All The Luxury, Half the Price: A Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner for Two

valentine's daydinner.jpg
Photo by David Ensor
Romance is in the air...and in my kitchen. My fiancé and I are skipping the stuffy Valentine's Day steakhouse dinner in favor of an at-home meal filled just as much luxury. By using lobster tails in a decadent macaroni and cheese and serving strawberries with a homemade champagne vinaigrette, we'll still dine like rockstars, but for a fraction of the cost.

Here's the plan:

  • Starter: Strawberries & Champagne Salad
    Strawberries, red onion, crumbled cheese and walnuts tossed with spinach in Dijon-champagne vinaigrette
  • Entrée: Steakhouse Lobster Mac' & Cheese
    Plump lobster tossed with conchiglie in rich cheese sauce spiked with cognac, broiled, and topped with a panko breadcrumb crust
  • Dessert: Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
    Decadent chocolate cake served with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh berries and homemade whipped cream

    Be sure to check out Last Year's Menu with Beef Carpaccio, Cioppino, & Chocolate Mousse too.

    strawberrysalad.jpg
    Photo by Daily Food
    Strawberries & Champagne Spinach Salad

    For the champagne vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt + pepper to taste

    For the salad:

  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 oz crumbled Feta or goat cheese

    In a small bowl, whisk together champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey and shallot. Slowly whisk in olive oil to form an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Lightly toast walnuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat until fragrant.

    Toss spinach, strawberries, and red onion with vinaigrette and top with chopped walnuts and crumbled cheese. You might as well serve this with some champagne too.

    lobstermacandcheese.jpg
    Steakhouse Lobster Mac & Cheese

  • 1½ cups cooked conchiglie, shell-shaped pasta
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ¼ cup shredded fontina
  • ¼ cup shredded Gouda
  • 1-2 steamed lobster tails (buy already steamed or steam at home)
  • 1 tbsp cognac
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
  • Chopped chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste

    Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Set aside.

    Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour and cook for three to five minutes, stirring a few times as to not let it brown. Gradually whisk in half and half, raising the heat to medium and bringing to a gentle simmer. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for five minutes to thicken.

    Remove from heat and add in shredded fontina and Gouda cheese, stirring until fully melted. Season generously with salt and pepper.

    Roughly chop the cooked lobster meat and gently fold in to cheese sauce. Return to heat to warm through and finish with cognac. Add in pasta and toss to coat.

    Pour into individual baking dishes and top with panko breadcrumbs tossed with parmesan cheese and chopped fresh chives.

    Set under broiler until browned and bubbly. Serve hot with a dry white wine.

    lava cake.jpg
    Photo by OBiTRAN
    Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

  • 2 tbsp butter + more for ramekins
  • 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar + more for dusting
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp cake flour
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • Pinch Salt
  • For serving: qood-quality vanilla bean ice cream, homemade whip, chocolate shavings, fresh berries

    Brush two ramekins generously with melted butter (or use cooking spray). Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

    Using a double boiler setup or a microwave (on high for one minute), melt butter and chocolate pieces, whisking until chocolate is melted.

    Stir in sugar until combined, then add in egg and yolk. Stir to combine and add in flour, espresso powder, and salt, stirring gently until mixture is just combined.

    Distribute the batter evenly among the buttered ramekins. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and cook for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the edges have set and the middle is soft to the touch (not liquidy, but soft).

    Place inverted serving plates on top of each ramekin and holding the ramekin with a dish towel, flip over and set down the plate.

    Carefully remove the ramekin, allowing the cake to gently slide out. Dust with sugar and serve with ice cream, homemade whipped cream, fresh berries, and chocolate shavings.

    Whipped Cream makes 1/2 cup

  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp confectioner's sugar

    In a chilled bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream and vanilla until it holds a loose peak. Sift in sugar and beat until it holds a soft peak. Serve, or refrigerate covered for up to 4 hours.



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    4 comments
    ChristopherM
    ChristopherM

    That's a lot of stuff with the strawberries, an unnecessary complexity which might compensate for a deficiency elsewhere, but I won't speculate. I would simply posit that simpler is better: toss some  great strawberries (in Feb?) with a great balsamic vinegar, and you won't have to fake it later.

    Bruce_Are
    Bruce_Are topcommenter

    Following dinner, a nice romantic gesture would be to leave a trail of rose petals leading up to the bathroom. Nothing says love like hitting your better half in the shitter.

    Last one. This time I really mean it. 

    But seriously Brooke, all your recipes look good albeit a bit ambitious.

    kshilcutt
    kshilcutt moderator editor

    @Bruce_Are I use Brooke's recipes pretty frequently - mainly the cooking for two recipes she posts each Monday - and I can confirm that they are, indeed, quite good.

    conebaby
    conebaby topcommenter

    @kshilcutt @Bruce_Are I love Brooke's recipes. Her butternut squash mac & cheese (then use leftovers for squash soup w/ sausage) has become a go-to for us. Among many others.

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