Chef Alyssa’s Tips for Making Your Meal More Romantic

Chef Alyssa

Chef Alyssa, a Charlotte food scene leader who has been recognized in a variety of local, regional, and national media over the years, stopped by to offer us a few tips for holiday cooking. What better way to show your loved ones some extra attention this Valentine’s Day than by perfecting those kitchen skills? And stay tuned til the end for a killer chocolate truffle recipe that Alyssa included just for us.

Alyssa:

I love the way food brings people together; it’s a shared experience that reaches all of your senses. My advice is to keep it simple because it’s about the company, so try not to get swept up in having to impress them with an over the top meal. Here are some ways you can dress up your meal in an easy way…

  1. Utilize different cooking methods. Often times we like to see everything in front of us cooking on the stovetop, but realistically it can be a lot to manage. When planning your menu, opt for something that can go into the oven and maybe pre-make a salad that can hold in the refrigerator. This way you leave yourself time to focus on your guest and not the 5 items on the stove.
  2. Make something with your hands. The tactile movement creates more of a connection with the process, and the person you are doing it with. Think about buying (or making) fresh pasta sheets and making ravioli or dumplings. You can also roll chocolate truffles, and who doesn’t love chocolate!
  3. Use lots of spices. Visit your local spice shop in order to taste and smell some new varieties and use them to change up some recipes you are already comfortable with. For example, if you have a great Bolognese recipe, try adding some new and interesting spiced to it like cinnamon and smokes paprika. Smell links to memory, and for me it’s a feeling of comfort to breathe in some great sweet aromas.
  4. Play into your senses more. The smell of fresh bread in the oven is incredible. If you toast some in the oven and serve it with some olive oil, sweet balsamic and some fresh rosemary it makes a great snack while cooking.
  5. Wine Pairings. Ask your guest what type of wine they like (or just simply ask do you prefer red or white?) and then visit a local wine shop to choose a selection to suit your meal. I love the personal touch when someone chooses a wine with my preferences in mind.

I wish everyone a wonderful Valentines and Galentines Day! I’m giving you my recipe for Chocolate Truffles that are perfect for a romantic treat! They are rich without being heavy and super easy to make! This year maybe instead of buying a box of chocolates, you can make your own, it will be something you will always remember.

Chocolate Truffles
Makes about 30
¾ cup coconut cream or heavy cream
¼ cup cane sugar or honey
12 oz. good quality dark chocolate (I like Valrhona)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or butter
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Dusting options: 4 oz lavender vanilla sugar (available at Savory Spice Shop) or 2 oz cocoa powder mixed with 1/8 tsp cayenne and 1/8 tsp cinnamon
Special Equipment: disposable gloves

Directions
1. Prepare an 8 x 8 inch baking dish by lining with foil, grease with coconut oil or butter. Set aside.
2. Place the chocolate in a bowl and set aside.
3. In a small pot, melt the cream and sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour directly over the chocolate. Don’t stir, allow it to sit on top and melt the chocolate, 5 minutes.
4. Using a whisk, mix the chocolate and cream until smooth.
5. Add the coconut oil or butter into the chocolate and whisk to incorporate.
6. Stir in the vanilla and pour into prepared pan. Place uncovered in fridge for 1 hour or until set.
7. Remove from the refrigerator and portion out with a spoon or small ice cream scoop. Using gloved hands, roll to shape the truffles, working quickly so as not to melt the chocolate too much. Immediately coat with the sugar or cocoa. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

For more from Chef Alyssa, visit chefalyssaskitchen.com