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Valentine’s Dinner for Two
By Dennis Linden


Befitting this month’s hearts and flowers tradition, here’s a special occasion dinner-for-two created by Melissa’s own Chef de Cuisine, Tom Fraker. In fact, Chef Tom prepares this one-plate meal around two iconic Valentine symbols, chocolate and strawberries, which play unusual roles as steak sauce ingredients that look even more deliciously romantic under candle light!

Grilled steak and dark chocolate may seem like an odd pairing at first. That is, until the chocolate is simmered in a strawberry mash laced generously with bourbon, vanilla beans and seasoned with freshly ground hot chile pepper. This is not your grandma’s A-1 Sauce! The combination, paired with a properly grilled high-quality steak that has been treated with an equally tasty rub, will deliver eye-closing flavor to the palate as well as a tiny bit of perspiration to the brow from the pleasant kick of a deeply rich and mildly spicy Oaxaca pepper.

In contrast, the other side of Tom’s plate offers a refreshingly light and simple arugula salad. The combination of juicy Asian pear pieces and sweet strawberry slices, arugula seasoned with slightly acidic rice vinegar are a lovely divergence from the rich steak and chocolate sauce. Why these two dishes work so well plated together is why Tom Fraker is the chef, while the rest of us just follow recipes! To read more about Tom and how he came to be a part of Melissa’s state-of-the-art test kitchen and studio, please read Tom’s profile found in the Meet Our Corporate Chefs section on this site.



Chef Tom’s recipe was designed to help create a successful romantic dinner. The first requisite for any special occasion dish is just that—it needs to be out of the ordinary. Since one does not slather chocolate sauce on a steak every day of the week, Chef Tom has certainly fulfilled that requirement. The second rule during a dinner for two also sounds obvious but is, in fact, very hard to pull off unless you have employed help. That is, except for the initial serving, there needs to be two at the table most all of the time!

“A romantic dinner requires a smooth service so as not to break the mood,” said Tom, explaining, “which means no popping up and down from the table to check on things going on in the kitchen. That is why this entire recipe is a complete dinner presented on one plate and also why two of the componets were designed to be prepared ahead of time.”

Tom suggests making the rub and sauce as well as preparing the salad ingredients in advance. The rub will have the most flavor impact if applied to the meat at room temperature and left to sit for about an hour before grilling. Once off the grill, let the meat rest for the few minutes it takes to toss the salad ingredients together and warm up the sauce. Then plate, announce that dinner is served and turn the lights off in the kitchen for the rest of the evening! Happy Valentine’s!

Recipe

Grilled Rib Eye Steaks with Strawberry-Chocolate-Chile Sauce & Strawberry-Asian Pear Arugula Salad
Serves two




Ingredients:

Steak Rub

2 Melissa’s Dried Oaxaca Chiles, stems and seeds removed; finely ground in a spice grinder
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Granulated Garlic
1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 Rib Eye Steaks (Boneless or Bone-in)

Steak Sauce

¾ cup Bourbon
½ lb. Fresh Strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons Melissa’s Blue Agave Syrup
2 Melissa’s Dried Oaxaca Chiles, stems and seeds removed; finely ground in a spice grinder
2 Melissa’s Vanilla Beans
1 oz. Dark Chocolate
Equal parts -- Cold Water and Cornstarch (thickener)

Salad

2 cups Fresh Arugula
3 tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 Asian pear, cored & diced
6 ripe Strawberries, hulled & sliced
Salt & to taste

Preparation



Combine all of the sauce ingredients -- except for the chocolate, water and corn starch – in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, mash the strawberries and strain the mixture back into sauce pan. Add the chocolate, simmer until melted. Combine equal parts of cold water and corn starch to make a slurry, then slowly add to the sauce to thicken. Remove from the heat, keep warm until plating.



Mix together the rub ingredients until well combined; season the steaks with the rub, massaging the meat with your fingers to work the mix in deeply.



Grill the steaks to your desired doneness.



Prep the salad ingredients, then combine with the arugula in a large bowl, sprinkle with the rice vinegar and gently toss.

Plating: Place equal amounts of the salad on 2 plates just off center. Set the grilled steaks just to the side of the salad, slightly overlapping the greens, then drizzle the meat with the sauce. Garnish with slices of fresh strawberry.