It was 11 years ago on Valentine’s Day that I made chocolate truffles for my girlfriend, who just happens to be my wife now. I was working at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and Leanne and I had just begun dating. Since chocolates always make a nice gift for Valentine’s Day, I decided to make her some truffles. When I was in culinary school I had worked part-time at a truffle shop and had learned how to make delicious chocolate truffles.
I bought some nice chocolate, cream and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to flavor the ganache. I made her a dozen dipped chocolate truffles and a handmade card. She was impressed, and I guess you could say it worked. Below is the recipe for the Chocolate Cabernet Sauvignon truffles – they are relatively inexpensive to make and receiving a handmade gift from a loved one is always priceless.
For Valentine’s Day this year, we are going to drive out to the beautiful shores of Tomales Bay. I’m especially excited to go to Hog Island Oyster Farm for a picnic. In addition to my chocolate truffles, I’m planning to bring a chilled bottle of the new Kendall-Jackson Avant Chardonnay to pop with some of Hog Island’s delicious, fresh oysters.
The salt in the oysters pairs perfectly with the high acid in the Avant Chardonnay — this is one of my very favorite pairings right now. Below is a recipe for fresh Oysters with Pink Peppercorn mignonette. I hope you enjoy these recipes and that they make for a memorable Valentine’s Day.
Oysters with Pink Peppercorn Mignonette
Serve with Kendall-Jackson Avant Chardonnay
- ¼ cup pink peppercorns
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ lemon, juiced
- ½ shallot, minced
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 14 small to medium fresh oysters (it’s always good to get a couple of extras, just in case one is bad)
- 2 cups rock salt
- In a small strainer, add the pink peppercorns. Agitate the peppercorns to remove the husks. Place the husks in a bowl. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot and ground pepper. Stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, add husked peppercorns and rock salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
To shuck oysters:
Place oyster in a folded towel, keeping the flat side up. Carefully, insert an oyster knife into the hinge and rotate until the hinge is loosened. Insert knife into oyster and run along the top to cut the oyster free from the top shell. Remove top shell and run knife along bottom shell to free the oyster. Serve in half shell. Always give the oysters a quick sniff, they should smell like the ocean.
Distribute rock salt and peppercorn mixture evenly onto a platter. Pour the mignonette into a small bowl or ramekin and place in the center of the platter. Arrange oysters in half shells onto platter. Spoon 1 teaspoon of mignonette onto each oyster.
Of course, what would a meal on Valentine’s Day be without a little desert? I prefer these truffles and I bet you will too.
Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon Truffles*
Serve with Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon
Makes approximately 30 truffles
- 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
- ½ ounce red wine, such as Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 ounces good quality cocoa powder
- In a medium sized bowl, add the chopped chocolate and set aside.
- In a small pot, bring the wine and heavy cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate, stirring until thoroughly mixed and chocolate is completely melted.
- Pour the entire mixture into a plastic container and place in the refrigerator. Let the chocolate cool until it sets and becomes rather firm. This can be done a day ahead of time.
- Once the filling becomes firm, use a teaspoon and form it into small mounds the size of cherries. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to set.
- Using your hands, roll the chilled mounds of chocolate into round balls.
- Place the truffles back onto the sheet pan and refrigerate until firm.
- Roll the truffles in cocoa powder and place in an airtight container with any remaining cocoa powder. Refrigerate for up to one week.
* Caution: Giving these truffles to someone on Valentine’s Day may lead to marriage.