For precious moments with the one you love best (be it special lover or special spouse), dinner a deux casts an intimate fantasy
This is food to be shared. Such is the beauty of this romantic menu for two that we've created for fall. Flavors are strong and warm, reminiscent of the season. The approach is sensuous; much can be eaten with the fingers--the chicken, the shrimp, even the pasta if you dare. And nothing is closer to the heart than ice cream, which we've accented with the rich, romantic fall flavors of figs, maple and dried fruits. Preparation is simple and much can be done in advance (when you're planning a romantic dinner, you don't want to spend the day in the kitchen). None of the dishes is arranged elaborately, for the food should be what it is, natural not fussy. Spending considerable time on presentation can destroy the mood; instead, simply serve it on beautiful plates or oversize platters, large enough for two to share, and decorate the table with fall leaves, berries and late-blooming flowers. (For recipes, please turn the page.)
SAUTEED PRAWNS WITH GARLIC AND CORIANDER-CILANTRO VINAIGRETTE
6 large fresh prawns
2 tablespoons cracked whole coriander seeds
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
Peel prawns completely except for the tail. Season prawns to taste with salt and pepper. Press prawns in cracked coriander coating completely. Saute prawns in 2 tablespoons hot olive oil until just done, about 4 minutes.
In a separate pan, saute garlic in cup olive oil until golden. Season to taste with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Remove from heat. To serve spoon 3 or 4 tablespoons Vinaigrette onto serving plate. Arrange 3 prawns on Vinaigrette. Spoon a small amount of garlic mixture over prawns. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and thinly sliced lemon rind, if desired. Serve while still hot.
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine cilantro, lemon juice and egg yolk in blender and puree. Add olive oil in a slow steady stream while continuing to puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
TRUFFLED PASTA WITH TURNIPS, ARTICHOKES AND CHARD
1 medium turnip, cut matchstick style
1 large carrot, cut matchstick style
4 ounces fettucine or fedelini pasta
3 large leaves red chard, washed, stems removed
5 tablespoons butter
1 ounce fresh black truffle cleaned and sliced thin or 1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1 fresh artichoke heart, cut matchstick style
cup chicken stock or broth
Blanch turnip and carrot sticks in rapidly boiling salted water 1 minute, then soak in ice water 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Boil pasta in large quantity rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. About 4 minutes before pasta is done, briefly saute chard in 2 tablespoons butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Gently saute truffles and artichoke heart strips in 3 tablespoons butter 1 minute. Add blanched turnip and carrot strips and chicken stock. Bring to simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain pasta and toss with truffle mixture. Arrange pasta on a plate surrounded by the sauteed chard.
SERVES 2 TO 4
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken
12 to 15 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, cut in wedges
1 flat pan lid smaller than circumference of pan used
2 bricks, sealed in foil
With poultry shears or sharp knife, split chicken by cutting through breast bone, leaving attached at backbone. Place on counter, skin side up and press to flatten as much as possible. Gently loosen skin of chicken and insert sage leaves in random fashion under it. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In cast-iron ovenproof pan large enough to hold whole chicken, heat oil to just below smoking level. Place chicken skin side down, in oil. Place flat pan lid smaller than pan's circumference on chicken. Stack bricks on lid to flatten chicken as much as possible. Saute on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until chicken is golden. Bake, covered, leaving bricks on, at 400 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until thighs test almost done. Turn chicken and return to oven for 10 minutes. Cut chicken in half (or quarters), discarding backbone. Remove to platter and let stand 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
WINTER FRUIT COMPOTE
1 Bosc pear
8 dried figs
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons currants
1 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons sweet butter
cup whole pecans, toasted
Core and slice pear into 12 pieces; do not peel. Slice figs into quarters lengthwise. In small saucepan combine pear, figs, wine, honey, currants, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Cook slowly until pears and figs are tender. Add butter and stir until melted. Just before serving, gently stir in pecans. Serve warm over ice cream.
FOOD STYLIST: JANET MILLER / TABLESETTING: DAVID BRICKEY