Cooking for a date or a partner seems like a grand romantic gesture, but many of us can remember a time when we’ve had a kitchen failure in one of these situations. Often, when we’re trying to concentrate on something special that we don’t make very often, that’s when problems can occur.
This year, take the pressure off yourself with dishes that are easy to make, but with high impact (no one has to know you went easy on yourself.)
The best part about cooking for someone else is appreciating the effort that goes into putting the menu together and the food on the table. With this in mind, consider something simple but always welcome: a roast chicken. There are millions of recipes for roast chickens out there, but you can simply dry brine (rub the chicken with a combination of salt, pepper and lemon zest, then refrigerate in a container or bag for up to 72 hours.) and roast in a 350 degree oven at 20 minutes per pound, unstuffed. Once a thermometer reaches 170 degrees, take the chicken out and let it rest for carving. You can also try the perennially popular Engagement Chicken.
You can put cut potatoes in the bottom of the roasting pan to catch the chicken fat and seasoning, and roast asparagus spears coated in oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to round out the meal. Very simple, but you’ll look like a real chef.
If chicken is too much work, consider searing off scallops. You can make them in brown butter, coat them in corn starch, or treat them in an asian style sauce. This versatile ingredient is delicious, easy to prepare, and can be done in mere minutes. Pair scallops with roasted vegetables like zucchini in chili oil or with vegetables in pasta for showstopping dinner.
If you don’t mind working out your arms. another amazing dish you can make (and can be made vegetarian or vegan) is risotto. This rice dish can be made with stock, and butter, topped with mushrooms, or with wine topped with zucchini and chorizo, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
Of course, no romantic meal would be complete without discussion of dessert. Don’t overthink it. Creme Brûlée might seem easy, but if you burn them, you’ll be without a dessert. Consider 2 Italian favorites: Semifreddo and Tiramisu. Semifreddo is an ice cream like terrine that can be sliced, topped with fruit, caramel, chocolate, nuts, or any type of topping and served immediately. What’s even better is that you don’t need much kitchen skills to pull one off, and you don’t need an ice cream maker.
Tiramisu is a much beloved dish that can be made in a short period of time. You need a few ingredients, and about 15 minutes prep time to make this layered dessert that you simply cut and serve, or serve in a ramekin or wine glass if you’re feeling fancy.
Don’t overthink desserts. If you’re really nervous about them, buy the best bakery cookies and ice cream you find and make them into ice cream sandwiches or a layered dessert in a wine glass (add some booze to the layers if you’re interested.)
The most important thing to bring to the kitchen when cooking for someone you want to impress is confidence. Remain calm, and choose simple recipes that have a big impact.