Thursday, February 11, 2021

Celebrating Valentine's Day at Home...Featuring Creamy Chocolate-Hazelnut Dip #QuarantineValentines #ValentinesatHome #chocolatehazelnut #chocolate #romanticfood

With most of us still practicing COVID-related social distancing, it's likely that this weekend's Valentine's Day will be celebrated at home. That can definitely be a GOOD thing...with the right game plan! Today, I'm sharing a romantic three-course dinner that's easy to make, delicious...and ends with Creamy Chocolate-Hazelnut Dip for two. This dip has only a few simple ingredients and takes about 15 minutes to assemble and warm up. The fudgy dip is served with fruit and a few store-bought goodies for dipping. Easy peasy. 
My suggested Valentine's Dinner for Two is a seafood-centric menu focused on upscale Tex-Mex flavors. The meal starts with a Zesty Tex-Mex Shrimp Cocktail appetizer...and restaurant-quality Baked Crab Cakes with Avocado Crema and Mango-Avocado Salsa entree. 

Add in the fondue-like warm chocolate dip for dessert, pair some great wine, light a few candles, and fire up some romantic music. That's everything you need for a perfect romantic Valentine's evening at home. Best of all? Much of this menu can be prepped ahead. That means you won't be a frazzled, sweaty mess when you're celebrating with your Valentine!!

Creamy Chocolate-Hazelnut Dip
a Weekend Gourmet Original
  • 2.5 ounces good-quality chocolate [NOTE: I used a 45% deep milk chocolate bar]
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 2 Tbs. orange or raspberry liqueur
  • Dippers: I opted for fresh strawberries, dried pineapple rings cut in half, mini pretzels, and store-bought shortbread cookies
Step 1: Add the cream, vanilla, and 1 Tbs. of the liqueur to a small bowl. Microwave until steaming, but not boiling. For reference, this took about 2 minutes in my microwave. Add the chocolate -- broken into pieces -- and the sea salt to the hot cream mixture. Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes. Stir until the chocolate melts completely into the cream. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread, and stir until it completely incorporates into the chocolate-cream mixture. Just before serving, stir in the remaining tablespoon of liqueur.
Step 2: Pour the warm dip into a ramekin and place in the middle of a serving platter. Arrange dippers around the ramekin and serve immediately. A ceramic ramekin will keep the dip warm for about 15 minutes, but it won’t harden like traditional melted chocolate. The cream and chocolate-hazelnut spread will keep it spoonable -- even at room temperature. If you have any leftover dip, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It reheats beautifully in the microwave.
This decadent dip has only six simple ingredients, but combined? The end result is simply AMAZING! It's also much easier to assemble and serve than traditional fondue. Feel free to use YOUR favorite dippers...marshmallows, graham crackers, dried apricots, and apple slices are also fabulous with this warm dip.

Valentine’s Dinner Game Plan:
Up to a Day Before: Prep the crab cakes, shape, cover with plastic wrap -- or place in an airtight container -- and refrigerate them. 

Valentine's Afternoon: Make the mango avocado salsa, cover, and refrigerate. Make the chocolate-hazelnut dip and refrigerate in the serving ramekin; assemble dippers on a serving platter and cover with plastic wrap.

Dinner Time: Place the crab cakes in the oven. While they bake, prepare the avocado crema. To serve, place some a circle of the avocado crema in the center of both plates. Top with a crab cake and a generous serving of the mango avocado salsa. While you enjoy your dinner, let the chocolate-hazelnut dip sit on  the counter to take the chill off.

Dessert Time: Heat the dip in the microwave until warm – approximately 1 minute. Give it a stir and heat longer if necessary. Add the ramekin of warm dip to the platter of dippers. Bring to the table and share.

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