Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you’re searching for the perfect place to take your sweetheart out to dinner, you’re not alone. Restaurants and inns are traditionally the place to dine out on Valentine’s Day–and the Cielo Restaurant is no exception. Chef Jerauld Regester, of the Cielo Restaurant at the Ventana Inn and Spa in Big Sur, California, prepares fabulous meals that pair perfectly with breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean at this fabulous West Coast resort. But you don’t have to take a plane ride to sample some of Cielo’s exquisite meals at home; Chef Jerauld Regester shares two of his favorite recipes that are perfect for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
Champagne Cocktail with Fresh Berries
Makes 4 to 6 Servings
- 1 750-ml. bottle champagne
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups fresh berries, such as cut-up strawberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries
In a medium saucepan combine half the champagne (1 1/2 cups), sugar, and split vanilla bean. (Keep the remaining champagne chilled for later use.) Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; boil gently, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove from heat. Let cool for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla bean.
In the top of a double boiler (or if you don’t have a double boiler, set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water), beat the egg yolks and reduced champagne mixture until combined. Place over the simmering water (the upper pan should not touch the water). Beat with a wire whisk 10 to 12 minutes or until the mixture thickens and mounds slightly. Remove the mixture to a bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
Before serving, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold into the chilled champagne mixture.* Spoon the mixture into 4 or 6 wine glasses. Top with fruit. Pour reserved chilled champagne over the top and serve.
*At this point, the mixture can be frozen. To thaw, place the frozen mixture in the refrigerator and store overnight unitl the mixture is thawed. Then serve as directed above.
Pan Roasted Filet Mignon with Braised Spinach, Wild Mushrooms, and Lentils
Makes 2 Servings
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2/3 cup French green lentils or brown lentils
- 1 1/4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 slice bacon
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 1/2-inch-thick beef tenderloin steaks (5 to 6 ounces each)
- 4 ounces fresh wild mushrooms, halved or quartered, such as oyster, portobello, and/or chanterelles
- 8 ounces (about 4 cups) fresh spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces
In a medium saucepan melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, garlic and thyme to the pan. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Carefully add the broth and red wine to the pan. Stir in the lentils and bacon. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are done. (French lentils will have a firmer texture than brown lentils.) Discard the bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Add the steaks to the skillet. Do not cover. Cook the steaks over medium heat for about 8 to 11 minutes (for medium-rare) or 12 to 14 minutes (for medium), turning the steaks once halfway through the cooking time.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add the mushrooms; cook and stir for 6 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Stir in the spinach; cook for about 1 minute or until the spinach is just wilted. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, arrange the lentil mixture on a serving platter. Place the spinach and mushrooms in the center of the platter. Arrange the steaks on top of the spinach mixture. Serve.
Ventana Inn and Spa