We reached out to local cookbook author Sarah Copeland to ask what she makes for Valentine’s Day. She shared several recipes with us, plus a reminder that sometimes the most loving cooking is what someone makes for you and even what you share with your kids. Here’s her story:

This is a steak for lovers. Alas, mine doesn’t eat meat, but if he, my husband that is, were going to totally spoil me, this is what I’d want him to make (alongside a huge kale salad, chock full of citrus and beets and avocado and sesame seeds, with a good mustardy vinaigrette) for Valentine’s Day.

I’m not a huge steak eater; I’m more likely to make braised short ribs for my family on a cozy winter evening (he, the pescatarian, might have a piece of fish that night instead), but if I think of the ultimate splurge, the thing that feels the most indulgent and satisfying on a cold winter night–it’s a steak, braised in butter and thyme, served right in the cast-iron skillet.

The funny thing is, we didn’t eat meat for quite some time as a family. One afternoon I was gifted a beautiful porterhouse from the new local butcher I was hearing so much about, and I had to put it to the test. I brought out my old cast-iron pan, cooked the gorgeous hunk of meat, and took it out to the barn– where the light is good– to take a photo. My daughter, a new walker at the time, toddled out to find me, following her nose. She arrived at my feet, where the steak, still sizzling in its cast iron pan, begged to be eaten. She pointed at and said, “That.” I shaved off an unctuous, buttery bite for her; she ate it whole, smiled, and made the sign for more.

Turns out, she’s a steak girl, too.

You can use this recipe for a ribeye, a strip steak, or anything well marbled and hefty in size. If you’re a good-wine-with-your-Valentine’s-meal kind of person, and I am, I recommend you pour a rich Aussie shiraz, a classic French Bordeaux, or Spanish Ribera del Duero to enjoy alongside.

Finally, don’t skip on dessert. Despite its handsome finish, this tart (below) couldn’t be easier. The crust gets its tenderness from sugar and melted butter, pressed in instead of rolled for ease. The flavor comes from the chocolate and the cream, so splurge on the highest quality of both you can find. Your loved ones are worth it.


The following recipes and photographs are reprinted from The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland with permission by Chronicle Books, 2011

Iron Skillet Steak with Thyme Butter

Serves 2

1½ lb/680 g Porterhouse or T-Bone steak, preferably grass-fed or organic

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter

2 sprigs of thyme

Remove your steak from the fridge about 30 minutes before you begin cooking. Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C/ gas 7.

Season the steak generously on both sides with salt and lots of pepper. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add 2 tbsp of the butter to the pan. When the butter foams, lay the steak in the pan and watch it sizzle. Let the steak cook, without touching it, about 4 minutes. The steak will contract and should come away from the pan easily. Flip the steak {admiring your deep golden sear as you do}, and continue cooking on the other side, 4 minutes more.

Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and the thyme to the pan and heat until the butter melts and sizzles. Tilt the pan so that the butter pools near the edge of the pan. Using a large metal spoon, scoop the flavored butter and pour it over the steak, repeating to baste the steak with flavor. Transfer the pan and steak to the oven to finish cooking, about 4 minutes for medium-rare, or 6 minutes for medium.

Remove the steak from the heat and transfer to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. Slice the steak against the grain and drizzle over with the warm thyme butter.

Cook’s Note: Please do not cut into your pretty steak to see if it’s done. If you’re a steak novice, stick a meat thermometer into the center of your steak to test for doneness. It should read 120°F/48°C for medium-rare. If this isn’t your first steak {or even if it is}, it’s time to learn the chef’s trick for testing steak for doneness: Hold your hand palm-side up. Press on the fleshy part below your thumb with your opposite pointer finger. That’s how a rare steak should feel. Now join your thumb and pointer finger and, with your other hand, feel in the same area. That is how a medium-rare steak should feel. Join your thumb and third finger and feel again, that is a medium steak.

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Smoked Sea Salt

Serves 12


½ cup/115 g unsalted butter, melted

3 tbsp sugar

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch of fine sea salt

1 cup/115 g all-purpose/plain flour


½ cup/120 ml heavy cream

½ cup/120 ml whole milk

2 tbsp sugar

Pinch of fine sea salt

7 oz/200 g high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 large egg, beaten

Smoked sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4.

Make the crust: Whisk together the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and stir until it feels like damp sand. Press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of an 8-in/20-cm square or 9-in/ 23-cm round tart pan/flan tin with a removable bottom {which makes it much easier to remove the tart in one piece. If you don’t have a tart pan/flan tin, you can make this tart in a springform pan; press the dough evenly across the bottom and only about 1¼ to 1½ in/3 to 4 cm up the side of the pan}.

Use wax/greaseproof paper or buttered fingers to even out and press the dough tightly into the corners. Prick the crust all over with a fork and chill in the fridge until ready to bake, about 30 minutes.

Set the pan on a baking sheet/tray and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. make the filling: While the crust bakes, bring the cream, milk, sugar, and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.

Let it sit for about 2 minutes, without stirring. Starting in the middle of the pan, whisk together until the chocolate is evenly melted and the mixture is smooth and a shiny dark brown.

Whisk the beaten egg into the chocolate filling and pour the filling directly into the hot crust.

Decrease the oven to 300° F/150°C/gas 2 and return the tart to the oven. Bake until the filling is set, but still a little wiggly in the center, about 15 minutes {temperatures vary from oven to oven, so the visual clue is more important than time}. Set your timer for 13 minutes. If it looks mostly set at that point, test it by opening the oven door a crack and carefully jiggle the tart pan/ flan tin with the edge of your oven mitt. Only the center third should wobble. If it wobbles all the way to the edge, close the door quickly and continue baking about 2 minutes more.

Remove the tart and cool completely on a rack at room temperature. Just before the tart cools and sets completely, sprinkle a few large flakes of smoked salt on the surface, or leave plain.

Remove the tart from the pan sides and carefully transfer to a platter before serving. Let it cool just until it slices easily. It melts in your mouth when served slightly warm, with a dollop of crème fraiche, if you wish, for extra decadence. Or cool completely, and serve by itself.

Cook’s Note. The deep, smoky flavor of smoked sea salt is a fine complement to the rich chocolate, but this tart is just as elegant with big flakes of white sea salt, or if you’re a chocolate purist, no salt at all.

Sarah Copeland is the award-winning author of the books Feast, The Newlywed Cookbook, and Every Day is Saturday (due out in June!) which exemplify her standard for gorgeous photography, luscious recipes, and simple luxuries. The former Food Director at Real Simple magazine and a Food Network veteran, Sarah currently lives in the Hudson Valley with her young family, where she tries (and fails) at fruit farming and excels at hosting raucous, twinkly-light dinner parties for friends. Learn more at Edibleliving.com.