February is the month for lovers and we were saving a beautiful bottle of Chateau Des Graviers, Cru Artisan Margaux 2002, sent to us during the holidays from my brother Mark for our Valentine’s Day dinner. We wanted the meal to measure up to the bottle so we planned to roast a beef tenderloin, accompanied with horseradish cream sauce, potato/sweet potato gratin and last but certainly not least…..a fresh pear tart. In our relationship, I do a lot of the cooking, but the baking belongs to Val. Every Sunday Val devotes the morning to preparing various bread doughs for the upcoming week. As we planned our special dinner she was excited about making a fresh pear tart. We had purchased some stunning Bosc pears that we perfectly ripe. Anjou pears can also be used.
- 1 unbaked 10-inch pie shell
To make custard:
- 6 Tbsp unbleached white flour
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 12 oz unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 farm fresh eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 medium pears, peeled
- Sift together the flour and nutmeg. Melt the butter. Remove it from the heat and add the sugar. Whisk in the flour-nutmeg mixture.
- Stir in the eggs, one at a time, then the extract. At this point the custard should be thick and smooth.
- Cut the pears into eighths, lengthwise. Core the slices and arrange them in a circle on the pie shell.
- Cover with custard. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes, until the custard is firm and golden.
The tenderloin was roasted to a perfect medium-rare. As the meat was resting and the gratin finishing, I decided it was time to open the wine and give it some air. Filled with excitement, I got out my usual wine opener and proceeded to open it. At least I thought I would….the cork would not budge. No problem….out came the next wine opener….no luck. I tried, Val tried, the cork was impurvious to our attempts. I called our neighbor Lynne who had what we thought was the ultimate wine opener. Val returned smiling, “This ought to do it!” Still no luck! What to do? Val disappeared briefly and returned with the big guns: her Dewalt hand drill fitted with a 1/2 inch bit. Very carefully she lowered the drill bit and slowly extracted the stubborn cork. Yes, we would have wine! We poured it through a very fine tea strainer and wha-lah the ruby colored liquid was released.
I started setting the table with our new Provence place mats, good dishes and candles. I wanted dinner to look special. Val ground fresh espresso beans to accompany dessert. I slid a disc of YoYo Ma in the player. We were almost there. We looked at each other and smiled. Our home usually filled with people and laughter, took on a different ambiance. It was just the two of us making special time for each other. Private celebrations take on a sweetness all their own. I arranged the food on the table and served Val. We toasted our love and commitment to each other and gave thanks for the abundance in our lives. Da wine lived up to its billing. Val took her first bite of tenderloin. “It doesn’t get better than this honey.”