Celebrate Valentine’s Day with roast chicken, a winter salad with citrus and Icelandic rice pudding. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Valentine’s Day has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid because my mother always made it special for the whole family. No matter what day of the week the holiday fell on, she prepared a fancy dinner that was served in the dining room on the good china. After the entrée was devoured and before the pink-frosted heart-shaped cake was brought from the kitchen, there were small gifts to open.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

When I became a mother, I continued the tradition and always looked to Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love and warmth in the middle of the long winter.

You all probably have your signature way to roast a chicken, but have you ever lined the bottom of the roasting pan with torn stale bread and unpeeled garlic cloves? This recipe, where the chicken is roasted at 425 degrees, results in crisp skin and firmer meat. (If the chicken is browning too quickly, simply cover it loosely with foil.) If you want moister, falling-off-the-bone chicken with tender skin, roast the bird at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes per pound. Just be sure you get that internal temperature up to 165 degrees. Serve the bread and garlic with the chicken, for either a pudding-y or crunchy accompaniment, depending on what temperature you use.

I’m really fond of citrus with greens and February salad does not disappoint. All the flavors come together wonderfully, not to mention it is a pretty composition. All varieties of oranges work well, as does a juicy pink grapefruit. Other winter fruits such as ripe pears and fresh figs are a nice pairing, too.

I was never a big fan of rice pudding, but I’ve recently changed my mind after experimenting with Icelandic rice pudding. This satisfying dessert doesn’t depend on a major dose of sugar for its flavor, and that’s a good thing.

As the rice cooks in its enhanced bath of milk and cream, you can keep tasting and add more vanilla, honey or cinnamon if you wish, but do your best to back away from making the pudding too sweet. Served with the fruit sauce and crème fraîche, you’ll have a winner on your hands.

May you have a Valentine’s Day spent with those you love.

Roast Chicken with Garlic and Thyme

1 (5-pound) roasting chicken
2 tablespoons softened butter
8 garlic cloves
8 sprigs fresh thyme
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 stale baguette

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Tear baguette and arrange on the bottom of a shiny (not dark) roasting pan. Place chicken on top of the bread then brush the bird with butter and season with salt and pepper. Peel and sliver four of the garlic cloves. Place them, along with four of the thyme sprigs, under the skin of the chicken breast. Scatter the remainder of the thyme and whole garlic cloves in their skins around the chicken in the pan.

Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Yield: 4-6 servings

February Salad

1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
4 cups mixed greens
1/2 ounce fresh mint leaves
4 slices prosciutto
Freshly grated Parmesan
Balsamic vinegar

Tear mozzarella into four portions and place on individual salad plates. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lemon zest. Divide orange slices between plates.

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place greens and mint in the bowl with dressing and toss to coat. Wind a slice of prosciutto around a handful of the dressed greens and place one bundle on each plate. Arrange the remaining greens among the plates, sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with balsamic. Yield: 4 servings

Icelandic Rice Pudding

1 1/2 cups short-grain rice, such as Arborio
6 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise

Place all ingredients in a large deep saucepan. Gradually bring to a boil and simmer very gently for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through.

Fruit Sauce

1 bag (10 ounces) frozen cherries
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2-3 tablespoons liqueur (optional)

Place ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until juice is slightly thickened. Puree cooked fruit in a blender if a smooth sauce is preferable. Spoon pudding into individual bowls and spoon fruit sauce over it, gently stirring the sauce into the pudding for a marbled effect. Top with whipped cream or crème fraîche. Yield: 8 servings

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