Tips for Serving Valentine’s Dessert at Home

royal chef darren mcgradyPlease welcome Royal Chef Darren McGrady. He shares his kitchen tips and tricks with us in this special guest post series. Darren was personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales and Princes’ William and Harry for fifteen years and has cooked for five U.S. Presidents. He is now a sought-after chef, author, owner of Eating Royally fine dining catering service and culinary consultant living in Dallas, Texas.

Valentine's dessert recipeValentine’s Day is just around the corner and that gets a lot of people thinking: Should I book a restaurant or cook at home? To be honest, I ask my wife every year if she wants to go out and each time the answer is, “No, let’s stay in and you cook!” I am relieved.

I have to let you in on a secret…two days each year I refuse to go out to restaurants: Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Why? Well, everyone wants a table and the restaurants know that so they try and turn over as many tables as possible. Attention to detail always suffers and I can’t tell you how many times we have been out on those two dates and been disappointed with the food and service.

Again this year I will rattle pans in my own kitchen preparing Valentine’s dinner for my wife and myself. To do this successfully takes some planning. Get the kids fed and to bed early. (This is not the night to go for extra credits on math homework.) Plan your menu ahead of time, and do as much preparation as you can in the days before.

Prepare a menu you are comfortable with. A simple easy salad with all of the ingredients pre-chopped in ziplock bags lets you focus on other matters. Your salad is ready to be plated whenever you like. Don’t make the entrée too complicated, nor too heavy. Save your Beef Wellington for when you have guests over. Perhaps a seared beef tenderloin steak with fingerling potatoes (you can roast earlier) and some fresh green vegetables.

My Walkers shortbread Valentine’s lemon parfait can be made days ahead of time and placed in the freezer until needed. Having the Walkers shortbread crust as the base not only adds to the texture of the dish, but also makes it easy to transfer to a plate. Take the dessert out of the freezer when the salad is served to allow the parfait time to “ripen.” This year I will make the recipe and prepare it in two heart-shaped molds, then I will use the rest of the mix to make ramekins for the kids so they don’t feel like they are missing out.

As you can see from the picture, I used chocolate transfer sheets to make a little chocolate cutout. If you don’t want to go to the trouble, then a little grated chocolate will look just as pretty.

The evening is not just about the food, so relax, have fun, and enjoy this delicious lemon parfait atop a buttery Walkers shortbread crust. Happy Valentine’s Day!