They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’d say this applies to many ladies too!
Steak is still top of the bill for many carnivores. So with Valentine’s Day looming, you could take your Valentine to an incredible Brazilian Rodízio restaurant like Estancia Brasil, where they bring prime cuts of perfectly cooked meat and steak to your table until you literally can’t eat anymore. With an extensive side buffet, deliciously romantic live music, an indulgent chocolate fountain, magicians and a free glass of champagne to boot.
Or you can spoil each other at home. Splash out on a magnum of beautiful bubbly instead of just sipping a glass. Serenade your Valentine and “magic” your beloved into the dreamy clouds of romance…. Lather chocolate all over each other in a 9 1/2 Weeks frenzy instead of just dipping a mere strawberry… Or something like that. Maybe. Perhaps. Just a thought.
Wherever the mood takes you on the night, you likely won’t want to spend hours and hours in the kitchen. Thankfully it’s easy to rustle up a romantic steak diner-a-deux at home on Valentine’s day. Not a lot of cooking involved, so a lot of time to spend smooching with your loved one instead.
Sauce Archiduc is a classic mushroom cream sauce that is very popular in Belgium and France. The Belgians tend to make it with a splash of whiskey (they use whiskey in their prawn cocktail too), while the French favour port or cognac. Go figure.
It was Sauce Archiduc that helped me rediscover steak during my student years in Brussels. It took me a while to realise that the succulent rare piece of meat on my plate in the local bistros was the same as the unrecognizable thin piece of shoe leather mum used to serve up.
Turns out I only like my steak rare, medium-rare at most. Which mum refused to do, as she was firmly in the meat-needs-to-be-well-cooked-camp back then. So she forced me into the kitchen to cook my own. A blessing in disguise in hindsight.
Turns out I also like my steak with a good Sauce Archiduc, green peppercorn sauce or an unctuous Bearnaise at a push.
Sauce Archiduc is equally at home with chicken, pork, veal or turkey, so a nice one to add to your repertoire.
Steak Archiduc (serves 2 – GF LC RSF)
2 beef or venison steaks, the best you can afford
1/2 tbsp butter
a good handful of mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced
1 tbsp whiskey, cognac, port or marsala wine
75 ml reduced beef stock
75 ml whipping cream or 2 generous tbsp full-fat creme fraiche
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Fresh chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
Cook the steaks either sous-vide or classically pan-fried to your liking. Instructions and timings for both methods are in my sous-vide steak post.
Set the steaks aside in aluminium foil while you make the sauce.
Add the butter and mushrooms to the frying pan you just fried the steaks in. Season and fry for a few minutes over medium-high.
Turn the heat up to high and deglaze the pan with your chosen alcoholic beverage. You can flambée it at this stage by slightly tilting the pan towards the gas fire, or lighting it with a match. It’s optional though, especially if you don’t own a fire blanket or are of a nervous disposition.
Turn the heat back down to medium-high and stir through the reduced stock and cream. Cook until thickened and reduced. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste and check the seasoning.
Add any juices the steaks may have released while resting in the foil before serving.
Serve with the seasoned oven chips and a salad garnish. In Belgium, this would probably be bitter leaves such as chicory or radicchio dressed with a little (thinned down) home made mayonnaise and perhaps a bit of cucumber or tomato.
Seasoned Oven Chips (serves 2 – GF DF V Vg RSF)
I usually use sweet potatoes for chips or wedges, but there are those occasions where I fancy proper potato chips. Obviously you can deep fry them, but this oven version is healthier and just as nice. It uses a sprinkling of semolina flour to get an extra crispy finish.
The other advantage of oven chips is that you can spice them up or season the chips exacly to your liking before baking, so the flavour really gets into the chip.
500 gr chipping potatoes such as Yukon Gold, cut into chips or wedges, peeling optional (I don’t bother)
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
Dried herbs and spices (I usually use Ella Woodward’s herb salt from her book “Deliciously Ella” or her chilli-paprika one from the same book. The herby one today to go with the steak)
2 tbsp semolina flour
Soak the chips minimum 30 mins in plenty of cold water with at least 1 tbsp of salt added. The salt helps draw out moisture, which in turn helps crisping during baking
Drain and rinse thoroughly, at least twice. Dry thoroughly on kitchen paper or a j-cloth.
Heat the oven to 200 C.
Heat 2 tbsp rapeseed oil in a large roasting tray in the oven for 10 mins. Meanwhile mix salt, pepper and your chosen dried herbs and spices in the remaining tbsp rapeseed oil.
Toss the chips through the seasoned oil and add to the tray with hot oil. Spread them out in a single layer and lightly dust with half the semolina flour.
Bake for 20 mins. Gently turn the chips over and shake them about a bit to ensure they are again in a single layer. Dust with the remaining semolina.
If the chips appear to colour too much before they are cooked and crispy, turn the heat down to 180 C for the next 20 mins. You may need a little more or less time depending on your oven, the potatoes used and the thickness of the chips.
When done, drain in a colander lined with kitchen paper or a j-cloth and shake them about a bit to get rid of any excess oil. Sprinkle with extra salt and herbs to taste.
Serve with the steak Archiduc and a salad garnish or with anything else you fancy.