Large-scale entertaining on a boat is difficult, with the lack of cooking space, scant storage, and all the favorite platters at home. But it is nice to dine on a boat, for it can be beautiful if the weather cooperates, and the boat can be taken out for a late afternoon run to enjoy the sunset. It’s February and the weather has been mild, so why don’t you plan on taking the boat out on Valentine’s Day to treat your loved one to a dinner on the water!
Dinner for two is an easy endeavor, and much of it can be organized at home. The easiest entrees to organize are those that are braised. Braised pot roast, braised beef shanks, osso buco, braised pork butt, and more. The braised meat can be cooked in advance, and due to the fat and moisture content of the meat, it holds well and reheats easily. A soup can be made in advance and reheated, a salad can be assembled ahead of time and dressed just before dinner, and a nice antipasto plate can be the starter. Most good caterers do the advance work at the shop, then it is just a matter of warming a few things for dinner. Dinner can be organized earlier in the week, with osso buco made, cheese grated, onions minced, and the dessert ready to bake.
For a romantic evening, it is always important to have a lovely setting. Have nice music playing, maybe some John Coltrane or a soft Bossa Nova. Buy some flowers or a pot of primroses to put on the table, and set the table in advance so your sweetie doesn’t need to help with the work. For your guest’s arrival, have the champagne on ice, or chill a nice rose cremant or prosecco wine. With the bubbles, have a little something to nibble on, like some olives, crackers, and a fancy soft cheese. The dinner should be ready and kept warm in the oven or on the stove, so you can enjoy the company of your guest. The only task should be the opening of the bubbles.
When you feel it is time to start dinner, get your guest seated at the table, light the candles (yes, candles), and take a few moments to organize yourself in the kitchen. Serve the first course, (I have included a marinated salad from Sicily that can be made in advance) and set out the plates for the osso buco. Have the risotto simmering on the stove, or reheat it in the oven along with the sautéed greens you made in advance. Sit down with your guest and enjoy the salad.
When it comes time to serve the osso buco, it is always nice to have a bottle of red wine open and ready to serve with the entrée course. Before you sit down, be sure to turn the oven up to 400 degrees for the yummy molten chocolate cake for dessert! This restaurant-proven cake was is warm, somewhat liquid, and can be built in advance and popped in the oven for a quick ten minutes. The cake is great served with a dollop of cream or a scoop of ice cream. You will wow your guest!
As you finish dinner, have a small gift ready and a plan for a after-dinner drink up on deck to see the stars. With all this effort and organization, your romantic dinner for St. Valentine’s Day will be a hit! Who knows what will happen later? Good luck!
Season the shanks and dust with flour. Heat a large sauté pan and add olive oil. Sear the shanks golden on both sides and set aside. In another pan that is deep enough to hold the shanks, sauté the carrots, onions, leeks, and celery. Allow to sweat. Oce translucent, increase the heat, and add the chopped herbs, anchovies and garlic, sauté until the herbs crackle. Add the tomatoes, and white wine.
Allow the wine to cook down, add the stock and parsley, and adjust the seasoning. Add the shanks to the vegetable mixture and allow to cook for about two to three hours. Meat should be soft and pulling from the bone. Serve with risotto or a soft polenta.
Sweat the onion in the butter (can substitute extra virgin olive oil), add the squash, season, and add the rice. Allow to cook for a few minutes until the rice crackles. Deglaze with white wine, allow the wine to cook off, and start adding the hot stock, ladle by ladle. A “veil” of broth will always cover the rice. Cook on medium high, stirring constantly. Add the stock as the rest is absorbed. Cook the rice until al dente (like in pasta). The risotto should be somewhat loose and wet. Pull from the heat, check seasoning, add the cheese and butter, cover, and allow to sit for a few minutes.
Italian-Style Sauteed Greens
Cut the large stems of the rabe, leaving the thin ones. Cut these into 2” pieces and soak in cold water. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water. Once boiling, add a healthy amount of salt. Drain the rabe, add to the water, and boil for about 10 minutes until soft. Drain in a colander and set aside. Heat a sauté pan and add olive oil, the minced garlic, anchovy, and broccolini. Once the mixture starts to color, add the cooked rabe, sauté for a moment and reduce the heat, allow to cook until the water is gone.
Marinated Cauliflower Salad
Cut the cauliflower into large pieces and blanch in boiling salted water. Lay the cauliflower out on a baking sheet to cool. Heat olive oil, toast the garlic, and add the anchovy and red pepper flakes to taste, stop the cooking with the parsley and red wine vinegar. Pour on the cauliflower and add the capers, olives, raisins, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper. Garnish with parsley.
Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes
Generously butter eight 3/4-cup soufflé dishes or custard cups. Sprinkle inside of each dish with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. Using whisk or Kitchen Aid, beat eggs, egg yolks, and remaining 5 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until thick and pale yellow, about 8 minutes. Fold 1/3 of warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture, then fold in remaining chocolate. Fold in flour. Divide batter among soufflé dishes. Can be made one day ahead. Cover with plastic; chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place soufflé dishes on baking sheet.
Bake cakes uncovered until edges are puffed and slightly cracked, but the center 1” of each moves slightly when dishes are shaken gently, about 13 minutes. Top each cake with scoop of coffee ice cream or whipped cream, and serve immediately. Garish with powdered sugar. Makes eight servings.