Romantic Dining At Home


Ralena Young. Photo by Mike Hnida

The best gifts are always the ones made by hand. There is nothing better or more romantic than pulling together a dinner made from scratch. We reached out to some of our favorite gay tastemakers for their best recipes to mix up at home. Start the evening with a stunning cocktail then try a fresh take on battered walleye and finish with PinKU’s spectacular salmon.

First, the cocktail comes from Ralena Young, who oversees the bar programs at Volstead House Whiskey Bar and Speakeasy in Eagan and Farmington’s Bourbon Butcher. She’s one of the most in-demand mixologists in town and an excellent teacher. She created all the tasty sippers at Coup d’etat and Game Sports Bar. Her drinks are beautifully balanced between the strength of the spirits and delightful flavors. This Raspberry Gin Fizz is a real looker, and stunningly simple to make. The only note is to make sure you really shake it for all its worth for a solid 20-30 seconds straight. It doesn’t sound like much, but timing is everything. The delicate froth that ensues is positively beguiling.

Raspberry Gin Fizz
2 oz. gin and
1 oz. raspberry syrup
1 oz. Creme de Framboise

.75 oz. lemon juice
1 egg white
2 drops rosewater
3 oz. soda water
Garnish with organic rose petals

John Sugimura. Photo by Asha Belk

Place all ingredients except for soda water in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds to agitate and incorporate the egg white. Strain and remove ice. Dry shake again for 30 more seconds.
Place ice and soda water in highball, pour cocktail over the top and garnish with three rose petals.

Raspberry Syrup
1 cup raspberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Simmer on medium heat for ten minutes. Strain through fine mesh strainer. Cool and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Rosewater can be found in the baking isle in most grocery stores.

Tré Hardy is the chef behind the popular Ophelia pop-ups, and has worked in such lauded kitchens as Heartland, Cosmos, and the Ritz Carlton in Las Vegas. He studied the culinary arts at the famous Le Cordon Bleu and is currently working as the chef for the executives at 3M. Hardy also does catering (email him here to learn more), and this is one of the recipes he likes to serve as a tactical, tasty appetizer.

Citrus Walleye Frites with Sriracha Aioli
“This recipe takes a great local fish and citrus and turns them into something truly special and fun for an appetizer or a complete dinner. In this recipe I’m using it as a starter that pairs wonderfully with a white wine or a local beer. I’m using a Surly Hell in the batter, so just buy a six-pack and enjoy the rest with the dish!”

Walleye Frites
2 med. size walleye fillets (pin bones removed)*
2 cups panko bread crumbs
5 thyme sprigs
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other neutral) oil
½ cup flour
2 large eggs
1 can Surly Hell
Salt and white pepper to taste

2 egg yolks
1 cup olive oil
1 lemon
1 lime
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

For the fish:
Cut the walleye into strips about an inch wide. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl place the panko, zest, thyme salt and pepper and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, flour and the beer, this will make the batter.

To begin breading, have a clean tray lined with parchment paper. Place the fish a few pieces at a time into the egg mixture, making sure it is completely covered. Remove the fish from the batter, letting any excess fall off, then place the fish into the bread crumb mixture, again making sure it is completely covered. Place the fish on the lined pan. Repeat process until all strips are battered.

In a large skillet or sauté pan, place the oil. Heat over medium-high heat until you just start to see it ripple in the pan.

In small batches, begin putting the fish into the sauté pan, about two minutes per side until golden brown. When they are done place them on a cooling rack to let any excess oil drain off. Serve with aioli for dipping.

*This recipe is also great if you want to substitute chicken or beef.

For the aioli:
Roughly chop the garlic clove and place into the blender along with the egg yolk and sriracha, turn the blender on low and began by adding about half of the lemon juice while the blender is going.

Slowly drizzle in half the olive oil.

Mix in remainder of the lemon juice.

Finish by slowly adding the rest of the olive and salt and pepper. If the aioli becomes too thick you can thin it out by adding a few drops of water.  

Tré Hardy. Photo by Pepe Barton.

John Sugimura is an executive chef, concept-brand director, and partner at PinKU Japanese Street Food in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a second-generation Japanese-American professionally trained sushi chef, whose life-long love of sushi blossomed during time spent in Kyoto, Japan. Eating John’s cuisine is like eating in his grandmother’s restaurant in the 1930s. It is the ultimate expression of flavors, colors, and cooking methods, coming together in an authentic experience that is one of a kind.

“I love cured and seared salmon on rice because it represents my early travels to Japan. The experience moved me to become a sushi chef, making dishes like my grandmother did in her restaurant in the 1930s. In this recipe, I weave a combination of traditional ingredients and techniques. The salmon loin is degreased when it is cured, and searing heightens the fragrance. It’s the dish I am asked to make all the time! It is worth making your own Nikiri sauce, but you can substitute Kikkoman Sushi and Sashimi Soy Sauce, if you wish. The dish serves two people as part of a larger meal, but can be doubled, if desired.“

Cured Salmon on Rice
Serves 2
4 oz. (115 g) sushi-grade salmon fillets (loin if available), skin and bloodline removed

3-inch (8 cm) square dashi kombu (dried seaweed), wipe with a damp towel
1 cup (200 g) medium-grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Nikiri Sauce
2-inch (5 cm) square dashi konbu, wiped with a damp towel
2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
1 teaspoon sake
1 teaspoon tamari
1 teaspoon mirin
Pinch Japanese bonito flakes

To Serve
1 daikon radish, peeled and finely shredded
Small handful thinly sliced purple cabbage
1-2 thick scallions, sliced diagonally
½ avocado, sliced
Pinch Japanese black sesame seeds

Transfer the salmon to a small bowl and evenly sprinkle with iodized salt. Cover and refrigerate for 2½ hours to cure. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.

Make the Nikiri sauce: Place the dashi kombu in the base of a small pot. Add the soy sauce, sake, tamari, mirin, and bonito flakes. Heat over low heat until small bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pot, just before the mixture simmers, then remove from the heat and steep for five minutes. Strain into a bowl and set aside to cool.
About 30 minutes before you’d like to serve, cook the rice: place the dashi kombu in the base of a small pot. Add the rice and 1½ cups (300 ml) water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is soft, 20 minutes.

Combine the salt, sugar, and rice vinegar and mix well until the salt and sugar dissolve. When the rice is cooked, fluff with a fork, and pour in the vinegar mixture, mixing well.

Heat broiler to high. Divide the nikiri sauce between bowls.

Remove the salmon from the fridge and cut into ½ to 1 inch (1 to 2 cm) cubes. Place the fish in a small oven-safe sauté pan and generously brush with Nikiri sauce from one of the bowls. Place under the broiler until lightly charred, five to six minutes. (The USDA recommends cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 65 degrees Celsius.)

Divide the rice between serving plates. Pile the radish and purple cabbage next on the rice, and top the rice with the salmon. Arrange the scallions and avocado slices on top, and sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Serve the remaining bowl of Nikiri on the side.


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