Suggestions for your Valentine’s Day Evening

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovebirds!

I realize most of you like to treat your significant others to a romantic dinner at a fine restaurant, but for those of you who enjoy cooking, I have a little idea that might make your lover smile:

Make a chocolate roll. A big one.

For those of you who do not know what that is, it’s a soft chocolate cake wrapped around whipped cream. My family has a great recipe that always brings a smile to our guests’ faces. Out of pride I will not share with you the recipe in its entirety, but I will give you two tips that you may not find online or in a recipe book.

  1. Use Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate (60% Cacao). I’ve tried a bunch of different brands from all over the world, but nothing quite compares to theirs.
  2. Mix your favorite liqueur in the whipped cream; I prefer Grand Marnier. Remember: it’s strong and you’re not supposed to cook it, so be careful how much you put in.

I hope you all have a great evening with your loved ones. Or, if you’re by yourself, sit by your fireplace and enjoy a nice glass of G&T on the rocks (or whatever your favorite alcoholic beverage may be) while listening to some jazz or classical music. Maybe call some of your relatives, or invite your friends over for some savory crudités before going out to dinner. If you’re a night owl and live in a calm neighborhood, take a late night stroll and enjoy some fresh air; if you live near a forest, you might want to walk through it, given it’s safe to do so.

There are plenty of things to do alone, with friends and family, or with your significant other, so go and do something fun! I’m going to make myself sautéd chicken breasts with vodka tomato sauce… laced with a tablespoon of red pepper and a touch of Tabasco.


The Vermouth Trick

It’s not really a “trick” per say, but it’s a tip I hope you all find useful.

Many people add white wine to some fish when they bake or broil them, as I’m sure many of you know. This helps cook and flavor the fish, and therefore is a very common supplement, or even replacement, for cooking oils. I certainly liked the taste, but I would seldom order whitefish with or without it.

Then I discovered an alcoholic beverage seemingly underappreciated in the world of cooking – Vermouth. Now, frankly I HATE the taste of Vermouth, dry or sweet (unless it’s in a Nigroni or a similar cocktail), but when you pour a mere tablespoon or two of it on a fish, the flavor all but disappears, especially if you add potent herbs. The pungent odor WILL fill your kitchen, but don’t be fooled – you won’t taste it on the fish.

“Hammerschlag, why would I add Vermouth if it smells up my kitchen and doesn’t add flavor? Wine really seems like the smarter choice!” Well, one thing wine DOESN’T seem to help with is holding the fish together. So often I used to order Salmon, Tilapia, Snapper or some other whitefish at a restaurant (or cook it myself), and it would always fall apart on my fork, that is if it miraculously remained intact after I cut a piece with my knife! In addition, I found the flaky texture to be very unappealing. Vermouth, on the other hand, keeps the fish silky smooth but holds it together, making it a more fulfilling experience and leaving less on your plate when you’re done.

“If the Vermouth helps keep the fish together, and the wine adds flavoring, why not use both?” Good question. Frankly, I don’t have an answer for you, as I’ve never bothered to try. If you have done that or wish to do that, please let me know in a comment how it turned out. I’d love to know!

I hope you found this useful and convincing enough to try using Vermouth yourself, if you haven’t already. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.