Growing up with my family, Valentine’s Day was second only to Christmas. V-Day has been my mother’s favorite holiday since she was a little girl and she carried that love for love to adulthood. As soon as the Christmas tree was thrown over the back porch, Valentine’s Day décor seemed to appear in the blink of an eye. Paper heart garlands strung from every curtain rod, heart-shaped ornaments hanging from every chandelier, statues of cupids with pointed bow and arrow in every corner, framed vintage valentines on every surface – the list goes on. We spent weeks carefully crafting handmade valentines for every family member and friend using materials my mom collected all year long: decorative papers, doilies, glitter, special glue, wallpaper samples from the Boston Design Center (shh! Don’t tell), sequins, fabric trim, buttons, red and pink paint in every hue imaginable.
Mom's Foyer Valentine Display This Year
My mom also trained my father early to observe Valentine’s Day with a deep and sacred reverence. Every year, without fail, my mother received an enormous arrangement of long-stemmed red roses, a box of Godiva raspberry cremes and a gift of some sort - and I was the delighted recipient of a small bespoke bouquet and a little box of my own chocolates. Now, my Dad sends that bouquet of long-stemmed red roses (36 to be exact) to me every year, with a heartfelt note that always makes me cry.
Needless to say, while some consider the holiday a purely commercial stunt to keep Hallmark and the manufacturers of conversation hearts in business, for me, it is important. I so appreciate the idea of taking a moment in the middle of a random week in chilly February to honor the love in our lives – romantic or otherwise.
As someone who best expresses love through food, I look forward to preparing an all-red-themed romantic meal on Valentine’s Day every year. This year’s menu is as follows:
Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Beefsteak Tomato, Bacon and Red Onion Salad
Dark Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
The entrée is an old favorite that I’ve been making since college: Martha Stewart’s pepper-crusted filet mignon is a simple classic and her recipe is foolproof with a high-quality cut of meat. The accompanying red wine sauce is a cinch to make but always elegant. My best guy friends from college still call me for the name of the recipe when they’re cooking for a date because this dish never fails to impress.
This salad is a new favorite from Alex Guarnaschelli’s The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart which I write about in more detail in my next blog post. This one was a no-brainer for this meal because it fits the red theme but also contains bacon which my husband lives for.
It seems especially appropriate to honor the marriage of two beautiful things on this holiday of love: steak and potatoes. They are culinary soulmates, two dishes meant to arrive at the table together. I particularly love a good garlic mashed and Barefoot Contessa’s recipe is a winner. I love crème fraiche I mashed potatoes – it elevates the taste and adds a certain silkiness.
Chocolate-dipped strawberries are SO easy to make but feel like such a luxury. This time of year, most grocery stores carry long-stemmed strawberries which are easier to dip in melted chocolate (thus making less of a mess) and make an even better presentation. Should you need a recipe, this is a good one.
May this menu inspire you to show someone in your life some love this Valentine’s Day – bon appetit and happy love day to all ❤