My Favorite Recipe is a column where we ask America's Test Kitchen cooks, cast members, and luminaries about the recipes they can't stop cooking.
Dan Souza is the editor in chief of Cook’s Illustrated, host of What’s Eating Dan?, and a longtime America’s Test Kitchen TV cast member. He is fascinated by food and how applying science can drastically transform unassuming ingredients. (If you feel the same way, check out Cook's Science, which compiles some of the best food-science discoveries from the Cook's Illustrated team.)
Keeping his extensive list of recipe favorites in mind, we challenged Dan to assemble a three-course Valentine’s Day meal. Here’s what he came up with.
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OK Dan, what’s your Valentine’s Day starter?
Dan Souza: Let’s see. One recipe I developed, the popularity of which I’m still a little surprised by, is my Cauliflower Soup.
I’ve always really liked it. It feels fancy, even though it's pretty easy to put together. The browned butter and cauliflower florets on top add color and texture to an otherwise pretty pale soup, but it's such an easy step that you could use in another recipe, too. That kind of technique just works, you know? Brown nuts or anything in butter and you have a gorgeous garnish on top. So yeah, I think that'd be a nice starter.
Cauliflower SoupThe secret to the best-tasting cauliflower soup you’ve ever eaten? Undercook some of the cauliflower—and overcook the rest.
I’ve tried that recipe! The soup was top-notch. What’s next?
DS: Oh, that's cool. I'm glad you liked it. In terms of an entrée for Valentine's Day, people want steaks, and there's something impressive about beef, which I'm all for. The Catalan-Style Beef Stew with Mushrooms developed by Bryan Roof is a cool beef recipe with lush and interesting flavors. It's so different from any other beef stew—much drier, with deeply concentrated flavors. The meat is supertender; there's tons of onions in it and some oyster mushrooms as well. It's thickened at the end with a picada of ground almonds, bread crumbs, parsley, and some raw garlic, and it just pops. In my mind, it's definitely a romantic dish that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.
This is quite the spread you have going. What about dessert?
DS: I’m not really a massive dessert person, but I think beets would be a great Valentine's Day dish as well. This one is a little bit out there, but we have this lacto-fermented beet pickle recipe. You can use some of the brine, called kvass, to make a granita with Campari and orange juice. It's gorgeous. It’s jewel toned. Really interesting and really different. Might not be a crowd-pleaser, but it’s kind of fun.