DOING DINNER FOR TWO, THE RIGHT WAY
Maybe this Valentine’s Day marks your 10-year anniversary, or your second date. Regardless, you can already feel that knot in your stomach, which tells you that you’re still a bit nervous about cooking dinner for your special someone.
You think you’re ready; you’ve watched every cooking show available and have noted a menu that would make most gourmet chefs take pause. However, there are a few things more to consider that may help ensure the evening goes smoothly.
Bachelor Dennis Martin understands that while it is important to know how to cook, having served frozen vegetables and partially cooked chicken in the past, he finds the biggest obstacle is making sure you have everything ready when your guest arrives.
“It is supposed to be a special moment, so everything has to be precise and timed well, but when you find yourself scrambling to do things at the last minute, it can disrupt the flow of the evening, taking away from the moment.”
Chef Stephen Hualde from the Dacor Design & Culinary Center in Diamond Bar, Calif., recommends keeping everything simple, easy and light.
“You want to do something that you can prepare ahead of time, so you can do all the planning and prep in advance. The point of the evening is to spend time with that special someone, not to spend the entire night running back and forth.”
Try an easy meal solution, such as a nice pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes and seafood. When baked in the oven, it turns out extremely well. It’s a little different from your basic pasta but very simple to prepare, and since everything can be heated in one dish, clean-up is easy. Once you put everything in the oven, you can sit down for a glass of wine and enjoy conversation while the pasta is cooking.
And to avoid any miscommunications about dates and times, Chef Hualde suggests sending an actual invitation, as surprises rarely work. This will prevent your guest from showing up earlier than you anticipate, or worse yet, not showing up at all.
Avid cook Eric Meisner has perfected timing but struggles with stepping out of his comfort zone and experimenting with recipes that will still impress his guest and not turn him off from cooking.
“It’s hard trying to find a new dish that I feel comfortable cooking. My go-to meals are lasagna, Caesar salad and garlic bread, or a steak dinner. So if I meet a vegetarian who doesn’t like Italian, I’m in trouble.”
While stepping outside of the box is challenging and exciting, Chef Hualde recommends sticking with things you know your special someone likes. This will definitely help keep the evening on course because while you think your Goat Cheese Truffles are tasty; your guest may not share your enthusiasm for them.
“You can make one of their favorite things, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be something new but just something they may not get all of the time, so it keeps within the ‘special’ theme,” said Chef Hualde.
“One of my favorites is Bacon-Wrapped Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates, which is both sweet and savory, and the tastes mingle together nicely. But you have to serve them with mints. And for dessert, Chocolate Soufflé Brownies served in heart-shaped ramekins are always a romantic touch. And when using Pure Convection™, available in all Dacor Wall Ovens and Dual-Fuel Ranges, they can be cooked in the oven at the same time as the pasta.”
The key is to keep it simple. There is always the chance that something can go wrong, so you can try to minimize disaster by keeping things uncomplicated because, in the end, it is really the thought that counts.
Learn more about Dacor Wall Ovens and Dual-Fuel Ranges, including features such as Pure Convection and RapidHeat™ Bake.
Bacon-Wrapped Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: Makes 12 dates
- 12 large dates
- 4-6 tbsp. blue cheese, crumbled
- 6 slices of bacon
- 12 toothpicks
Preheat the oven to 375°F on Pure Convection. Grease sheet tray to prevent sticking.
Using a sharp knife, carefully make a lengthwise slit into each date. Spread each date open slightly and carefully remove the pit. Fill each date with about one teaspoon of the blue cheese.
Cut the bacon in half and place on a microwave-safe plate and heat in the microwave for about one minute.
Take one of the dates and wrap it with the bacon half. Insert a toothpick to secure the bacon to the date. Repeat this with the remaining dates and bacon.
Place the wrapped dates onto the prepared sheet pan, filling side up. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until bacon is crisp.
Remove and serve.
Chocolate Soufflé Brownies
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: Makes 6 brownies
- 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, slightly chopped
- ½ cup plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
- Extra butter for greasing dishes
- Confectioner’s sugar for garnish dusting
- Whipped cream
- Fresh strawberries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees on Pure Convection. Lightly grease six 8 oz. heart-shaped ramekins with butter.
Place the chocolate and butter in the top pan of a double boiler or on a simmer plate or the simmer setting burner. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks and granulated sugar. Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat until the mixture is light, fluffy, and turns lemon color, about 5 minutes.
Slowly add the flour and continue to beat on medium speed until fully blended. Add the cooled chocolate-butter mixture and beat again until blended. Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins, filling each halfway.
The recipe can be prepared up to this point, lightly covered with plastic wrap, and chilled for 4-6 hours before baking.
You can bake two for a romantic dinner and bake the remaining later for a midnight snack.
To bake, set the ramekins on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the cakes are set but the centers still move slightly when the ramekins are shaken, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake or the cakes will be dry instead of creamy in the center.
Remove from the oven and lightly dust the tops with confectioner’s sugar.
Place the ramekins on dessert places lined with doilies. Top each dessert with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
Serve and enjoy.
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