We've already told you to avoid dining out on Valentine's Day at all costs—nine times out of 10, it just isn't worth it. But if you're taking our advice, that leaves you and your date with one of two dinner options: ordering delivery (LAME) or enjoying an elegant home-cooked meal (totally hot).
Cooking dinner for your Valentine has its benefits—it doubles as a gift, gives you chance to show off your culinary prowess, and ensures that you're never too far from the bedroom. Then again, none of those things will work to your advantage unless you actually pull it off. If there's one piece of advice I can give, it's that when you're looking to impress in the kitchen—particularly with a multi-course meal—keep it simple. Juggling several complicated recipes at once, perhaps some that you've never made before, while simultaneously attempting to entertain your guest, keep your kitchen relatively presentable, and stay calm and upbeat? It's just not the kind of gamble you want to make on a special occasion. It's in everyone's best interest to limit the number of things that can go wrong.
That's why I've pulled together a four-course meal that's almost impossible to f*&k up but still looks impressive and tastes like food-that-leads-up-to-sexy-time. Plus a fair amount can be done ahead of time, so your date isn't stuck twiddling their thumbs while you bustle around the kitchen.
When you're busy cooking a big meal, serving drinks from a bottle instead making them in a cocktail shaker makes life a whole lot easier. We've got 10 recommendations for great bubbly that won't break the bank. Or, for the more theme-inclined, some great pink-hued sparkling wine for a little color. Pair it with some cheese or just enjoy a glass together before returning to your kitchen duties.
Irish Stout Granita With Raw Oysters
Sure, oysters are supposedly aphrodisiacs. But who cares? Briny, minerally, and a little sweet, oysters are refreshing and deeply satisfying without ever threatening to fill you up—the perfect dish to whet your appetite. These oysters are simply shucked and served raw with a splash of malt vinegar. They're accompanied by a savory stout-based granita, enhanced with black pepper, shallots, lemon zest, and parsley, which is made by just stirring a container of the mixture in the freezer a few times over the course of an hour. You spoon the flaked beer-ice right over the oysters before slurping them down for a new, fun way to present a time-honored pairing.
Winter Greens Salad With Flax Seeds, Shaved Beets, and Radishes
This vibrant salad should only take about 15 minutes to pull together. A mix of winter greens like endive, frisée, and radicchio form the base, but the real star is paper-thin slices of raw beets and radishes—something sweet and peppery to add brightness and contrast to the bitter greens. A sprinkle of nutty flax seeds and shaved Parmesan are all you need for a finishing touch.
Butter-Basted Pan-Seared Steak
There's a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to cooking the perfect steak. Which is why we've compiled a rigorously tested technique for the only way you'll want to cook it ever again. Oh, and lucky for you, it's pretty damn easy. The result? One sexy hunk o' steak with a dark, flavorful sear and the most even, edge-to-edge medium-rare center you can get without a sous-vide.
What's that? You have a sous-vide immersion circulator? Step on in. You're gonna want to make this bad boy. Don't have a sous-vide machine but want to go all out? Good thing you can do the same thing in a cooler. BAM.
Molten Chocolate Cake
Allow me to introduce you. Ridiculously dark, fudgy, liquid-chocolate-center, whipped cream-and-strawberry-topped foolproof cake, meet your maker—virtually anyone with a bowl, a spatula, a whisk, and an oven. Yes, it really is that easy. Toppings aside, you'll only need six ingredients; the whopping 12 minutes in the oven aside, you'll only spend eight minutes working on it. You can even throw the batter together ahead of time and refrigerate it in the ramekins so that all you need to do is stick them in the oven as you're clearing the (obviously licked-clean) plates from the table.
If you are determined to avoid baking at all costs, or just think eight minutes is too much of your precious time, worry not. This light, bright pink fruit mousse only calls for three ingredients and five minutes. Seriously, that's even easier than going to the bakery to buy something pre-made.