weeks ago, I found a menu for a
Valentine's Day dinner I made four years
I don't have it in front of me now, but
I recall that the main course was a
grilled beef salad with watercress
and blood oranges.
For dessert, I served chocolate and
hazelnut mousses in tuiles: thin, crisp
With another Valentine's Day on the
horizon, it got me thinking about what,
exactly, constitutes a
I think it's mostly the thought that
counts. As crazy as my husband and I are
about food, our first meal as a
couple was at a Sonic drive-in, and
Sonic onion rings still hold some
romantic appeal for me.
Beyond those sentimental tie-ins,
though, the only common denominators I
came up with were wine and
Put them together, and bam! A romantic
Also, I think I've previously observed
in this column that wine and chocolate
are great comforts on
Valentine's Day, whatever one's romantic
So here's my suggestion for February 14:
individual chocolate cakes and wine to
To start, you'll need six eight- or
16-ounce ramekins, which you can pick up
at a store like Target or Cost
Plus, or at a specialty cooking store.
Why six? I'm not suggesting you should
have company. But six is what the recipe
makes and leftovers
won't last long.
My cake is a kind of budino, sometimes
identified on menus as a fallen
It's a rich, dense, gooey cake that I've
adapted from several recipes to suit my
tastes. Feel free to tweak it to
yours - it invites elaboration.
Begin by buttering the ramekins and
preheating the oven to 375 degrees.
Melt six ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
(about 55 percent chocolate liquor) and
six ounces of butter in a
double boiler, stirring frequently until
completely melted and smooth.
You can also do this in a microwave at
50 percent power, again stirring
Stir in two tablespoons of the liqueur
of your choice. Possibilities include
rum, brandy, Grand Marnier,
amaretto or Navan, a new
Now, using an electric mixture at high
speed, beat together three eggs, a half
cup of sugar and a pinch of
salt. Don't stop until the mixture is
very light, like softly whipped cream.
Stir some of the egg mixture into the
chocolate to lighten it, then fold in
the rest. Divide the mixture
among the ramekins.
If you're preparing this in advance,
cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and
refrigerate until later in the
Otherwise, bake at 375 degrees until the
cakes are puffed and cracked but still
quite gooey on the inside, 15
to 20 minutes.
Serve immediately (the ramekins will be
hot!). If you'd like, accompany the
cakes with whipped cream or
ice cream - the 16-ounce ramekin size
accommodates a scoop of ice cream
What to drink? I love chocolate with red
wine, so I would eat these unadorned
with the red wine leftover
A Rhone or Rhone-style wine would be a
good choice, something like Bonny Doon's
Le Cigare Volant.
However, I've also served these cakes
with fresh ginger ice cream, a
combination that screams for
Demi-sec Champagnes, which are slightly
sweet, are great with dessert. Look for
the demi-sec from Veuve
Clicquot or the less expensive domestic
demi-sec from Gruet.
I've found these wines at Whole Foods,
which has other tasty options to choose
With these bases covered, do you even
need a main course?
Well - there's always onion rings.