Forgot to plan for Valentine’s Day this year? No problem, home guru Christy Rost has your back
Public Television Chef & Author
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds
½ cup seedless raspberry jam
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are fragrant and light brown. Remove them from the oven, transfer to a plate and cool completely. When they are cool, place the almonds in a food processor or nut grinder, and process just until they are finely ground.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with confectioners’ sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beat well and stir in vanilla.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder and ground almonds. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture to form a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out cookie dough on a floured pastry cloth or counter to ¼-inch thickness. Cut with a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter dipped in flour, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets. Cut the centers out of half the cookies using a 1-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter.
Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are light brown. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool. When the cookies are completely cool, spread the solid ones with raspberry jam, slightly mounding it in the center of each cookie, and top with the remaining cookies. Sift lightly with confectioners’ sugar, which will melt over the jam, leaving a glossy center.
Yield: 22 to 24 cookies
Taking that special someone out for Valentine’s Day can be expensive, crowded and hurried — provided you can even get into a reservation at this late of a date.
But don’t fret because cookbook author, TV chef and all-around home-entertainment guru Christy Rost has been celebrating the most romantic of holidays at home with her husband, Randy, for more than four decades now.
On Friday, she sat down with the Summit Daily News at her second home in Breckenridge to share a handful of helpful ideas that will make anyone’s stay-at-home Valentine’s Day dinner extra special this year.
A special dinner
For Valentine’s Day, Rost said she aims to recreate the feeling of going out without the hassle of actually doing it.
For her, that means a special setting for a special dinner, and for Valentine’s Day, she always picks the fireplace. She chooses the fireplace because February is almost always a chilly time of year and because dining in an atypical location of the home can change the dynamics of a dinner.
Instead of having your Valentine’s Day dinner at the same table by the same window where you always eat, Rost thinks it’s better to mix it up. The variation only adds to the experience, she said. By moving a few items of furniture, she can remake an area of her home usually reserved for sitting into a warm, special dinner setting.
“It’s like all of the sudden we are transported to some place magical, quite intimate and definitely full of love,” Rost said. “So while (Randy and I) could go out to dinner, we prefer not to because we always have the best seat in the house.”
Maybe you don’t have a fireplace at your house. That’s fine, Rost said, it’s just as easy to utilize a coffee table with a couple pillows on the floor. Simply take that coffee table to a window with a view, and you’re well on your way to creating that special setting.
Set the scene
Perhaps equally as important as what’s served is how it is presented. For this year’s setting, Rost used quite a combination — a mixture of heirloom pieces, antiques, contemporary pieces and even some items from a dollar store — to create her Valentine’s Day table.
“It’s all there from one end of the spectrum to another,” she said, adding that no two of her Valentine’s dinners will look alike. “It will always be different, and that’s what keeps it fresh.”
Rost emphasized that not everything has to match, and anyone who thinks it does is missing the point. Rather than focus on making everything perfect, Rost said, have fun with it and the more fun you have, the more perfect your night will be. “If you put your heart into it, it will always turn out well. Don’t sweat the details.”
One special element
It could be a single rose in a bud vase or perhaps one nicely set across the plate of your special someone, Rost said, but regardless, one special element goes a long, long way.
Additionally, candles aren’t just romantic. They can cover up many imperfections, Rost said, “because they are magical.” Adding candles to your Valentine’s Day dinner seating creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere and can cover up many perceived imperfections.
Rost said she always recommends candles — whether they are the standard flaming type or the battery-powered ones.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” she whispered.
Play to your strength
If someone makes one dish very well, Rost said that’s what he or she should prepare for Valentine’s Day — but maybe do it a little differently.
For example, if someone’s thing is casseroles, that’s a solid play, but instead of serving the casserole on a plate, put it into individual au gratin or ramekin dishes.
“Anything to change it up, look a little fancier, will make it feel like you’re at a fine restaurant,” Rost said. If you’re still struggling on picking a dish, you can’t go wrong with steak, she added, while suggesting using an extra dish or two to create a beautiful place setting.
Serving the meal in courses will make everyone slow down and appreciate the meal that much more, Rost said. Plus, a Valentine’s Day should never be rushed. One great trick to slow things down is to break the meal up into three or four courses. In addition to the main feature and desert, Rost suggests serving a salad course or a soup course first.
“Start your meal that way,” she said. Maybe, even add an appetizer, like shrimp in a wine glass. It’s an easy addition that can go a long way.
Pick the right wine
If seafood is on the menu, Rost recommends a pinot grigio or a sauvignon blanc because they are “bright in flavor” and have “a bit of tartness” and that pairs well with seafood, which tends to have a creaminess to it.
For steak, Rost suggests something with more body, like a cabernet sauvignon or an old vine zinfandel. “The one I really like right now, and it’s very reasonable, is OZV,” she said. “You can get it in Summit County, if it’s not on sale, for about $13.”
Leave room for desert
Desert is one of the most important courses for Valentine’s Day, and it cannot be overlooked. It’s a safe play, Rost said, but you can almost never go wrong with chocolate.
“There’s something very romantic about desert,” she noted. “If it comes heart-shaped, or it is rich, or it is garnished in a very pretty fashion, it’s a nice way to wrap up dinner and keep the romantic tone going. And if you serve a little extra wine with it, then it’s going to be a lovely evening.”
Spread the love
Valentine’s can be a special day for everybody, whether they have a sweetie or not, Rost said, and one of the best ways to celebrate it is to spread that love to friends, as well as a sweetheart.
“That’s really important because not everybody has a sweetheart and Valentine’s Day can be a little tough for some because they feel left out,” Rost said. “So if you pick one or two people and decide they are going to be your special Valentine, you can take a little bag of cookies to them or a bag of chocolates. It really can make such a difference in someone’s life.”
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