Picture this: You come home from a hard day’s work with a big paper sack of groceries (baguette and groceries and a bottle of wine protruding…per script). You set the sack on a big, spacious kitchen counter top, open a nice bottle of wine and cheerfully sing and dance as you chop, stir and sip the evening away preparing a fabulously expensive gourmet dinner for your valentine.
You’ve been watching too many old movies…
First of all, it’s not about how gourmet your meal is. And, it’s not about the cost or how you spent countless hours preparing it (although I suppose mentioning it couldn’t hurt, huh?).
It is that you thought about it, that it mattered, and that, yes, you did put some time into it.
So, having said that, I’d like to share a few time-tested Valentine’s Day dinner tips to ensure that your culinary gesture of love and care is a success.
Now, I realize Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year (Restaurants LOVE that!). But you’re going to make a wonderful meal at home, which means if you’re like most people, you’re going to either begin some preparation the evening before or prepare everything after you get home from work.
I’ll presume the latter.
5 Tips on Where to Start:
- Know your significant other’s tastes. When you go out for dinner, what does your loved one most often pick from a menu? Chicken? Fish? Beef? Seafood? Stick with his or her favorite food group.
- Keep it simple. Tonight isn’t the night to test your culinary acumen or try something super complicated and time consuming. Make your choices as stress-free and doable as possible. Focus on quality not style points.
- Consider mixing in things you make and things you buy already prepared. Again, to give you the time to set the mood, I recommend that you make the entrée and consider purchasing most of the remaining items like the side salad and dessert. Hey, it’s Friday evening, and you have enough on your plate!
- Get organized. The night before (Thursday), make sure you have everything you need, from ingredients to china (And don’t forget the candles!). I’d highly recommend that you don’t do your grocery shopping on Friday before you come home and cook. Do it on Thursday. Here’s why:
- You might forget something.
- It’s Friday. You really don’t have the time.
- If you want to do some prep in advance, you have what you need.
5. Buy some wine insurance. If you are going to enjoy a bottle of wine with dinner, pick something your partner likes! Let Nino’s Sommelier, Jen, and our wine managers help you pick just the right bottle. Just tell them what you’re making and your budget. You can trust that they’ll make the perfect choice!
5 Tips on What to Prepare:
The most popular choices for a Valentine’s Day dinner are (for the men) beef tenderloin (or any steak for that matter) followed by shrimp, lobster, lamb and chicken. For the ladies, it’s shrimp, chicken and fish. Left off most lists are duck, turkey and pork (Not that they should be. I’m just sayin’.).
Without giving you a bunch of lengthy recipes, which goes against my preaching here, I’m sharing 5 tips I think you can really use:
- It’s winter, so chances are you’re not going to fire up the grill on your patio, but you can still make an awesome, restaurant-quality, pan-seared steak by liberally rubbing one of my favorite seasonings, Char-Crust Original Rub, on both sides of your steaks and then searing each side in a lightly oiled, non-stick skillet. They’ll be perfectly blackened and photo-perfect charred on the outside and juicy and moist on the inside. Let Nino’s butchers pick out your perfect steaks. We’ll even have a heart-shaped Butterflied Delmonico Steak for 2 featured the week of Valentine’s Day!
2. If your valentine loves fish, stop by Nino’s Marketplace Fishery (also known as our Fish Department) and check out our Fresh Flavor Fillets©. They’re trimmed, portioned, pre-seasoned and delicious. All you have to do is pick out your favorite one, grab the simple how-to cooking instruction card, and you’re home free!
3. Love chicken? Me too! Nothing shows your love better than the comfort of something you remember as a child. So before you pull some dusty cookbook off the shelf, I highly recommend you buy one of Nino’s whole Amish chickens (perfect for 2), and then rub it lightly with oil and season it with Kosher salt, fresh-ground black pepper, and a mixture of fresh-chopped herbs (oregano, thyme, basil and rosemary). Roast your love bird at 350 F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the juices between the breast and thigh run clear. Then allow it to rest about 10 minutes before carving and serving.
4. Shrimp en Filo is one of my favorite shrimp recipes for either an appetizer or main course. Peel and devein jumbo shrimp, leaving the tail on. Marinate for 2 hours, seasoned with a squeeze of fresh lemon, minced fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Lay out 2 sheets of filo on top of one another and brushed with melted butter in between. Then, cut into strips about 3” wide and a foot long. Place the meat part of the shrimp at the bottom edge of each strip (leaving the tail exposed). Roll up into a stick-like package, and then lightly butter each one again to coat. Bake in a 400 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Enjoy with béarnaise sauce, marinara sauce or any sauce you enjoy with shrimp.
5. Finally, what’s a Valentine’s Day dinner without a great dessert? And you’re probably guessing it has chocolate and strawberries in it.
It’s my Chocolate Marquise Pâté with Fresh Strawberries, and I’ll be featuring it in my upcoming blog, which is scheduled for publication on Tuesday, February 11th. It’s a recipe to hold onto as tightly as your valentine.
This recipe is one you’re going to want to tape to the inside of the cupboard!
Whatever you choose for the lucky recipient, keep in mind that Nino’s is for lovers–not only the people kind but also the food kind. Our florists will have your roses standing by, our pastry chefs will have your chocolate-dipped strawberries on hand, and our wine experts will have champagne at the ready, just in case you have any questions you’d like to ask during dinner.
Happy Valentine’s Day!