Dinner for 2 recipe ideas for Valentine’s Day with America’s Test Kitchen co-host Julia Collin Davison

Morning News

America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s County Co-host and Executive Editorial Director of America’s Test Kitchen Julia Collin Davison joined us live with Valentine’s dinner for 2 recipe ideas. For more information on America’s Test Kitchen and their cookbook, The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook you can go to AmericasTestKitchen.com or follow them on Instagram @TestKitchen

For the recipes we featured during the segment, see below. 

Chocolate Pots de Crème
Why This Recipe Works:
Classic pots de crème recipes can be finicky and laborious but deliver a dessert with a satiny texture and intense chocolate flavor. We wanted a user-friendly recipe for two. Since we were making only two custards, we decided that making them on the stovetop would be simpler than using the oven. First, we cooked a simple custard in a small saucepan, then we poured the warm custard over the chocolate. Once the chocolate was melted, we divided the decadent mixture between two ramekins and refrigerated the custards until chilled. Tasters liked bittersweet chocolate for its moderate sweetness, and a little instant espresso powder deepened the chocolate flavor. We prefer pots de crème made with 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate (our favorite brands are Ghirardelli and Callebaut). A teaspoon of strong brewed coffee may be substituted for the instant espresso and water. You will need two 5-ounce ramekins for this recipe.

Serves 2
Pots de Crème

  • 2½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • ⅛ teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream and Garnish

  • ¼ cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cocoa powder (optional)
  • Chocolate shavings (optional)
  1. For the pots de crème: Place chocolate in medium bowl; set fine-mesh strainer over bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk egg yolks, sugar, and salt together in second medium bowl until combined, then whisk in cream. Transfer mixture to small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and scraping bottom of pot with rubber spatula, until it is thickened and silky and registers 175 to 180 degrees, 3 to 6 minutes. (Do not let custard overcook or simmer.)
  3. Immediately pour custard through fine-mesh strainer over chocolate. Let mixture stand to melt chocolate, about 5 minutes; whisk gently until smooth. Combine water and espresso powder and stir to dissolve, then whisk dissolved espresso and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Pour mixture evenly into two 5-ounce ramekins. Gently tap ramekins on counter to release air bubbles.
  4. Let pots de crème cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover ramekins tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. Before serving, let pots de crème stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. For the whipped cream and garnish: Using hand-held mixer set at medium-low speed, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla in small bowl until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Dollop pots de crème with whipped cream and garnish with cocoa powder and/or chocolate shavings, if desired. Serve.

Skillet Apple Crisp
Why This Recipe Works:
Most recipes for apple crisp result in unevenly cooked apples and a topping that’s anything but crisp. To drive off excess moisture and allow the fruit to caramelize, we sautéed the apples in a little butter. Apple cider provided intense fruity flavor. Chewy rolled oats and crunchy pecans made a substantial crisp topping that was the perfect contrast to the tender apples underneath. We like Golden Delicious apples for this recipe, but any sweet, crisp apple such as Honeycrisp or Braeburn can be substituted; do not use Granny Smith apples. If your skillet is not ovensafe, prepare the recipe through step 3 and then transfer the filling to an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan; add the topping and bake as directed. Serve with vanilla ice cream or Whipped Cream (page 363).

Serves 2
Topping

  • ¼ cup (1¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup (¾ ounce) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1½ pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  1.  For the topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour, pecans, oats, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl. Stir in melted butter until mixture is thoroughly moistened and crumbly; set aside.
  2. For the filling: In a separate bowl, toss apples, sugar, and cinnamon, if using, together; set aside. Bring cider to simmer in 8-inch ovensafe skillet over medium heat and cook until reduced to ⅓ cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer reduced cider to small bowl and stir in lemon juice.
  3. Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add apple mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until apples begin to soften and become translucent, 12 to 14 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Off heat, gently stir in cider mixture until apples are coated.
  4. Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit, breaking up any large chunks. Place skillet on baking sheet and bake until fruit is tender and topping is deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let crisp cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Lemon-Herb Cod with Crispy Garlic Potatoes
Why This Recipe Works:
We set out to develop a simple one-dish dinner of flaky cod and crispy roasted potatoes. For potatoes that would cook through quickly, we sliced russet potatoes thin, tossed them with oil and garlic, and shingled them into two piles in a greased baking dish. We roasted the potatoes until they were spotty brown and tender then added the cod fillets—topped with pieces of butter, sprigs of thyme, and slices of lemon—and slid it all back into the oven. After just 15 minutes more, we had a perfect dinner of moist, subtly flavored cod and crispy, garlicky potatoes. Try to purchase cod fillets that are similar in size so that they cook at the same rate. If the fillets are much thinner than 1 inch, simply fold them over to make them thicker. Halibut and haddock are good substitutes for the cod.

Serves 2

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (8-ounce) russet potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick(about 18 slices)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 (6– to 8-ounce) skinless cod fillets, 1 to 1½ inches thick
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ lemon, sliced thin
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush 13 by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil.
  2. Toss potatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Shingle potatoes into baking dish in 2 rectangular piles measuring 4 by 6 inches. Roast potatoes until spotty brown and just tender, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating dish halfway through roasting.
  3. Pat cod dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Carefully place 1 fillet skinned side down on top of each potato pile. Top fillets with butter pieces, thyme sprigs, and lemon slices. Roast cod and potatoes until fish flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and registers 140 degrees, about 15 minutes.
  4. Slide spatula underneath potatoes and fillets and gently transfer to individual plates. Serve.

Pan-Seared Strip Steak
Why This Recipe Works:
Pan-searing a strip or rib-eye steaks usually leads to a smoky, grease-splattered kitchen—but it doesn’t have to. To devise a fast, mess-free method for achieving deeply seared, rosy meat, we started the steak in a “cold” (not preheated) nonstick skillet over high heat and ipped it every 2 minutes; that way, the meat’s temperature increased gradually, allowing a crust to build up on the outside without overcooking the interior. Because we were cooking in a nonstick skillet, it wasn’t necessary to lubricate the skillet with oil; plus, the well-marbled meat exuded enough fat to achieve a good sear, and adding more simply encouraged splatter. We started cooking over high heat to burn o moisture and prevent the steak from steaming but quickly lowered the heat to medium; at this temperature, the meat kept sizzling, but there was no risk of the fat smoking. Before serving, we sliced the steak and sprinkled it with coarse sea salt so that every bite was well seasoned.

Serves 2

  • 1 (12- to 16-ounce) boneless strip steak, 1½ inches thick, trimmed
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  1. Pat steak dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides with pepper. Place steak in cold nonstick skillet. Place skillet over high heat and cook steak for 2 minutes. Flip steak and cook on second side for 2minutes. (Neither side of steak will be browned at this point.)
  2. Flip steak, reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook, ipping steak every 2 minutes until browned and meat registers 120 to 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 4 to 10 minutes longer. (Steak should be sizzling gently; if not, increase heat slightly. Reduce heat if skillet starts to smoke.)
  3. Transfer steak to carving board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak, season with coarse or ake sea salt to taste, and serve

This segment aired on the KTLA 5 Morning News on February 12, 2021.

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