As most good restaurants have learned to capitalize on, a romantic meal is a central component of any good Valentine’s Day. If you’re going out to nice place tonight, you’ll likely encounter a “special” (read: twice as expensive with fewer choices) menu and maybe even a smaller (again, more expensive)
wine list to choose from. But then again, we’re in law school, and a nice restaurant may not be what you budgeted for this year.
Though that may seem like bad news, think of it this way: you could have unlimited options for food at way better prices, combined with a gigantic wine list that’s at least 50% off! In this alternative option, you not only spend less, but you make a much more impressive gesture to your significant other- what a deal! The one caveat, of course, is that you’re cooking dinner.
Start planning and thinking about the meal as far ahead of time as you can. Go to the good grocery stores for meats and produce and ask one of the many wine shops in the area about what would pair best with what you’re fixing. Be adventurous with your ingredients, but maybe not with cooking
techniques: as romantic as it might be to pull off an impossibly hard recipe, it’s a real mood-killer to be cursing and shouting at something in the kitchen while your date waits patiently. Finally, the meal doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should show care, time, and effort. If the two of you love comfort food,
make something down-home and old fashioned, but take your time and do it well.
At this point, you probably already have your reservations made or your meal planning finished, but just in case there’s still wiggle-room in your menu, here are some ideas for a great Valentine’s dinner:
For the meat lovers: Pick something out of the ordinary and go with either a pan roasted duck breast or a rack of lamb (I hope I don’t fail Animal Law because of this). Either would go great with garlic mashed potatoes and some sort of interesting sauce; maybe a cherry or fig-based pan sauce. Just
Google duck breast with cherry/fig pan sauce or do the same for the lamb and you’ll find tons of recipes.
For the adventurous eaters and big spenders: Anthony Bourdain recommends Foie gras aux pruneaux, which as you probably guessed, means Foie Gras with Prunes (now I’m really going to fail Animal Law).You soak the prunes in port wine and sear the foie gras, tying it together in the end, also making a rich pan sauce. You can serve that with toast and drizzle a balsamic vinegar reduction over it before serving.
For the seafaring eaters: One of my favorite things in the world is a well seared sea scallop. You could just buy four big scallops, sear them with butter and olive oil, and serve with pomegranate seeds and fennel fronds as a delicious appetizer. Then, for the main course, go for a pan roasted sea
bass served over a rich stew of tomatoes, capers, and olives. (By the way, make sure to get Black Sea Bass, a sustainable fish, as opposed to Chilean Sea Bass, which is not.)
For something way out of the ordinary: Emulate the Melting Pot and last week’s episode of Top Chef and serve Fondue. You could go with a traditional Swiss fondue of melted gruyere and comte cheeses with garlic and white wine- this vegetarian option is often just served with bread and apples, and it makes an incredible meal. If you like the Melting Pot restaurant- make your own cooking liquid, marinate some meats, buy some sauces, and you’ve got Melting Pot at home!
No matter what you make – have fun in the kitchen. Cook together, roll with the punches, keep a good drink by your side, and the whole evening will make you forget how much you overpaid last year at that fancy restaurant.