the oven to 400°F (on convection if possible).

    2.Rub each poussin with coarse salt and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

    3.Grate the zest from the lemon, being sure not to get any of the pith. Reserve the lemon. Make a paste of the zest, 3/4 of the minced garlic, the butter, hibiscus salt, and a few grinds of coarse pepper. Using your fingertips, separate the skin from the breast of each poussin and massage half of the butter mixture under the skin of each bird.

    4.Meanwhile, steam the potatoes for seven minutes. Cut them in half and toss in a roasting pan with the olive oil and a pinch of coarse salt and pepper. Lay the poussins on top. Cut your reserved lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the birds and stuff the squeezed halves inside the cavities. Sprinkle the birds with a good grind of black pepper and a pinch of coarse salt. Roast for 40 minutes, or until browned and cooked through (a thermometer should register 180°F in the thickest part of the thigh). Take the poussins out and let them rest. Toss potatoes with the thyme, return to the oven and roast for an additional five minutes or until crispy. Toss the potatoes with the remaining minced garlic and serve.

    Steamed Artichokes with Cheat's Aioli

    Any vegetable would be delicious dipped in this aioli and it’s also good for a sandwich. The basil’s great here.

    Serves: 2
    Time: 45 minutes, largely unattended

    • 2 artichokes, trimmed
    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise or Veganaise (the only substitute that tastes good)
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/4 of a juicy lemon)
    • pinch of coarse sea salt
    • a generous tablespoon of thinly sliced basil

    1.Steam the artichokes for about 45 minutes or until they give little resistance when you pierce them with a paring knife.

    2.Meanwhile, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.

    3.Let the artichokes cool a bit and serve them with the aioli. To eat, peel off each leaf, swipe it through the aioli, scrape it with your teeth and repeat over and over. When you get to the heart, remove the sharp thistle and enjoy the best part of the artichoke.

    Molten Chocolate Cakes

    These are especially great because you can make the batter ahead of time and refrigerate it, just increase the baking time by two minutes.

    Serves: 2
    Time: 45 minutes, largely unattended

    • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, plus more for the ramekins
    • 1 1/2 oz. chocolate
    • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
    • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    1.Preheat the oven to 450°F.

    2.Generously butter two 4 oz. ramekins.

    3.Melt the butter and chocolate together in a small glass bowl set over a small pot of simmering water. Let it cool a bit while you whisk together the egg, egg yolk and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar in a separate bowl. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate and then the flour.

    4.Fill the ramekins and bake for seven minutes. The edges and top should be just set.

    5.Meanwhile, whisk the crème fraîche together with the remaining teaspoon of confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla.

    6.Remove the cakes from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes. Invert onto dessert plates and serve each with a spoonful of crème fraîche.

    The goop collection

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