Refined Rustic: Cooking for your Valentine

St. Cupid’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re ahead of the game you may be thinking of a special way to demonstrate your love for your sweetheart. Forget the heart-holding stuffed animals displaying amorous sayings or the last-minute wilting roses from the convenience shop. The best way to your lover’s heart is through their stomach. A thoughtfully prepared gourmet meal will be sure to impress any man or woman and evoke their love and appreciation. So roll up your sleeves, pre-heat the oven and get ready for a romantic night-in. We’ve gathered together a few recipes below that are simple enough for the average cook yet sophisticated enough to satisfy a refined palette.

Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Madeira Wine Pan Sauce

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  • 2 Beef Tenderloins approximately 5-6 ounces each
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons high heat oil or clarified butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • ½ cup Madeira wine
  • 1/2 cup sliced sautéed cremini mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon beef demi-glaze.
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish (optional)


  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper on both sides. In a heavy bottom pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Once the oil is shimmering and hot, place the beef tenderloin in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. About 6-7 minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a plate.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium and in the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Then stir in the chopped shallots. Once the shallots are fragrant, stir in the flour. Once the flour is incorporated, after about 30 seconds to one minute, whisk in the beef stock and then the Madeira wine.
  3. Continue whisking and cooking until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened just a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Ladle a bit of sauce on a plate and place a tenderloin on top with any remaining beef juices from the beef plate. Garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley and serve immediately.

Suggested sides are Potatoes Dauphinoise and Roasted Asparagus. As with most beef dishes, pair with your favorite red wine.

Carbonara with Pan Seared Scallops

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Ingredients for Scallops:

  • 12-16 large scallops
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Salt & Pepper

Ingredients for Carbonara:

  • 8 slices of thick cut bacon diced (cut away excess fat)
  • 1 shallot finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic (leave whole)
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 cup parmigiano reggiano grated
  • fresh ground pepper
    400 grams (14 oz) pasta (Linguine or Spaghetti)

Directions for Pasta Carbonara:

  1. Start cooking pasta in a large stainless steel pot.
  2. In a small bowl mix together cream, egg yolks and three-quarters of the cheese.
  3. In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp, add shallots and half of the green onions.
  4. Smash down garlic clove a bit and add to bacon (remove prior to adding pasta).
  5. When pasta is finished cooking, drain well, then add to skillet of bacon.
  6. Toss well, then transfer to large bowl.
  7. Add cream mixture to pasta and combine well. Make sure pasta is still hot in order to cook the eggs and melt the cheese.
  8. Arrange pasta on plate, top with seared scallops, add some fresh ground pepper, grated parmesan, and green onions.

Directions for Pan Seared Scallops:

  1. Blot scallops with paper towel to remove any water. Salt and pepper.
  2. Heat large non-stick frying pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  3. Make sure frying pan is hot before adding scallops but not smoking.
  4. Add scallops leaving plenty of space between each. Overcrowding the pan will drop the pan temperature and cause scallops to steam rather than sear. You may need to do in batches.
  5. Sear for about 2-4 minutes or until bottom is a nice golden brown. Don’t move them around in the pan or you will prevent them from forming a nice brown crust. After a couple of minutes, peek under to check if golden brown.
  6. Turn to sear other side (about 1-3 more minutes).
  7. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to pan.
  8. Spoon the melted butter over the scallops as the other side finishes cooking.
  9. Transfer to paper towel covered plate.
  10. Keep warm in oven, if making in batches.

This recipe tastes best served very fresh. Do not let it sit or allow the scallops and pasta to dry out. Have ALL your ingredients and pots ready to go before starting in order to keep things moving quickly.

Of course, any Italian pasta would pair fantastically with a light bread, such as a baguette, and a lovely bottle of Prosecco.

Roasted Salmon with White Wine Sauce

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  • 1 large skinless salmon fillet (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place salmon on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Roast until opaque throughout, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium. Add flour, and whisk for 1 minute. Add wine, and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until liquid is reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in chives; season with salt and pepper. With a fork, gently break salmon into large chunks, and serve topped with white-wine sauce.

Plate with grilled asparagus and roasted baby potatoes. Roasted salmon is best paired with Pinot Gris.

Tarragon Chicken with Chardonnay Cream Sauce

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  • 1 whole chicken, cut up or equivalent parts*
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 1/2 cup chardonnay wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

*bone-in thighs and drums with skin on


  1. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter.
  2. When butter sizzles, brown chicken well on all sides. Remove from pan.
  3. Deglaze pan with the wine. Add the tarragon, garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Add chicken back to the pan, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove chicken from pan and discard crushed garlic clove. Reduce pan drippings about 50%–this will take about 5 minutes.
  6. Slowly stir in cream (you can add more if you like) and heat through.
  7. Add chicken back to pan and spoon sauce over chicken.

Suggested sides are roasted carrots and herb mashed potatoes. And why not buy an extra bottle of Chardonnay to sip with your meal.

  • I have more questions and concerns about getting an oil-change than I do about this project.

    ~ Tom H.