16 Feb2013


Almost every year, we have a tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day by eschewing the ridiculous crowds, outrageous prices and often mediocre food and instead cooking an “Anti-Valentine’s Valentine’s Dinner” at home. :) Sometimes we have up to a dozen friends over, all seeking refuge from the madness, other times it’s an intimate dinner for two. Always we aim for good food, enjoyed in the comfort of our own dining room, without the brouhaha, traffic and expense. For this year’s “A-VVD” we started off with a “naked” moules marinière


I am generally VERY WARY of shellfish, particularly local shellfish, as I have had several explosive episodes after eating tainted shellfish from local sources. Even though all written materials suggest the risk of getting a bad oyster, clam or mussel are quite low in western settings, I think the risks are at least five-fold here in the Philippines… So I have taken to eating imported shellfish, particularly mussels, from New Zealand, even though they have been flash frozen first. The other day, I spotted some nice small shelled mussels from Chile (another place that I am guessing has much cleaner waters than our own) so I decided to give them a try… We were VERY, VERY PLEASED with the results. :)


A still life of shallots, garlic, fresh bay leaves, flat-leaf parsley and fresh thyme.


This recipe is typically made with mussels in their shells, so I have adjusted volumes of ingredients to reflect shelled or “naked” mussels. Try NOT to do this with large mussels as they tend to get rather chewy… Into a medium sized stainless steel pan, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and roughly 3 tablespoons of butter. Saute thinly sliced shallots and minced garlic until fragrant and translucent. Add say 2/3 cup of white wine and let this simmer for a couple of minutes, to burn off the alcohol. Add the fresh (or 1 dried) bay leaves, half of the thyme and let this simmer a bit more. Add the defrosted mussels (say 300 grams without shells, serves 3-4 persons) and let this cook for 2-3 minutes, the liquids reducing to a glossy sauce. The mussels have been pre-cooked, and flash frozen, so you just want to get them nice and hot all the way through, and kill off any cooties… Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with half of your chopped parsley. Taste the sauce to adjust seasoning. Then transfer the mussels to your serving plate, reduce the sauce a bit more over high heat and add another tablespoon of butter and turn off the heat. Spoon the sauce over your mussels and garnish with remaining fresh parsley and thyme. This was rich and delicious on its own, but better with a little sprinkle of fresh lemon that brightened it all up. Serve with lots of toasted sliced baguettes to sop up the juices and sauce. Brilliant. And each humongous serving with say 20+ pieces of mussels couldn’t have cost more than PHP80 per portion to make, and would have easily cost PHP400+ in a snazzy restaurant. :) Appetizer for A-VVD, check. :)


For the main course, I had intended to get a nice thick juicy steak, but the cut I wanted (a two-inch thick slice from a prime rib) wasn’t in stock. So I decided to go with a flank steak instead — decidedly downscale for a special dinner, but I love the texture and flavor of flank steak, and it’s so darned easy to prepare. I simply salted it two hours before cooking. Dried the surface of the meat with paper towels just before searing it on a very hot cast iron plate and turned it over. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.


We served the steak with some wonderful baked potatoes from a recipe of Jamie Oliver. These are my favorite way with potatoes of late. Large chunks of potato first parboiled and surface area roughed up. Into a pan with some goose fat and butter, salt and pepper and let these roast for say 15 minutes or so in a very hot oven. Add some chopped fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme and a sprinkle of vinegar and smush the potatoes a bit to increase the surface area in contact with the oils and hot surfaces and let this come to a light crispy golden brown around the edges. The potatoes are crisp and creamy at the same time. Utterly addicting. We finished off dinner with a green salad. And for dessert, some good vanilla ice cream with bottled Spanish peaches. Raspberry sauce on the side, if you wanted it. That was our Anti-Valentine’s Valentines Dinner 2013. :)

Old posts on Valentine’s and Anti-Valentines, here:

Anti-Valentine’s Dinner, 2006
The Run-up to Valentine’s Day, 2007
Marketman’s Valentine’s Poll, 2008
White Roses en Masse, 2005
Dimasalang Flower Market, Sampaloc Manila, 2005
A Gift of Roses, Version 1, 2005
A Gift of Roses, Version 2, 2005
Hundreds of Blooms for an Anniversary, 2007
Le Jardin de Ville, less traditional flower choices, 2007
Rose and Hydrangea Floral Arrangements for PHP186.66 each, 2007
A Special Ruby Dinner, 2007
Red Roses and Two Dinners, 2008
Roses in the Four Seasons/Jeff Leatham Style, 2008
Small “Tight” Floral Arrangements 101, 2009
Roses and Hydrangeas, 2010
Roses, Roses, Roses, 2010
Flowers for Valentine’s, 2011
A Heart Friendly Valentine’s Meal, 2012



  1. Avid Thinker says:

    Wow, my mouth is watering thinking about the shells! Yummy! Thank you for sharing this post MM. :=)

    Feb 16, 2013 | 11:27 am


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  3. jakespeed says:

    MM, also did an “A-VVD” at home by cooking paella and gambas al ajillo using your recipes. With a bottle of moscato, it was the best V-Day dinner date ever. Thanks MM !

    Feb 16, 2013 | 12:10 pm

  4. Marketman says:

    jakespeed, so happy others are taking matters into their own hands. Even though we are in the restaurant business, and benefit from the V-Day surge, we don’t offer special menus, increase prices, etc., so it’s just like any other day for us… but given the traffic, etc., it’s a good day to cook at home instead. :)

    Feb 16, 2013 | 1:05 pm

  5. Lei says:

    MM, I also cooked a pesto themed dinner for hubby at home instead of braving the maddening crowd. simple pesto cream pasta with pork tenderloin with pesto sauce. simple but very satisfying.

    and I had your tradition in mind, that is spending V day at home instead. very happy indeed

    Feb 17, 2013 | 12:23 am

  6. MrsKookie says:

    I always cooked for the husby on Valentines, even when we were still boyfriend-girlfriend. Put in a movie/DVD after dinner… We’ve enjoyed that over all the traffic! This year’s menu was so similar to yours – steak, baked potatoes and ice cream but instead of mussels, I had your tomato, mozzarella and herb pasta which turned out to be so good!

    Feb 17, 2013 | 7:04 am

  7. Chinky says:

    MM, where did you find the mussels? Looks quite delicious!

    Feb 17, 2013 | 9:25 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Chinky, frozen section of Santis, they sell them in 1kg bags, and for a very, very shockingly reasonable price. :) But they tend to run out rather quickly and supplies are erratic at best. I think they prioritize their restaurant and hotel customers, so retail gets the short end of the stick…

    Feb 17, 2013 | 9:41 am

  9. millet says:

    i just cooked adobong tahong yesterday. my grandmother used to cook a mean adobong tahong, which she would bottle and send by air cargo from manila to davao because mussels don’t grow here. no matter what i do, i still can’t get her recipe down pat.

    Feb 17, 2013 | 10:02 am

  10. Marketman says:

    millet, I have never cooked adobong tahong, but now I am intrigued. Do you use soy sauce or just vinegar and garlic? Could the use of lard or lack of it be the culprit in the taste falling short of your memories of your lola’s adobong tahong? If the stuff was sent to you airfreight it must have had a very high vinegar content to last the trip… hmmm…

    Feb 17, 2013 | 10:38 am

  11. Khew says:

    Try steaming instead of parboiling the potatoes – the taste is richer……and because it’s ‘dryer’, absorbs more of all that lovely fat too! :))

    Feb 17, 2013 | 10:57 am

  12. Britelite says:

    Is it alright to marinate all steaks two hours before grilling or this is only true for flanks? Thanks..

    Feb 17, 2013 | 8:45 pm

  13. Marketman says:

    Britelite, there is an evolving view that most beef steaks, roasts, etc. can benefit from a salting several hours before it is cooked, depending on thickness, heft of piece of meat. I always thought that would draw moisture out, making the meat a little dry, but I have salted some meats this way and the results are pretty good… Just dry the surface before searing or cooking the meat. Khew, yes, thanks for that, will have to try that next time, but I agree the potatoes would be less waterlogged…

    Feb 17, 2013 | 8:54 pm

  14. Britelite says:

    Thanks MM!

    Feb 17, 2013 | 10:45 pm

  15. Papa Ethan says:

    Your third and fourth photos look like they were set up with professional lighting. Congrats!

    Feb 17, 2013 | 11:05 pm

  16. ami says:

    Chinky, you can also get frozen NZ mussels from S&R (beside the lobster tails and crab legs). The ones that they have are in a half shell which is perfect for baked mussels.

    MM, those potatoes look sensational!

    Feb 18, 2013 | 9:15 am

  17. Risa says:

    MM, I would do the mussels – same recipe, but with butter at the end! (Bad!)

    Feb 18, 2013 | 5:37 pm

  18. Betchay says:

    I like mussels and yes I agree with the dubious cleanliness of local mussels but you do have to admit that mussels from Philippines waters has a certain sweetness and umami taste that you can not find on imported ones even if they are fresh.

    Feb 18, 2013 | 6:00 pm

  19. atbnorge says:

    Aww, I love mussels sauteed in butter then cooked in white wine. Any leftover white wine will do, but the last instance, I used Noilly Prat (about a glass) and it came out just as nice. I also do the same with razor clams and they come out really good. I use just tarragon for aromatics or when there’s chervil in the house.

    Feb 18, 2013 | 9:43 pm

  20. Monique says:

    Have you ever tried putting a little bit of fresh cream on your mussels? I love this dish and especially like to dunk a good crusty french bread in its juices!

    Feb 22, 2013 | 9:03 pm


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