Ah, Valentine’s Day. One of the few days of the year when it’s not only apropos to try to impress the one you love, but also expected. And we’re here to help you with everything from throwing a memorable party to putting together an unforgettable meal that will make your date wish it were V-Day every day. This foolproof menu comes to you courtesy of Courtney McBroom of Large Marge Cooks, a Los Angeles-based catering company she runs with her partner-in-crime and fellow chef Leslie Discher. The duo met while working in the kitchen of Momofuku Milk Bar in N.Y.C. and decided to take their talents out west and win over hearts with their pop-up dinner parties, all-star queso, and addictive churro cake.
And as someone who’s already romanced a charming man herself (we're looking at you, Aziz Ansari), we would be silly not to heed her advice. McBroom’s totally doable five-course meal includes oysters, steak with sesame shallots, potatoes cooked three ways (they’re totally worth it), an unfussy arugula salad, and dark chocolate fondue plus dipping accoutrements. “This menu is a one-way ticket to Love Town,” McBroom says. “In fact, if your boo isn’t ready to get down after eating this, please call the police, because there is a good chance you are dating a robot, and the world may be ending soon.” Read on to get the full menu, and make sure you follow the timeline at the end to help with executing it perfectly.
Raw Oysters with Turmeric Mignonette
“When it comes time to buy the oysters, make sure you’re going to a reputable source,” advises McBroom. East coast varieties are typically saltier and brinier, while the west cost options are creamier and smoother. Shuck them right before eating (this is where a video helps), and “since it is Valentine’s Day, this may be the perfect opportunity to attempt an reenactment of that pottery scene from the movie Ghost.”
If you can’t find fresh turmeric at your local grocery store, you can sub in 1/8 tsp dry, “but it’s worth the extra trouble for fresh,” advises McBroom. (You can usually find it at places like Whole Foods or a gourmet shop, she adds.)
For the Mignonette
1/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
1/2 tsp fresh turmeric, grated on a microplane
1/2 tsp thai bird chili, sliced into rings as thinly as possible
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 scallion, white part only, sliced as thinly as possible
1 dozen oysters (“I usually do 3-4 oysters per person, but it is Valentine’s Day and oysters are a known aphrodisiac, so go big or go home,” says McBroom).
1. In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the mignonette together and transfer it to a pretty little saucer. Cover it and put it in the refrigerator until it’s time to eat the oysters.
2. Just before shucking, fill a rimmed platter with crushed ice. Shuck the oysters and arrange them by nestling them into the ice, leaving space in the middle to put the mignonette.
3. Snuggle the mignonette in the middle of the platter and spoon it over the oysters before slurping them down.
Just the Tip (Tri-Tip) with Sesame & Shallots
It’s important that you get a good piece of meat, stresses McBroom. “Get wagyu or something at that level of quality. I like to cook the tri-tip almost all the way through to medium or even medium-well. Many of you will balk at that, but don’t knock it until you try it, and if you have the best quality-beef, it will be better this way.”
For the sesame shallots
1 shallot, sliced on a mandolin on the thinnest possible setting
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
For the steak
1 lb wagyu tri-tip steak (you will likely have leftovers, but they will be delicious and you will be happy to have them)
Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1. In a small bowl, combine the shallots with the sesame oil, cover the bowl and refrigerate it until ready to use.
2. Take the tri-tip out of the refrigerator and season it liberally on both sides with the Lawry’s.
3. Cover the steak loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
4. While the steak is hanging out, heat the oven to 300ºF, after 20 minutes, heat the olive oil up over medium high heat in an oven proof skillet.
5. When the oil is hot, sear the meat on all sides so that it has a nice, golden brown crust. depending on how hot the pan is, it should take 1-2 minutes per side.
6. Put the pan in the oven and let the steak finish cooking until a thermometer reads 145ºF when inserted into the thickest part of the roast, about 25 minutes. (This gives you a mid to mid-well steak, if you insist on serving the steak mid-rare, take it out when the thermometer reads 130ºF.)
7. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then slice it against the grain into about 1/4 inch-thick slices.
8. Arrange the slices on a platter, drizzle them with the the sesame shallots and sprinkle the cilantro on top.
Three-Way Potatoes with Pepperoncini Aioli
Cooking the potato three ways “results in the best possible potato experience: Crispy and browned on the outside and soft like clouds on the inside,” says McBroom. “I know it seems like a ton of work just for potatoes, but trust me on this one.”
For the aioli
2 tbsp mayonnaise, preferably kewpie
1 tsp ketchup
1/2 tsp pepperoncini juice
1 tbsp pepperoncinis, chopped
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
For the potatoes
4 small potatoes (about 3/4 pound), white rose varietal is best but yukon golds work too
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1. Mix all of the ingredients for the aioli together in a small bowl and set it aside in the refrigerator until it’s time to eat.
2. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are just cooked through, about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
3. Drain the potatoes and let them sit until they are cool enough to handle, then quarter them lengthwise so you have a bunch of small wedges. Heat the oven to 300ºF.
4. Heat the butter and oil over medium heat in a large oven-proof sauté pan, add the potatoes, season them with salt and pepper and pan fry them until they are crispy and golden brown on most sides.
5. Put the potatoes in the oven and let them bake for at least two hours, or until you are ready to eat them. If they start to get too brown, cover them with foil.
6. Remove them from the oven, put them in a pretty bowl and drizzle the aioli on top of them just before serving.
Arugula, Lemon & Parmigiano-Reggiano Salad
“This is my go-to salad for everything,” says McBroom. “It’s fast and easy and the peppery bite of the arugula is the perfect yin to the rich steak and buttery potato yang.”
2 ½ oz arugula, washed and dried
1 lemon, juiced
A few drizzles of olive oil (about 1 tbsp)
1. Put the arugula in a bowl.
2. Just before serving, add the lemon juice and the olive oil and toss the salad.
3. Using a peeler, shave as much Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top of the salad as you like. I usually go for 5-6 shaves.
Dark Chocolate Fondue, Strawberries & Dates
The best part of this fondue? You don’t need any special equipment. “This version of fondue works great at room temperature, so you don’t need a fondue pot to keep it warm,” says McBroom. “The Nardini has a chocolate, minty, herbaceous quality about it and it’s what makes the chocolate special.”
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup Amaro Nardini
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 pint of strawberries
8 oz pitted medjool dates
1. Put all of the ingredients except for the strawberries and dates in a small metal bowl.
2. Fill a small pot halfway full of water and bring it to a boil.
3. Put the metal bowl on top of the pot and use the steam to melt everything together.
4. When the chocolate has melted completely, use a whisk to make sure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
5. Transfer the fondue to a pretty bowl or fondue pot and set it aside a at room temperature until ready to use.
6. When it’s time to serve, give it a stir and check the consistency, it should have thickened up a bit. If it’s thicker than you prefer, you can easily thin it back out by heating it up over the steam bath again.
7. Use fondue forks or chopsticks to dip the strawberries and dates into the chocolate. Feel free to dip other things in the chocolate too - cake, shortbread, raspberries, you can even drizzle it over ice cream.
Run of Show for an 8 p.m.-ish Dinner Time
“Remember: Have fun, and don’t worry if things get messed up or if the timing is a little off,” advises McBroom. “The whole point of cooking and entertaining at home is that you can do whatever you want. Just be you and everything will fall into place. You got this!”
The Day Before
1. Make the pepperoncini aioli and sesame shallots.
2. Set the table, fill a vase with beautiful flowers and/or gather some cool candles for a centerpiece.
3. Pull out all of the serving platters and bowls you plan to use and make sure they are clean and ready to go.
4. Make a really cool music playlist, or figure out which records you want to play.
Make the mignonette and chocolate fondue. Arrange the strawberries and dates in a pretty bowl, wash and dry the arugula and put it in a salad bowl in the fridge so it’s ready to go.
Start the potatoes—boil them, sauté them, stick them in the oven, and forget about them.
Open a bottle of wine and have a drink already! Make it a white wine or a bottle of bubbly cause that will go great with the oysters you will soon be eating.
Take the steak out of the fridge and season it.
Sear the steak and put it in the oven.
Remove steak from oven and let it rest, shuck the oysters and arrange them on a platter and eat!
Slice the steak, put it on a platter, and garnish it. Remove potatoes from oven and put them in a pretty bowl and drizzle the aioli on top of them, dress and toss the salad and shave the parmigiano on top. Open up a nice bottle of red wine to go with it.
When you are ready for dessert, grab the fondue and strawberries and dates and go to town.