By Christa Protano
Honestly, I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. I usually leave it up to my husband of 10 years to set the tone. If he gets it right — flowers, a bottle of Veuve — it’s a good day. If he doesn’t — no flowers, no Veuve — well, we all know how the night can end. For my part, I usually bake him his favorite heart-shaped linzers and call it a day. We have two small children and most years, we’re too exhausted and unmotivated to go out to dinner. Truth be told, we’ve never met a Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu we really enjoyed.
But this year, I’m excited for February 14th. No, the new season of Bridgerton is not being released. But I did get my hands on a copy of the most enchanted cookbook you’ve ever seen, Jane Austen’s Table. This pale blue, floral-bedecked tome is full of recipes inspired by 19th-century literary classics, such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I can’t think of a better occasion than Valentine’s Day to recreate a few dishes from the opulent Georgian era.
As author Robert Tuesley Anderson writes in his introduction, “Regency dishes were often labor- as well as calorie-intensive!” Thankfully, the recipes in Table are modern interpretations of Georgian fare adapted from Austen’s novels, along with meals she may have enjoyed in her own social circle. While busy parents may find it hard to carve out a few hours to picnic on the promenade as they did famously in Emma, this recipe book makes it easy to create a little opulence and romance at home — once the kids are tucked in, of course. Below you’ll find ingredients lists and simple step-by-step instructions for a romantic three-course meal. For more recipes, order your copy of Jane Austen’s Table today.
First Course: Mary Musgrove’s Meat Platter
Sweet juicy cut figs wrapped in salty prosciutto resemble hearts on a plate in this elegantly simple charcuterie dish inspired by Persuasion.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
7 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 cups arugula
Salt and black pepper
1. Cut a deep cross into the top of each fig, nearly to the bottom, then place a piece of mozzarella inside. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each fig. Brush the prosciutto with a little oil. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake at 425°F for 7-10 minutes or until the ham is crisp and the cheese starts to melt.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the balsamic vinegar with the remaining oil and season well. Toss most of the dressing together with the arugula and arrange on plates. Add the figs and drizzle with a little more dressing. Serve immediately.
Buy this Book!
Main Course: Cassandra’s Lobster and Asparagus
When you want to impress a loved one, this dish will do the trick. In one of the many affectionate letters Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra, Austen describes how a dinner at an inn of “asparagus and a lobster … made me wish for you.” It was perhaps one of Cassandra’s favorites. We hope your loved one enjoys it, too.
Prep + Cooking Time: 25 Minutes
1/4 cup butter
1 T. olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 T. dry sherry
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
scant 1/2 cup sour cream
2 small ready-cooked lobsters, about 1 lb. 5 oz. each
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1 lb. asparagus spears, trimmed
Salt and black pepper
1. Heat half the butter and oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Pour over the sherry and cook for 2 minutes until nearly boiled away. Stir in the mustard and sour cream, heat through, and season with salt.
2. Using a large knife, cut the lobsters in half lengthwise. Remove the meat from the tail and claws, reserving the main shell halves. Cut the lobster meat into chunks.
3. Add the lobster meat to the sauce and warm through. Carefully spoon into the tail cavities of the reserved lobster shell halves and sprinkle with the Gruyère. Cook under a preheated hot broiler for 3-5 minutes until golden and bubbling.
4. Meanwhile, place the asparagus in a skillet over medium heat and add just enough water to cover the base of the skillet. Put the lid on and let steam for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Add the remaining butter and toss the asparagus in the butter as it melts.
5. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the lobster.
Dessert: Champagne Ice
Served in elegant glasses, this is a sophisticated and light dessert to end a special meal. For a more pocket-friendly version, prosecco is a great alternative to champagne. Fun fact: The fashionable Beau Brummel (1778-1840) — and iconic figure of the Regency — is said to have recommended having one’s boots cleaned with champagne.
Prep + Cooking Time: 25 Minutes, plus cooling and freezing
3 T. sugar
2/3 cup boiling water
1 2/3 cups medium-dry champagne
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1. Stir the sugar into the measured water until it has dissolved, then leave to cool.
2. Mix together the sugar syrup and champagne. Pour into a shallow, nonstick baking pan so that it is no more than 1-inch deep.
3. Freeze for 2 hours until the mixture in mushy, then break up the ice crystals with a fork. Return the mixture to the freezer for an additional 2 hours, beating every 30 minutes until it has formed fine, icy flakes.
4. Spoon the granita into glasses and top with raspberries.