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Famous chefs create your Valentine's Day menu

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We don’t know about you, but we’re over snoozy Valentine’s Day prix-fixes. If you really want to wow your partner, why not do it through a delicious home-cooked meal?

We asked two famous-couple cooks and one bachelor chef for Valentine’s Day menus that’ll get you in the mood for love (and maybe more).

Pat and Gina Neely are the always-flirtatious hosts of the Food Network's “Down Home with the Neelys." They’re also the owners of Neely’s Bar-B-Que, which is set to open a New York City outpost later this year. Their advice for the 14th? “Keep it light, keep it easy and keep it sexy!”

Menu:
Cocktail: Champagne and St. Germaine elderflower liqueur (“for something special and bubbly”).
Entree: A sexy shrimp and pasta dish for two (“go light on the garlic!”).
Dessert: Something easy and chocolatey, such as chocolate tartlets.

Why stay in?
“There's nothing more romantic than cooking in the kitchen with your honey,” the Neelys said. “Plus, who wants to go to a restaurant and get stuck with the old predictable Valentine’s Day menu?! Save your money, stay in on a cold February night, and cook a beautiful meal with your sweetie.” Wondering what the Neelys will be doing this Valentine’s Day? “You can bank on some great food, one-on-one time, plenty of candles, soft music … you know the rest.”

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Actress Debi Mazar and husband Gabriele Corcos cook together on every episode of their Cooking Channel show "Extra Virgin.” Mazar, who currently appears on “Entourage,” said her Italian hubby used food to woo her. “He just kept impressing me with these amazing lunches and dinners. He was seducing me with food. And he hasn't stopped doing it for 10 years,” she said.

Menu:
Cocktails: A glass of Champagne or prosecco (“Something nice and light,” Mazar said), or a cocktail, such as a Caipirinha.
Appetizers: A plate of prosciutto and pecorino, or ceviche or an artichoke salad made with baby artichokes, arugula, lemon and olive oil dressing and shaved parmesan.
Entrees: Pasta with a creamy red sauce, shrimp and baby arugula chopped on top, or wild boar or steak prepared on a wood grill. “You want to add the WILD part,” Mazar said.
Dessert: Affogato, an Italian dessert of vanilla ice cream swimming in espresso. Alternatively, Corcos said he’s trying to make orange peel with chocolate. “You can also put the chocolate on each other's bodies when it cools down.”

Why stay in: Mazar and Corcos rarely go out for dinner (it’s hard with two young daughters), but a nice meal is always in the cards on Valentine’s Day. “We get dressed or I'm naked with some hot bra on,” Mazar said. “We try to make sure we at least have a good meal, put the kids to bed early and pencil in sex,” Mazar said.

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Joe Vigorito, chef at new West Village eatery (and great date spot) Carmine Club Cafe, is single, so we asked him to create a menu he’d use to impress a date. “If it doesn’t,” he said, “you might need to find a different woman.”

Menu:
Cocktail: Mulled wine. “You can do it together,” Vigorito said.
Appetizer: Sweetbreads with a roasted squash base. “I'd say you can push your limits. Introduce her to something new,” Vigorito said.
Entree: A small magret duck breast with a turnip puree and cherry mostarda.
Dessert: A rosewater panna cotta with almonds and orange infusion. “Adding rosewater is a fun play on giving roses,” he said.

Why stay in: Vigorito isn’t afraid to cook for a date right away. “If she impresses me right off the bat, I could be cooking for her very soon. It could be a second date,” he said. “Of course, you want to find out what she likes first. Otherwise it could be a huge flop.”

Cook like the pros:

GINA NEELY’S PASSION PASTA
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A big pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup dry white wine
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
½ pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound dry sea scallops
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1 pound linguini

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
Add olive oil to a large high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until tender and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes. Add the white wine and the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and scallops, cover, and gently simmer for 5 minutes.
Drain pasta and add directly to the skillet and toss with the pasta and seafood. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
SERVES 4-6

The Neelys’ Chocolate Tartlets

Nonstick cooking spray
1 (18-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough (recommended: Nestle Toll House)
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten
Whipped cream and shaved dark and white chocolate, for garnish
Special equipment, 5 tartlet pans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 5 (4 1/2-inch) tartlet pans with nonstick spray.
Divide the cookie dough into 5 equal-sized balls. Press each doughball into the tartlet pans; making sure it covers the sides and bottoms. Put the pans on a cookie sheet and bake until golden, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool completely. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F.

Put the chopped chocolate into a bowl. Add the heavy cream to a small saucepan over low heat. Bring the cream up to a low simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir or whisk the chocolate and cream until smooth and melted. Stir in the corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Whisk in the beaten egg. Ladle the filling into the cooled tart shells and bake until the filling is set and the surface is glossy, about 15 to18 minutes. Remove the tartlets from the oven and let cool. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings and serve.

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Joe Vigorito’s mulled wine, sweetbreads, duck and panna cotta

Mulled wine:
Start with a fruit-forward red wine, such as a merlot (use one you’d like to drink even if it wasn’t cooked). Add oranges, apples, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla bean. Throw it together in a pot and let it simmer.

Roasted squash puree (for sweetbreads):
To make the squash base, roast the squash, add pomegranate and sage. Roast, pan-roast or deep fry the sweetbreads after coating them in breadcrumbs.

Duck breast with turnip puree and cherry mostarda:
Place a petite magret duck breast, skin side down, in a pan over a low flame (with a tiny bit of olive oil). Keep rendering it, and pour off some of the fat. Be sure to keep it on a very low flame, because you don’t want to scorch it. Add some butter and thyme and baste the duck breast.

For the turnip puree, mix roasted turnips with cream, vanilla beans essence, salt and pepper and puree it all.

For the cherry mostarda. Make a basic symple syrup (equal parts sugar and water), and infuse it with cinnamon, allspice and black pepper. Rehydrate dried cherries in the simple syrup.

Panna cotta:
Infuse milk with almonds, rosewater and lemon zest. Add gelatin and let it sit.

 

 

 

 

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