Valentine's Dinner

Maple Glazed Salmon with Fried Tarragon & Double Crispy Herbed French Fries with Lemon Aioli

Maple Glazed Salmon French Fries

This crowd-pleasing salmon recipe has a hint of sweetness from the maple glaze balanced by crispy salty fried tarragon. I served it with a pile of crispy French fries to continue the elegant “comfort food” theme for Valentine’s Day. I believe in the “double fry” to get fries done on the inside, crispy on the outside, and just the right golden color.  Add a dollop of Lemon Aioli and some roasted asparagus to round out the meal. 

MAPLE GLAZED SALMON with FRIED TARRAGON:

2 cups fresh tarragon, leaves only

Peanut oil

12 salmon filets 

½ cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

For Fried Tarragon:

Heat a pot of peanut oil on medium high until it’s about 350 degrees. Flash fry the tarragon leaves for just about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on paper towels. Generously salt with a good quality fleur de sel, and aside until salmon is ready.

Maple Glazed Salmon with Crispy Fried Tarragon

For Maple Glazed Salmon:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the salmon with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large saute pan (with oven proof handle) on medium high heat. Add the olive oil, then the salmon skin side down. (For a larger party, you will need two saute pans.) Spoon the hot oil over the tops of the salmon. It will take 2-3 minutes to get a nice crust on the bottom of the fish. 

Add a drizzle of maple syrup on top of each piece of fish. Continue spooning the oil and syrup as the maple syrup begins to caramelize.  Transfer the entire saute pan to the oven to finish the cooking - another 3 minutes. Remove hot pan from oven (careful of that hot handle!) and plate each piece of fish, spooning the caramelized pan drippings over each piece. Top with a pile of Crispy Fried Tarragon. 

Maple Glazed Salmon

DOUBLE CRISPY HERBED FRENCH FRIES & LEMON AIOLI 

6 Russet potatoes 

Peanut oil

2 bunches basil, leaves only

2 bunches parsley, leaves only

2 bunches rosemary, leaves only

Sea salt 

Helpful Kitchen Tools:

Mandoline

Large stock pot

Candy thermometer with clip

Large steel skimmer strainer

Baking sheets 

To prepare the potatoes, wash the outside well, removing any eyes. Prepare a large bowl of cold water and set aside. Using a mandoline, slice into long thin fries, about ¼ inch thick (or cut by hand as uniform in size as possible).  As you slice them, place into the cool water. Let the potatoes soak for 30 minutes or longer. When you are ready for the first fry, drain potatoes well on kitchen towels or paper towels. Wet fries will make the oil splatter so dry them well before frying.  

For the first fry, heat at least 3 inches of peanut oil to 325 degrees in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add the fries in small batches and cook for about 5 minutes per batch. They will still be pale at this lower temperature, but it will cook the inside so that later, you can easily crisp them just before serving. Remove with a slotted spoon or large skimmer and set aside on baking sheets lined with paper towels. These will hold all day until you are ready to do the final fry and serve.

To fry the Herbs:

Turn up the heat to 350 and quickly fry the herbs in batches for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and set aside on paper towels.  

Second Fry for Fries:

When ready to serve the fries, reheat the oil to 375 degrees, using your candy thermometer to monitor the heat. Add a single fry to test the oil. It should sizzle and bubble at a steady pace. Add the fries in batches so you can keep the oil nice and hot. Fry to a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes, for the second fry. Set aside on a baking sheet. 

Combine the crispy fries with the crispy herbs. Season with a good quality sea salt, such as fleur de sel. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven until ready to serve. 

 LEMON AIOLI

4 egg yolks

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Juice of 2 lemons, plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Dash of Worchestershire

Dash of Tabasco

1 teaspoon sea salt 

½ teaspoon white pepper

2 cups safflower oil

 Combine egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, Worchestershire, Tabasco, salt and white pepper into the base of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the oil, in a slow drizzle until incorporated and emulsified.  This can also be blended by hand in a mixing bowl, using a whisk. Stores in refrigerator for a week or longer.  

Maple Glazed Salmon with Fried Tarragon & Double Crisp Herbed French Fries with Lemon Aioli

Grilled Cheese & Roasted Tomato Soup

This might be my favorite appetizer I have ever served. Sure, we think of Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup for a rainy-day comfort meal, but how about an elegant presentation at a dinner party with two little fingers of Grilled Cheese to dunk in a shot of Roasted Tomato Soup! I served this as a passed appetizer for my Valentine’s Dinner and my guests LOVED it.  

Grilled Cheese & Roasted Tomato Soup Appetizer

GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES

It’s literally my favorite food… of ALL foods, if I had to pick just one it would be Grilled Cheese aka Toasted Cheese, Cheese Toast, Cheese Toastie, Jaffles, etc. By any name in any country I have never met a grilled cheese I didn’t like. Cafeteria style on white bread with gooey American cheese – how happy was I when the school menu was grilled cheese!!!! All the way up to the crustiest artisanal bread with Fontina, Bleu, Brie…. IF YOU TOAST IT AND MELT CHEESE ON IT, I WILL BE THERE. 

Here is one version of our beloved Grilled Cheese, made with a combination of 5 cheeses selected for meltability and creaminess (Fontina, Baby Swiss, Gouda), sharpness (sharp white cheddar), and a punch of salt (Pecorino). (Or course you can always opt for American cheese singles, but get a good quality organic variety if you go this route.)  I slather the bread with real butter. Some will argue for using mayonnaise instead of butter for better browning. Mayo is a midwestern tradition on grilled cheese, and while I honor the browning note, I prefer the taste of butter. Also, err on the side of well-done – the crusty buttery bread with the melty, gooey cheese. Simply sublime. I also add a tiny sprinkle of good sea salt before slicing, because it just does a final little thing that makes it sing.  

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

INGREDIENTS:

Dave’s Seed Bread (2 slices per sandwich)

Butter (2 tablespoons per sandwich)

5-Cheese Blend (about ½ cup per sandwich)

Fontina

Gouda

Baby Swiss

Sharp white cheddar

Pecorino

Fleur de Sel (or good quality sea salt)

Preheat a griddle to 350 degrees or medium high (or use a heavy-bottomed saute pan on medium-high heat). Grate the five cheeses in equal amounts and combine in a bowl (roughly ½ cup per sandwich).  Slather the outside of two pieces of bread with butter, covering every bit to the corners. Place the buttered side of the bread onto a buttered hot griddle (or a pan on medium-high heat with melted butter). Add a generous amount of grated cheese and spread evenly all the way to the corners. Place the other piece of bread on top. Let the bread get nice and crispy on the bottom side, while the cheese begins to melt. (If your pan is too hot, the bread will burn and the cheese will not have enough time to melt, so check the heat and adjust as needed.) When the bottom bread is a deep golden brown and the edges of the bread are crispy, flip and repeat the other side.  Transfer to a cutting board. Give the top a tiny sprinkle of sea salt. Slice on the diagonal into 1 inch strips.  Criss-cross the slices and serve immediately. Great with a cup of Roasted Tomato Soup!

Grilled Cheese & Roasted Tomato Soup Appetizer

ROASTED TOMATO SOUP

This is my mother-in-law Suzanne Somers’ recipe and there is no need to alter it one bit. Suzanne has taught me so many things in my life. What a mentor she has been for me… however, of all the enrichment she was shared with me, perhaps the most notable is SOUP. Suzanne makes the best soup of anyone I know! The key is her homemade broth, her ability to season with just the right amount of salt, and the garnishes she adds that give it that extra special something. This is her Roasted Tomato Soup that can be found in her recipe compilation, Sexy Forever Recipe Bible, on page 51. The only alteration I made is that I used cherry tomatoes and then served it in a little espresso cup with Grilled Cheese! 

Roasted Tomato Soup

INGREDIENTS:

8 pints of the ripest reddest organic cherry tomatoes 

Drizzle of olive oil

2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 bunch basil, leaves only

2 cups chicken broth

Sea salt & cracked black pepper

Pinch red chili flakes

Crème fraiche, for garnish  

Caramelized shallots, for garnish

Place cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and thyme over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, until tomatoes are blistered and browning. Scrape all tomatoes and stuff stuck on bottom of the pan into a soup pot.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Add basil leaves (save a few for garnish) and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add broth, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with sea salt, cracked pepper and a pinch of red chili flakes. Taste soup and if it’s too acidic, add a small spoonful of organic sugar to balance. Check salt again and add as needed until the balance is correct. 

Roasted Tomato Soup

Puree with a hand mixer until smooth and serve.  Garnish with crème fraiche, caramelized shallots, and sprig of basil. 

Grilled Cheese & Roasted Tomato Soup

For the appetizer version, serve in a small demitasse or espresso cup with a slice of Grilled Cheese - perfect as a passed appetizer for an elegant way to dunk!

Grilled Cheese & Roasted Tomato Soup

This was my passed appetizer at my Valentine’s dinner with a few of the loveliest friends a girl could ever wish for!!! Happy Valentine’s Day!