We can already hear the protests from the more cynical among you. Valentine’s Day is a big hoodwink, you’ll say, a made-up holiday created by the greeting card companies to sell more pink teddy bears and chalky heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Like New Year’s Eve, you’ll explain, the buildup can never live up to the expectation, and even if you can find a reservation, chefs hate creating Valentine’s Day menus, servers hate having dining rooms filled with couples, and by extension, everyone kinda hates you. And of course, if you’re in a committed, caring relationship, you don’t need a special day set aside to appreciate your loved one. You do it every day, anyway.
But guess what? None of these arguments are going to hold water, once you’re confronted by the crumpled face of your beloved, who won’t be sympathetic or understanding to any of your explanations for deciding to opt out of the holiday. Like it or not, you had damned well better do something to mark the occasion, or there will be relationship hell to pay. Rather than going out to an overpriced dinner with the amateurs, however, why not consider cooking something special at home? We’ve handpicked a selection of our favorite recipes that are sure to impress the special person in your life, who will be bowled over by your handmade gesture of love:
1. Lamb Belly Wrapped Dates
This is as about a sexy an appetizer as you’re likely to find. The pleasantly gamey cured lamb belly is such a primal flavor, reminding you of your animal nature, wrapped around the bursty fruit of the roasted dates. It’s the perfect combination of flavors and textures.
2. Yukon Gold Potatoes with Crème Fraîche and Lobster Roe
This dish will pluck at your special friend’s heartstrings in a few specific, calculated ways. The first thing you notice is the substantial creaminess of the soft potatoes, which makes the dish suitable for either an appetizer or a side dish. Then, you get the satisfaction of describing the dish using vaguely foreign terms like “Crème Fraîche,” which is crazy-romantic and will make you feel very fancy. Finally, any time you can eat tiny little eggs on something, whether caviar, trout roe, or lobster roe, it subtly reminds women of their reproductive capabilities and in turn reminds them to have sex with you. This is a good goal to have for Valentine’s Day.
3. Lobster Fra Diavolo
This dish satisfies the “hunter/gatherer” nature of man, though you may want to prepare the part of the meal where you stab a live lobster through the top of the head with a sharp knife in a separate room, unless your boyfriend or girlfriend is into that kind of thing. Served with the shell still on, there’s something sexy about cracking the shells open and slurping the spicy lobster meat out. I don’t know why. There just is.
4. Linguine Carbonara with Mushroom and Red Pepper
A true linguine carbonara doesn’t use any additional cream; the “sauce” for the pasta is created strictly using eggs and cheese. It’s pasta alchemy, the relationship equivalent of using the simple traits of disparate ingredients to create a new, better whole. Just like you do every day in your relationship. Do you see what I did there?
5. Chicken Fricassee
This is a relatively simple dish, that seems like it took all day slaving over a hot stove to make. Plus, it seems vaguely French. As with the use of lobster roe, you should endeavor to be vaguely French in as many ways as possible on Valentine’s Day.
6. Braised Lamb Shank with Port and Mushrooms
From the original post: “Because, really, is there anything more pornographic in the world of home cooking than braised beef or lamb? Slow-cooked until impossibly tender, it sits atop a pile of mashed potatoes or parsnips, barely able to hold itself together, until you drag a fork through it, breaking the meat into delicate shreds of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness, spilling a reduction of pan sauce, port, and mushroom in its wake.”
7. French Apple Cake
I love this cake. It falls somewhere in between a custard and a cake, with almost a pie crust-like top. It’s fancy, and, as they say in France, “Où est le double vé cé?”
8. Honey Cake with Caramelized Pears
You’ll get huge points for cooking this fancy cake, which is perfectly, lightly sweet and topped with golden, sticky caramelized pears. It’s a light finish for a decadent Valentine’s Day meal, and makes an even better morning-after breakfast. Assuming all goes well.