All week long you've heard Allison and I yammering on about how we love cooking Valentine's Day dinner at home, so we'd be neglecting our cooking blogger duties if we didn't share some tips so that you can do the same. Nothing says, "I love you" (or "I like you... in that way") like a delicious home-cooked dinner, and cooking together can be just as enjoyable as sharing the meal. So if you're ready to forego the prix fixe menus, long lines at the valet, and overpriced bubbly, here are some tips to help you seal the deal:
1. Get it up- Your hair that is! Ladies, there is nothing sexy about pulling a long hair out of your lobster bisque. When you're primping for the night, opt for a messy/chic bun or a casual updo. Who knew you'd get hair tips on a cooking site?
2. Look the part- Do you and your sweetheart eat most of your dinners in front of the television? Create some restaurant ambience by setting a table, lighting some candles (unscented!), and turning on some music. Not a DJ? Log onto Pandora.com, set your channel to Otis Redding, and let the magic of the internet do the rest.
3. Have a happy hour- Have you ever tried to cook a nice dinner when you're starving? In my experience, it leads to rushing through the steps and munching on ingredients until you're not even hungry when it comes time to sit down to your meal. Crack open a bottle of wine and set out a few little snacks. Some olives, grapes, or toasted almonds will allow you to enjoy the cooking process without inhaling your food when it's ready.
4. Put your sweetheart to work- If you've ever wished you had an extra set of hands in the kitchen, now you do! Even if your Valentine is culinarily clueless, he or she can stir risotto, peel potatoes, or grate cheese. If nothing else, they can top off your vino. That way you're both invested in the meal, and there's not that awkward period in the dinner date where you're in the kitchen, and your love is sitting around waiting for dinner.
5. Watch your time- Read your recipes carefully ahead of time so you know how long things will take. Do your best to time your cooking so that everything finishes at the same time, and all of your food is warm and delicious when it hits the table.
5. Keep it simple- There's nothing sexy about a kitchen meltdown, so keep the menu simple. I like to focus on one delicious, well-executed dish, and keep the rest easy and straightforward. A beautiful rack of lamb or prime rib only needs a simple roasted vegetable and some quick polenta to be delicious and memorable. If you're going to make a risotto or an elaborate veggie dish, serve it with some simple grilled shrimp and a green salad. Dessert is an essential component of any romantic dinner, but it doesn't have to be laborious. Try roasting some fruit with butter and vanilla, and serve it with a scoop of decadent ice cream (go for the premium brand for a special occasion).
Best of luck with your cooking adventures this weekend! And when your date doesn't want to leave, you can thank your Butter + Cream buddies...