You could probably impress your wife or girlfriend with reservations at a pricey restaurant on Valentine’s Day, but why? A delicious dinner for two and some quiet conversation is a much more romantic way to spend a Valentine’s evening.
Whether you’re a cordon bleu chef or just happy that you can make macaroni and cheese without burning it, your girl will appreciate the effort that you put in to making her Valentine’s Day special. If you’re ready to take Valentine’s Day in your own hands and cook a romantic dinner for two, read on for a few tips on planning, setting the mood, and cooking an easy (but amazingly good) Valentine’s Day menu.
Deciding What to Cook for Valentine’s Day Dinner
A romantic dinner for two doesn’t just happen – there’s some planning involved if you want things to be successful. A couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day, start thinking about your honey likes best to eat, or ask her some discreet questions if you don’t know yet. Is she a pasta person? Strictly meat and potatoes gal? Fit your Valentine’s menu to her tastes.
And don’t forget the drinks and dessert! If you need help determining which wines go best with which foods, check out this article on wine pairing. If your girl would grab a cold beer over a glass of good wine any day, be sure to pick up her favorite kind and have a glass frosting in the freezer before dinner. If she likes champagne, serve it with strawberries for dessert. Champagne and strawberries are a cliche for a reason.
If you’re still not sure what to cook, time is running short, or you’re not completely confident in your kitchen skills, check out this simple and delicious Valentine’s dinner menu, complete with dessert, recipes, and what order to fix everything in for best results.
Valentine’s Day Dinner Menu: Steak au Poivre, Ceasar Salad, Baked Potato, and Chocolate Mousse
This menu may sound fancy-schmancy, but it’s really very simple. For the best results, and to avoid any timing snafus, make everything in reverse order. Fix up the chocolate mousse early in the day and have it chilling in a couple of glasses in the fridge before anything else. Get the baked potatoes in the oven at least an hour before you start the steaks to make sure they’re completely done. After the potatoes go in the oven, make the salad and put it in the fridge to chill, but wait to put on the dressing until right before you eat to avoid soggy lettuce. When the baked potatoes are done, start the steaks – they don’t take long.
Decadent Chocolate Mousse
1 4-oz.package baking chocolate
3 Tbsp. water
2 C. thawed Cool Whip
1 tsp. vanilla
Heat chocolate and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted and mixture is combined. Let mixture cool, and then add vanilla. Gently stir in Cool Whip, just until combined. Spoon into glasses and chill.
2 large baking potatoes
desired toppings (like butter, sour cream, or fresh chives)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scrub each potato well to remove any dirt. Pierce with a fork (so they don’t explode) and bake directly on the lowest oven rack for an hour. If the potato is done, you should be able to easily insert the fork into the thickest part. Top with butter, sour cream, chives or salt and pepper.
1 head of romaine lettuce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
chopped sardines or sliced hardboiled egg (optional)
Rinse romaine leaves well under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces, discarding the big crunchy bits. Toss in a large bowl with cheese and croutons, and if you and your girl like them, add sardines and hardboiled egg for a more authentic Ceasar salad. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve, and then top with Caesar dressing.
Steak au Poivre
2 steaks (a good cut, like NY strip or rib eye)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 C. heavy whipping cream
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. In a cast iron skillet (that’s important!), heat butter over medium-high heat. While your butter is melting, grind pepper and sea salt over both sides of the steaks, pressing it in to the meat a little so it sticks better. Put your steaks in the hot skillet for 45 seconds on each side, to sear the meat. Leave the steaks in the pan and put the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking. It should take about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Here’s an article on how to tell when your steak is done, if you need it.
To make the “au Poivre” part, take your steaks out of the skillet and set them on your serving plates. In the skillet, whisk the dijon mustard for about 40 seconds over medium heat. Still whisking, slowly pour in your whipping cream, and (still whisking) cook for about a minute more until it thickens a little bit. Spoon a little over each steak, and enjoy!
Setting the Mood for a Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner
Just like with any good restaurant, atmosphere is almost as important as menu. To set the right mood for your homecooked Valentine’s meal, start with a clean house or apartment. It’s hard to feel romantic while staring down a pile of dirty laundry or stack of empty pizza boxes. Once you’ve got everything clean and inviting, look to your lighting. If all you’ve got over your kitchen or dining room table is an uninspiring fluorescent light, buy a couple of candles. Dim lighting is more romantic, but make sure that your eating area is still bright enough to let you see your food.
A plain white tablecloth will go a long way in dressing up a boring table. It makes a simple and nice background for almost any color dishes, candles or flowers. And speaking of flowers, a vase of blooms in the center of the table is really the only other decoration you need. If you can’t afford roses (and who really can around Valentine’s Day?), just a few simple flowers, like carnations or a mixed bouquet, are good choices, too.
Music is also a good addition. Pick something you both like, whether it’s country, old R&B, or classical, and keep the volume low. You don’t want to drown out each other’s conversation.
When all is said and done, cooking Valentine’s Day dinner for your sweetheart might be the best Valentine’s decision you’ve ever made. You’ll avoid shelling out big money for an overpriced meal and being stressed out by irritating crowds of people, and you’ll get compliments on a delicious, restaurant-style meal that wasn’t even all that hard to make.