Valentine's à la maison: Central Market's David Kiser maps out a feast for two
This year, ditch the fancy pants trattoria and brasserie down the block. Trying to impress your sig other by nailing down a reservation is an overdone, transparent tactic.
Instead, opt for a romantic, low-key V-Day dinner in your own dining room. We met with Central Market Cooking School exec direc David Kiser to get the dish on a simple, yet indulgent, dining experience for two.
Step 1: Set the stage with a table setting that shows effort while avoiding a gaudy "tablescape." "A white cotton tablecloth goes with anything," says Kiser, "and can be customized for the holiday with colorful cloth napkins." He insists having the local laundromat take care of the linens. You want to relax, not iron out wrinkles.
Next, formulate a centerpiece. As an alternative, Kiser recommends using an appealing cutting board, which provides a landing ground for butter, spices and whatever sauce you whip up.
Flowers are crucial, says Kiser. "When guys come in to buy flowers for their date, they need to know what color she likes . . . or at least the color of her eyes," he says. A rose is a rose is a rose, but he refuses to dispatch the popular bloom, no matter the occasion or the recipient. Instead, opt for hydrangeas, oriental, casablanca or stargazer lilies, or the seasonal favorite, tulips.
"Don't be afraid to stray from red and white in your bouquet," he says, suggesting parrot tulips, which are yellow with an orange stripe.
You're ready to confront the evening's central goal: dinner. When we met with Kiser, he offered a simple, flavorful recipe for filet mignon with a cacao nib and coffee rub. Here's the short list of ingredients:
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup dark roast coffee
- 1/8 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
Using a spice grinder or food processor, pulse-grind the cacao nibs to the consistency of very coarse ground coffee. Combine all the ingredients and rub on two four to six-ounce filets. For a medium to medium-rare steak, grill for five to six minutes on each side.
The recipe requires no marinating or chopping, which means more time with your sweetie than sweating in the kitchen. The rub also goes well with other cuts of beef, as well as pork and firm white fish. To simplify side dishes, pick up packages of prepared green beans almondine and Boursin soufflé potatoes.
"What would Valentine's Day be without wine?" asks Kiser. "This is what I always say about choosing a wine: Drink what you like. You don't necessarily have to match it to the meat. If you already like the wine you're drinking, then you're going to enjoy what it's paired with that much more." For the filet mignon, a red is recommended, but Kiser argues that a rosé or heavy-bodied white wine would work as well. "This is your chance to lower the pressure a little bit," he says.
For dessert, skip the impossible-to-master mousse in favor of chocolate dipped strawberries (with inventive coatings) and fine bonbons. Central Market is the only retailer where you can snag artisan chocolates by Araya outside the choclatier's River Oaks Shopping Center atelier.