Sitting in traffic for hours so that you can wait in line to get into that crowded, noisy restaurant can be the ultimate buzzkill for any date. So this Valentine’s Day, why not ditch tradition and surprise your special someone with a homemade dinner?
Even if you have minimal skills in the kitchen, there are some easy meals you can make that will knock the socks off your date. A simple search on the Internet will turn up a hundred of these recipe ideas, but we’ve picked out five of our favorites to share with you!
1. Whole Roast Chicken
The beauty of this recipe is that not only are there a dozen variants you can adapt to your tastes, but also that you don’t necessarily need an oven to make it. If you can borrow a pressure cooker for the big day, then you’re all set.
Start with the best ingredients. You’ll want to choose a fresh-chilled whole chicken instead of a frozen bird for a couple of reasons: first, defrosting can be tricky for a novice cook. Second, freezing and defrosting can destroy the meat’s cellular structure, so fresh-chilled meat is the better choice for a juicy and flavorful finished product.
The basics: some type of oil to brush on the skin, salt and pepper to taste (remember to salt the inside of the bird too), and herbs for flavor. You can stuff your chicken with garlic, thyme, rosemary, and lemons, and place in an oven or pressure cooker that’s been preheated to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for10-15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and keep cooking for 20 minutes per pound. Serve with roasted veggies and enjoy!
2. Pesto chicken pasta
Pasta is simple enough to make and pretty foolproof, but when topped with a zesty pesto and slices of perfectly pan-seared or grilled chicken breasts, it makes an impressive and filling dish.
The trick is twofold: splurge on good-quality, artisan bottled pesto, and make sure that your chicken breast fillets are not dried out or (the horror) raw inside. If you’re unsure in the kitchen, better pick a fresh-chilled fillet instead of frozen to take the guesswork out of cooking time.
Serve with your sweetie’s favorite bottle of wine and some citrus fruits, and you’re golden.
3. Baked oysters
Who doesn’t love the occasional serving of this popular aphrodisiac? Baked oysters are simple to prepare, and to customize the meal, you have a slew of toppings to choose from. Anything from a simple drizzle of salt and lemon to a complex blend of herbs and cheese will work well. Serve atop a bed of coarse sea salt with a side of chilled leafy salad and either wine or their favorite Tequila for a hot evening.
4. Steak and potatoes
Here’s a secret: you can now get premium Wagyu cubes at select sites around the metro, and they make an exceptionally easy, sexy meal. Toss them onto a hot grill or griddle, cook until done to the degree of doneness that you like your beef – for Wagyu medium rare is recommended- and then serve them with an assortment of dips and sides such as grilled Portobello and shitake mushrooms, leafy greens, pickles, baby potatoes, or an assortment of cheeses.
A meal that can be done in under an hour, all it takes is a wide enough table, enough bowls for all your sides and dips, cute skewers, and a partner who likes their meals interactive.
5. Hainanese Chicken
This recipe for Hainanese is a little bit of a cheat, and needs a little more attention than most of our suggestions, but it’s definitely worth it!
Stuff a fresh-chilled chicken with lemongrass, ginger, kinchay, a bouillon cube, and a quartered onion. If it’s a particularly large fowl, lay it on a bed of the same in a pot that’s large enough to hold the entire chicken underwater. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the bird and its dressings, and put on the stove on high. Once it boils, turn the heat down to low and wait until the chicken is cooked and tender.
While you wait, prepare the sauce. Chop up green onions and grate young ginger finely, add salt to taste, and either gently sauté in sesame oil or pour heated sesame oil over the mix. Add a scoop of broth from the chicken once it’s done cooking, set aside.
When the chicken is done, carve and plate it. Before serving, heat some sesame oil, drizzle salt over the chicken skin, and then carefully drizzle the hot oil over the chicken as lightly and evenly as you can. Serve with the ginger and onion sauce and a bowl of steamed white rice.
These recipes are just the tip of the iceberg! There’s a whole world of easy romantic dinners you can find with a simple online search, but to make it truly special, you need to remember the basics: use the absolute best ingredients you can get your hands on, pay attention to your plating, and make sure you give some thought to how you’re going to eat dinner – the right cutlery, the right stemware, the right drinks.
Follow these three simple rules and you’re well on your way to having a Valentine’s Day dinner to remember!