Beverly and I have never gone out on Valentine’s Day. For me, the whole idea of Valentine’s Day is spurious, a day set aside to act overtly in ways for which we should strive to act daily. Not that I am successful in my strivings on a daily basis—I am not. However, the idea that one day a year can somehow supplant what should be an ever-present goal is bogus to me, so I choose to ignore the whole thing and, when pushed, frame it as a Capitalist infringement into our personal lives designed to make us spend money out of guilt or peer pressure. Or maybe I’m just making too much of the Day and need to lighten up. Maybe if I had gotten more Valentine’s in school when I was younger things would be different?
Anyway, we have never gone out, but we do make a special Valentine’s dinner the weekend before the Day, and since Ines arrived, we include her. The past four or five years, dinners have been of the surf and turf variety. We have made combos like New York Strip steak and salmon, hanger steak and shrimp, rib-eye and scallops, and center cut, bone-in pork chops and crab legs. One year during we made seafood soup, with mussels, prawns, cod, scallops, shrimp, and crab. No turf in this last one but enough seafood to feed the steer we would eat the next year.
This year we honed in on lobster tails and dry-aged rib-eye steak, with spinach, arugula, and beet salad, mushrooms, and baked potatoes.
I had never cooked lobster tails before. To be honest, given a preference, I’d choose fish over shellfish any time; for me, shellfish are too much work for the payoff. I burn more calories cracking and opening shells than I get from the meal. But lobster tails were a good choice for us this year. I butterflied and cooked them in about a quarter cup of water in a covered frying pan for about eight minutes. It worked perfectly, as the steam turned the shells a dark red and the meat swelled up white and moist.
This was also my first time trying dry-aged rib-eye steak. I cooked it like I do most steaks, searing it on the stove and then baking to 130 degrees—it took about eight minutes to cook the steak. The dry aging definitely made for a more tender steak but I don’t think it was as flavorful as a steak that isn’t dry-aged. It could have been that the steak wasn’t bone-in nor was there much fat to speak of. It was still good, but cholesterol aside, I like a more marbleized steak with a bone attached. The bone goes to Ines; that’s her preference.
The baked potato and mushrooms were nice complements, and of course, the salad was a colorful and tangy delight. I am convinced that any protein is made doubly better by a well-made salad, and Beverly always makes delicious salads. My contribution is to cook the beets.
Everything was prepared without a recipe. No recipe book or Internet food blog was consulted, which doesn’t mean that at some point in the past I didn’t turn to some chef or other for support in how to make anything we made, seemingly, on our own last night. I could easily say that I used my own recipes, or my experience, but at what point does something you learned from another person become yours? At what point can you say that you’re the creator, the inventor, the author, the instigator, or whatever? Probably never, I think.
As I get older, I realize that it is folly to claim ownership of ideas, of creativity, of act of ingenuity. It is as much folly as it is to set aside a day to profess your love for someone only to spend the other 364 days failing to do the same thing. It is the other 364 days I want to work on and do better.
Thus, went another Valentine’s Day—a good meal, with good company, and a messy kitchen to clean up (and, by the way, I like cleaning up the kitchen—it’s my savasana in motion). I do enjoy our Valentine’s Day meals, and I like that Ines shares in them. Still, they aren’t that much different than other meals, and I can always find good reason to have surf and turf, spend time with my family, and clean the kitchen. Happy Valentine’s Day anyway.