The first time I had my wife over for dinner in what was then my bachelor pad, I was out to impress. I made sure to clean up, stocked the bar with lots of good wine and even put out fresh flowers. However, it was none of these efforts that won her heart, as I later found out.
The meal I had prepared was the ultimate clincher. What I served - filet mignon, a robust red - is of little importance. Rather, it was the apparent thought that went into the planning of the evening that she says she appreciated.
Based on this (and subsequent) experience, I can state with certainty that other husbands or boyfriends who take this Valentine's Day as an opportunity to treat their sweethearts to a romantic dinner for two will score points with said sweethearts for many weeks to come. The fact that this is the day before Valentine's Day shouldn't deter: A fine cut of beef, a bottle of Barolo and some candlelight are all that are required.
For a surefire clincher, cap off the evening with poached pears in a pool of crème anglaise, one of the most sensuous desserts I know.
Sebastien Centner is the director of Eatertainment Special Events in Toronto ( www.eatertainment.com).
Candied Poached Pears with Sambuca Crème Anglaise
2 pears (any variety)
1 litre simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons demerara or brown sugar
2 cups water
2 cups white sugar
Sambuca crème anglaise:
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 ounce white sambuca
2 to 5 drops red food colouring
Make simple syrup by dissolving sugar and water in a pot over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to simmer.
Cut pears in half lengthwise and remove core using a melon baller, small spoon or small knife. Place in pot with simple syrup and poach for 10 minutes on simmer with the lid on. (Remaining simple syrup can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for future use.)
Carefully remove pears from pot (they will now be soft) and place cut side down on baking sheet topped with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350 F until sugar is caramelized (5 to 10 minutes).
To make sambuca crème anglaise, add sugar, sambuca and heavy cream to a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and allow liquid to reduce to about 11/2 cups. Add food colouring until desired shade of pink. Let cool to room temperature.
Place cream mixture in shallow soup bowl, place pear cut side down in centre of plate and garnish with fresh raspberries or raspberry coulis. Serves 2.