Double or Nothing: An Indulgent Valentine’s Day Dinner for Two

vday1Going out on the evening of Valentine’s Day can be daunting. The jam-packed restaurants. The tacky heart-shaped candy boxes. The wildly expensive floral arrangements. Now before you go calling me a cynic, I happen to adore the concept of romance. And I welcome displays of affection from my husband all year long. But this year on Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to butter up your sweetie by putting your heart (and hands) into creating a special meal just for the two of you. No reservations required.

vday5French 75
Serves 2

This elegant champagne cocktail is the perfect way to kick off your romantic night in. Your honey will enjoy the bubbly essence, not to mention you’ll both feel super fancy while toasting your champagne flutes.  Feel free to double (or triple) the recipe for more cocktails – this is a judgment-free zone, promise!


3 ounces gin
3 ounces fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons superfine granulated sugar
1 ½ cups ice cubes
1 cup chilled champagne
Lemon twists for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, lemon juice, sugar and ice cubes. Shake to chill. Strain cocktails into 2 champagne flutes and top off with champagne. Garnish glass with a lemon twist.

vday3Oysters Two Ways
Serves 2-4 (Pick your favorite way, or mix it up with both)
These fresh and plump bivalves offer a light starter to your meal. They can be served raw on the half shell or broiled with some tasty seasonings (see: butter). Be sure to have them shucked at the grocery before heading home (they can be a pain to open if you don’t have the right tools). The best part of this appetizer: They are a natural aphrodisiac. (wink!)

Oysters on the Half Shell
1 dozen raw oysters, shucked
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Captain’s Wafers

Cocktail Sauce:
½ cup ketchup
1 ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 clove garlic, minced
3-4 dashes of hot sauce (optional)

Champagne Mignonette:
¼ cup champagne
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons shallots, finely chopped
Fresh cracked pepper

To make the cocktail sauce: Mix the ketchup, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and garlic in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of horseradish. Taste and add more if desired. Stir in a few dashes of hot sauce if you like your cocktail sauce spicy.

To make mignonette: Combine champagne, vinegar, shallots and pepper in a small bowl.

Arrange oysters on a serving platter (atop crushed ice if you wish). Serve with lemon slices, crackers, cocktail sauce and champagne mignonette.

Broiled Oysters
1 dozen raw oysters, shucked
½ stick of unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 tablespoon bacon bits (homemade or pre-cooked)
2 tablespoons parsley, snipped for garnish

Place your oven rack in the middle of your oven. Preheat to broil. In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, shallot and bacon bits using a fork. Place the oysters on a cookie sheet. Evenly distribute the butter mixture on top of the oysters. Place in the oven and watch them until the butter melts and the tops of the oysters are slightly brown (it should take only about 90 seconds). Garnish with parsley and serve with sliced and toasted French baguette.


vdayInsalata Caprese
Serves 2
This salad might have a fancy Italian name, but it’s really simple to put together and comes packed with bold flavors from the balsamic vinegar. Add in a little decadence from the mozzarella cheese and you’ve got you one seriously scrumptious salad course.



2 large tomatoes (I like Heirloom, but use whichever you prefer)
2 fresh Mozzarella balls, “ovoline”
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
Balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Slice tomatoes into wedges. Cut Mozzarella into ¼-inch-thick slices. Tear basil leaves into coarse pieces. Combine tomatoes, Mozzarella and basil on a serving platter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle balsamic dressing over tomato mixture just prior to serving.


vday2Braised Short Ribs with Fettuccine
Serves 4-6 (You’ll have leftovers!)

This hearty entrée will wow your darling with its incredible depth of flavor. It’s meaty, tender and indulgent with a little something sweet from the hint of chocolate. What else could you want in a date night, amirite?




3 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces chopped pancetta (about ½ cup)
2 ½ pounds short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes (whole or diced)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 ½ cups beef broth
¾ cup red wine
1 pound fettuccine
4-6 teaspoons shaved bittersweet chocolate

Place the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and pulse.

Once the short ribs are browned, carefully add the mixture from the food processor to the pot. Return the pancetta to the pot and stir. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, beef broth and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid ¼ cup at a time, if needed to moisten the pasta. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.


vday4New York-Style Cheesecake
Serves 12
You didn’t think I would leave out dessert, did you? Baby, this sweet ending is as luscious as they come. And it happens to be a favorite of my very own Valentine. Go wild and serve it with warm honey, caramel or chocolate sauce, if you so desire.



For crust:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
12 graham crackers (3-by-5 inch)
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse salt

For filling:
2 ½ pounds bar cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon coarse salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make crust: Butter a 9-by-3-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers until fine crumbs form; add melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Press crumb mixture into bottom and about 1 inch up side of pan. Bake until set, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.

Set a kettle of water to boil.

Make filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and juice, and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.

Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 1 3/4 hours. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight before serving.


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