Date Night Dishes Local Chefs Share Recipes

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So, you won’t be able to make a Valentine’s Day reservation at your favorite romantic restaurant this year – but many of us will make plans to create a special meal at home for our significant others. Here are a couple of ideas for a memorable dinner, compliments of two local chefs (who can’t wait to serve customers in their eateries again.) Cheers to Love!

Seared Duck Breast with Michigan Cherry Port Sauce, Savory Noodle Kugel & Asparagus

Chef Marge Murphy – Owner, Cork on Saginaw
This rich and comforting meal will make your special someone swoon!

Michigan Cherry Port Sauce

  • 1/3-1/2 cup Montmorency cherries
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup Port wine
  • 1 tsp orange blossom honey
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, clarified
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter

Sauté shallots in clarified butter until soft. Add stock and Port and reduce mixture by half. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pat two duck breasts dry with paper towels and score fat with a sharp knife (do not cut through to the meat.) Add 1 tsp of olive oil to a very hot, oven-proof sauté pan. Sear breasts fat-side down for 5 minutes, then turn and sear 2 minutes more. Transfer pan to a 400°F oven and bake approximately 6 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the duck to a plate to rest.

Savory Noodle Kugel

  • 1 pound medium egg noodles
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced & sautéed in olive oil
  • 1/2 pint sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound sharp cheddar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup cornflakes tossed with 2 Tbsp melted butter

Cook noodles, drain and add remaining ingredients except egg whites. Beat egg whites and fold in. Top with cornflakes and melted butter.

Bake in a 9×13 buttered pan at 350°F for 45 minutes or until browned. Let cool and cut into squares.
Build your plate starting with grilled asparagus topped with noodle kugel, sliced duck breast and cherry Port sauce.


Spicy Pork Belly Ramen

Chef John Lucchesi
Associate Professor Culinary Arts/Food Service Management MCC Culinary Arts Institute
Bring some heat and spice to your Valentine with this special Ramen dish.

INGREDIENTS

Broth
3 to 4 quarts roasted chicken stock (NOTE: you may substitute with a high-quality store-bought product.)

Aromatics to add to stock to finish broth:

  • 8 oz of carrots cut into rounds ½ inch thick
  • 12 scallions, roots trimmed & cut in half
  • 2 heads of fresh garlic, roots removed, cut in half horizontally
  • ½ oz to 1 oz fresh ginger, peeled & cut into ¼ inch pieces (approx. 2-inch piece)
  • 20-25 dried shiitake mushrooms (approx. 2 oz.)
  • 1 (6-inch) sheet dried kombu
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Shoyu Tare: (NOTE: can make a day ahead and store in an airtight container. Use to season broth in
  • place of salt).
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin

 

Eggs & Noodles

  • 1 large egg per person
  • Ramen noodles (I use “Shoyu Tonkotsu” flavor wheat flour noodle, but you can use any Ramen style noodle.)
  • Pork Belly
  • 2 lb. center-cut pork belly (skin on or off)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

For Serving: (The following are toppings for your Ramen bowls. Use one or two or a combination of a few. Amounts listed serve 4 to 6.):

  • ½ cup menma (fermented bamboo shoots)
  • 6 scallions, sliced thinly on the bias
  • 3 toasted nori sheets, cut into ribbons
  • 4-6 oz. carrots, julienned
  • 8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated & sliced into strips.
  • 4-8 baby bok choy heads, root removed, sliced thinly on bias, green & white parts
  • Chili Garlic Sauce (I use one from Huy Fong Foods, small bottle with a green lid.)
  • Chili oil or toasted sesame oil – adds heat & spice.

TO MAKE

Broth

  • Add carrots, scallions, garlic, ginger, shiitake and kombu to the broth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add soy sauce and let simmer until flavors are well infused. Cook low and slow to infuse as much flavor as possible.
  • Strain broth through a fine sieve and cheesecloth, discard the solids. Set aside and keep warm.

Pork Belly

  • Rub all sides liberally with Kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. If skin is on the pork belly, first score it in a crisscross pattern and then season well.
  • Preheat oven to 310°F. Place pork belly on a rack over a baking sheet. Cook 90 minutes to 2 hours until cooked through, (internal temperature of 145-155°F).
  • Turn oven up to hottest temp and cook 10-20 minutes to crisp the skin.
  • Remove from oven, tent with foil and let pork rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

WHILE PORK BELLY & BROTH ARE WORKING …

Make the Tare:

To make a day ahead, combine soy sauce and mirin in a small, airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Otherwise, combine ingredients and set aside. This is your “salt” agent for seasoning the broth. (See instructions that follow.)

For the Eggs:

Fill a medium to large saucepan with enough water to submerge eggs. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat so the water is at a rapid, steady simmer. Gently place eggs in water one at a time and simmer for 6 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and shock in ice water to stop the cooking process. When cooled, peel and set aside. Prior to service, slice egg in half to reveal a semi-soft center yolk.

For the Noodles:

In a large pot, bring a large amount of salted water to a rapid boil. Add noodles and cook 3 to 5 minutes or according to package instructions. (If using packaged Ramen, do not use the seasoning packet). Drain noodles and lightly rinse to stop the cooking process.

For the Broth:

Bring broth back to a boil, then remove from heat and add the tare to taste. Place any remaining tare in a serving vessel for the table.

Assemble the Bowls: (Serves 4 to 6)

Divide noodles between 4 deep, wide bowls for a nice, healthy portion or for smaller portions, use up to 6 bowls. Ladle hot broth over the noodles, filling bowls to 1-2 inches from the top. Top each with a few slices of pork belly, 1 or 2 sliced egg halves and your favorite “garnishes” (i.e., bamboo shoots, scallions, carrots, mushrooms, nori, bok choy). Add your own spice level with a dollop of garlic chili sauce, a drizzle of chili oil, or a touch of sesame oil for a nutty, toasty flavor. Adjust your salt level with a touch of the tare, if needed.

Slurp & enjoy!

Chinara / stock.adobe.com

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