Guess what? If you haven’t already made reservations for a romantic Valentine’s dinner with your sweetie, you’re pretty much screwed — and not in a good way. Not only is Friday night a big dining out night for everyone, it’s also smack in the middle of Southeastern Wildlife Expo, an event that brings hordes of Filson-wearing hunters and wildlife art collectors to town. These folks have big money and made their reservations at Halls and Oak months ago. That means you’re SOL if you want to treat your sweetie to a bloody delicious steak. Unless, of course, you know how to sear your own. To help you on that end, we asked Scott Stefanelli, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston who runs 181 Palmer, to put together a guaranteed panty/boxer-dropping meal for you to make at home this Friday night. And if you need wine suggestions, see David McCarus’s recommendations for sexy reds on p. 56. You’re welcome.

Lump Crab Cakes

(serves 4, save the leftovers for crab benedicts in bed on Saturday morning)


• 1 c. mayonnaise
• 1 large egg white
• ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
• ¼ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
• ¼ tsp. dry mustard powder
• 2 TBS. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
• 3 TBS. extra fine cracker meal
• 3 TBS. panko bread crumbs
• 1 lb. lump blue crab meat, cleaned of shell and debris
• ¼ c. safflower oil or peanut oil
• 2 TBS. unsalted butter


In a mixing bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, whisk together the mayonnaise, egg whites, cayenne, Old Bay, dry mustard powder, and lemon juice. Add the cracker meal and bread crumbs and mix again until incorporated. Fold in the crab meat using a rubber spatula being careful to leave the crab meat in lumps if possible. The mixture should be thoroughly incorporated but will still look slightly sticky. Cover and let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to overnight.

When ready to cook the cakes, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and divide into eight equal parts. Form into cakes by hand.

In a large stick resistant sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter begins to foam. Add the crab cakes carefully to the pan and sauté for two minutes until they begin to turn golden brown. Flip the cakes gently and continue cooking for two more minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce


• ½ c. sour cream or Greek plain yogurt
• ¼ c. mayonnaise
• 2 TBS. fresh chopped dill
• 1 tsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
• ½ tsp. kosher or sea salt
• Pinch of ground pepper to taste

Place all sauce ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth. Check the seasoning and adjust to your personal preferences.

Pan Roasted Hangar Steak with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Watercress

(serves 2)



• 2 (6-8 ounce) beef hangar steaks or filet mignon
• 2 TBS. olive oil
• 1 TBS. unsalted butter



• 6 oz. assorted wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced or quartered
• 1 shallot, peeled and minced finely
• 1 TBS. unsalted butter
• ¼ c. white wine
• 1 TBS. flour
• ½ c. beef stock (unsalted)
• ¼ c. heavy cream
• 1 tsp. each of chopped fresh chives, parsley, and tarragon
• 1 tsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
• Salt and pepper to taste

To Finish:

• Two slices of good quality bread like brioche or French bread
• 2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp. lemon juice or white wine vinegar
• ¾ c. watercress, cleaned and stemmed

Make the mushrooms (can be done in advance and then reheated):

In a small saucepan or high-sided sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat until a foam forms. Add the mushrooms and shallots, season with a pinch of salt and pepper (I prefer black) and sauté, stirring for about two minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add flour, stir in well, and cook for 30 seconds to cook out the starch. Add white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the bits of goodness in the pan. Add beef stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the liquid by half and add cream. Continue to cook for five more minutes. If the mixture seems too thick, add a bit more beef stock. Add lemon juice, herbs, and season with some more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Prepare the bread. Heat an oven to 350F. Brush bread with half of the extra virgin olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until golden and brown and slightly crisp. Whisk the remaining oil with the lemon juice or vinegar for dressing the watercress and reserve.

For the Beef:

Keep the oven on at 350F. Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper.

In a cast iron skillet or oven-safe sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until the butter begins to foam and smell nutty. Add the beef and allow to caramelize on one side without moving for two minutes. Once the beef is nicely brown, flip and repeat this process on the other side. Place the whole pan in the oven and cook for five minutes or until the beef reads 125-130F. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Slice the beef across the grain in ½-inch slices and shingle on top of the toasted bread. Spoon some of the mushroom ragout next to the beef. Toss the watercress with the olive oil and lemon juice and garnish the plate before serving.


Chocolate Truffle Tart

(serves 6)

I like to bake these in ramekins or pastry rings and skip the crust. But you can place this batter in pre-baked pie shells and bake so it’s more like a pie or tart. I prefer the more cake-like finished product.


• 5 TBS. unsalted butter cut into small pieces
• 6 oz. dark bittersweet chocolate chopped finely(72% cocoa is good but no less than 58%)
• 8 large egg yolks
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• ¼ c. sugar
• 2 oz. white chocolate pieces
• 2 oz. milk chocolate pieces
• 4 biscotti cookies or a couple large cookies of choice (i.e., chocolate chip), chopped into pieces

Heat an oven to 300F. Prepare six 8-ounce ring molds or ramekins by greasing them well with butter or cooking spray. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bring an inch of water to the simmer in a saucepan. Put the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a large metal bowl and place over saucepan. Allow the mixture to melt slowly, stirring from time to time. Once melted allow the mixture to cool slightly but remain melted.

Put the yolks and vanilla extract in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or you can use a handheld mixer). Mix briefly to break up the egg yolks. Add the sugar and increase the speed to medium high and beat the yolks and sugar until the mixture triples in volume. It should be pale yellow and very thick.

Spoon one-third of the egg mixture into the melted chocolate and fold together with a spatula. Pour this mixture back into the beaten egg yolks and gently fold the two mixtures together until they are nearly blended. Add the white chocolate, milk chocolate, and cookie pieces and finish mixing together.

Divide the batter into molds or pie shells and bake for 12 minutes until the tops look dry and the filling feels like it’s set. Cool for 20 minutes before trying to unmold or serve. The tart can be reheated slightly if need be. Can be made up to a day ahead of time but is best eaten within a few hours of making. Serve with a rosé champagne and save leftovers for a sexy leftover snack.