Super simple Valentine’s Day dinner

Posted on February 11, 2006 by Aun

I’m one of those guys that doesn’t really buy into the whole Valentine’s Day shtick. For two reasons. First, I believe that if you’re with someone you really care about, then every day together should be a special day. Which leads me to the second reason. I consider Valentine’s Day to be an artificial, commercial creation used to con you into spending extra money on overpriced meals by restaurants you normally wouldn’t patronize to begin with. I’m one of those oddball romantic yet cynical blokes that scorns Valentine’s Day but likes buying his wife gifts for no reason at all. Why should she have to wait for a birthday, anniversary, or other so-called special occasions for me to do something especially nice? In fact, it’s a hell of a lot more fun when she doesn’t expect anything. And it doesn’t have to be big. My latest present to S, in fact, was a gorgeous walnut wood clutch (purse), handmade by a wizard artist named Tadd Sackville-West, that I discovered while surfing design sites. While I briefly considered waiting till Valentine’s Day or her birthday (which is in a few weeks) to give it to her, I decided to give it to her as soon as it arrived in the mail. (It was, quite simply, gift from me for no other reason than that I adore her.)

As an anti-Valentine’s Day person, most years I eat dinner on the 14th with S at home. Which is something I would advocate to anyone and everyone, regardless of your views of the day in question. I say this because, as alluded to above, restaurants like to sell Valentine’s Day packages. Unfortunately, these are usually rather bland, over-priced set menus, with a few cheesy, romantic items–rose petals on the table, a glass of bubbly upon arrival, an annoying violinist in the corner of the room, etc–thrown in to justify the hefty price tag. Maybe I’m strange, but I don’t find the idea of sitting in a room filled with other couples, all of us eating the same over-priced food, very romantic.

Instead, consider cooking a small, light dinner for your loved one. He or she will appreciate the effort. Eating at home means you can tailor the mood to your exact specifications, i.e. you can pick the music, the table settings, how bright or how dim the lights should be, etc. I suggest a light menu because after a romantic dinner you want to have the energy for a little romping around. Big dinners are great for greedy gourmands but suck if you’re trying to get jiggy with someone. Because I know all I ever want to do after having eaten till bursting is lie down and take a nap. A light dinner ensures that both you and your companion have the energy for some good old-fashioned cardiovascular fun.

Also, don’t kill yourself in the kitchen. Cooking a meal from French Laundry is fine if you have a team of kitchen elves, but for the solo home-chef, it’s hell. You want to look your best on Valentine’s Day. You want to feel and look rested. The last thing you want to do is to exhaust yourself before you even sit down to eat.

For those of you in search of a fast, easy but delicious and very, very sexy Valentine’s Day menu, I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting one. (Regular readers will recognize two of the three dishes and the images, which have appeared in previous posts.) The whole dinner shouldn’t take you much more than an hour or two of prep and each of the two savory dishes only requires a few minutes to cook. I’d serve the whole dinner with a bottle of bubbly. I recomend a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée or a bottle of Taittinger Comte de Champagne.

Scallops with bacon and parmesan, grilled in their own shell

This recipe is inspired by one from Nobu’s second cookbook, Nobu Now. You’ll need to buy some good, fresh scallops. Make sure they come with their shells. In addition, you’ll need soy sauce, garlic, butter, lemon, bacon and parmesan. The bacon should be chopped into tiny pieces and fried ahead of time. The parmesan must be fresh. Grate a little and set it aside as well.

Clean your scallops, disconnecting them from their shells and then after patting dry, place each back on a shell. Add a tiny amount of butter on the scallop, a drop of soy, a little grated garlic, and a little bit of bacon. Sprinkle the scallops with the freshly grated parmesan and pop them into a preheated oven and cook at 200 Degrees C for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is nicely browned. Please note that if using a convection oven, place your scallops on the highest rack, so that the cheese is nearest the hot metal conductors. Serve the finished scallops with a wedge of lemon.

Confit of Salmon topped with hijiki and ikura, served with mushrooms

This dish is a variation of Tetsuya’s famous confit of ocean trout–the cooking method is the same. You’ll need some sashimi-grade salmon, grapeseed oil, fresh coriander and basil, some chopped garlic, an orange, shiso-flavored hijiki (which you can buy in packets at Japanese grocery stores), ikura, nameko mushrooms, mirin, butter, salt and pepper.

Marinate the salmon for a day in a bowl that’s been filled with grapeseed oil (the oil should just cover the fish). In the oil, add some coriander, basil, garlic, pepper, and the zest of one orange. When ready to eat, take the salmon out of the oil, pat dry and then place on a baking tray or baking dish. Cook the salmon for 7 minutes at 100 degrees Celsius. Chop the hijiki into tiny pieces and then cover the top of the salmon with it. Then add a small spoonful of ikura.

The mushrooms are really easy. Melt a pat of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Toss in your mushrooms, and stir. After a minute of cooking, add a splash of mirin and cook for another minute or two. Add salt to taste.

Chocolate Red Wine Soup with Strawberries

This recipe comes from Michel Richard, a French chef based in Washington DC, where I lived between 1984 and 1990. It’s an utterly sexy, easy-to-make and yummy dessert that needs to be made ahead of time–it needs to chill for 4-6 hours before serving. This was my favorite “date night” dessert for years.

You’ll need 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup dry red wine, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 pint strawberries (hulled and thinly sliced lengthwise), 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped) and some strawberries for garnish.

Mix the sugar, red wine and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the strawberries and marinate for 2 hours. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler above gently simmering water and stir until smooth. Strain the strawberry mixture, reserving the strawberries. Heat the marinating liquid in a medium saucepan to the same temperature as the chocolate. Whisk several tablespoons of the marinating liquid into the chocolate and stir until smooth. Then whisk in the remaining liquid. Strain back into the bowl through a fine sieve. Cool to room temperature. Add the reserved strawberries and refigerate until well chilled, 4-6 hours.

To serve, ladle into a small cup or soup bowl and garnish with 1 strawberry.

After dinner, if your companion’s looking a little sleepy, serve him or her an espresso. If s/he doesn’t need it, grab an extra bottle of bubbly and adjourn to a much more comfortable room for some post-dinner fun.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Vivilicious February 12, 2006 at 7:18 am

    CH, I could not agree with you more about Valentine’s Day. It’s an overcommercialised crock of s*$t! The only thing thing we do on that day is to have breakfast in bed, usually somthing simple like scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and champagne. Love should be shown throughout the year when and as you feel like it, not when society thinks you should. That said, I love the sound of your menu and will have to try it sometime. This Valentine’s Day we are packing to move to Singapore!

  2. Rosa's Yummy Yums February 12, 2006 at 9:02 am

    Not being myself a Valentine’s day freak, I agree with you!

    It’s all a big business thing like Xmas, New Year and all the other so-called “special” days which have become immensely commercial.

    If you love someone, why show it once a year when you can do it every day and at anytime?…

    By the way, and as usual, your menu looks terrific and consequently light ;-))!

  3. linnish February 12, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    I see eye to eye with you on the commercialised Valentine’s Day gimmicks out there, hence my husband & I usually have our own simple romantic dinner at home, I remember once we even had burgers in the fast food joint as our V-day’s dinner!

  4. Chubby Hubby February 12, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Umami: LOL. That’s so funny. Did you at least get to keep the profits from the bouquets?

    Prosperity Pie: Thanks so much.

    MM: Hiya, have you tried Isetan or Meidiya? Both have mirin. :)

    Matt: Awesome. So, what are you cooking for your loved one this year? I can’t wait to read about it on your blog.

    Monkey Gland: Wonderful. Sounds like a relaxed, casual way of spending the evening. I’d take good food and a comfy space any day.

    Nicholas: Thanks.

    Gastrochick: Ooh, that sounds like two great meals in the making. I hope you post about both of them. Which GR restaurant are you going to?

    Laura: Thanks so much! This year, I’m planning on oyster shooters, a nice steak and then on chasing S around the dining room ;-)

    Vivilicious: The scrambled eggs, salmon and Champagne in bed sounds perfect to me. That’s an idea I may have to steal.

    Rosa: Glad you agree. Now, let’s all petition Hallmark for more food-related cards and less Valentine’s ones.

    Lin: Hmmm… a homemade burger would be a perfect Valentine’s Day dish.

  5. su February 12, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    They all sound delicious and quite easy to make! A little confused about the wine that goes in the dessert, though – you said white wine, then later on, red wine. Hope I don’t sound silly, but which is it?

  6. Chubby Hubby February 12, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Su: Whoops! You’re completely right. It should be red wine all the way through. It was a typo due to quick typing. Sorry for the confusion.

  7. Anonymous February 12, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    fabulous post and your wife is a lucky lady.

  8. Anonymous February 12, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    Mirin also available at selected NTUC outlets with a Jap section. I know the one at Bishan Junction 8 stocks mirin..

    Any suggestions on what sorta food for someone who has poor appetite?

    I posted a comment on your previous post too. Mind sharing your insight? I think you have very good taste, and know where to get yummy food! Hope you don’t mind :p

    Thanks!

    T.

  9. Azura February 12, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    oh wow…

    S is real lucky!Excellent cook, great taste for gifts ( LOVE LOVE LOVE the clutch!) and a man who loves to surprise his woman.

    *swoon* can you be a doll and give my clueless husband a few tips?!

  10. GastroChick February 13, 2006 at 4:31 am

    I’m going to the one on royal hospital road, his main one, have you been?

  11. nha February 13, 2006 at 9:41 am

    I concur. V-Day is so overrated. But I hope you have a good one anyway ^_^. Ah, why can’t there be more men like you? What happened to them all? married? *sighs*

  12. Herbie February 13, 2006 at 10:46 am

    My M usually cooks on V-day as well. She wants to ask you if the salmon can be replaced with cod, or other fish? She doesn’t really like salmon.

  13. Chubby Hubby February 13, 2006 at 10:51 am

    Anonymous: Thanks.

    T: Not sure what you mean by poor appetite.

    Azura: Thanks. Always happy to coach male-friends. Funny, S and I often give advice to friends on what to buy their loved ones for special occasions or where to bring them for dinners or vacations. Maybe I should start an actual consultancy?

    Gastrochick: Yah. Hope you have a great meal. My post on Ramsay is here:
    http://www.chubbyhubby.net/2005/10/uk-eating.html

    Nha: Cheers.

    Herbie: The confit process works best on oily fish, like salmon or ocean trout. If M isn’t into those kinds of fish, I suggest something equally easy but delicious like Miso Cod. The recipe is in Nobu’s first cookbook and despite what restaurants want you to think is super-simple to make. In fact, I have 2 pieces of cod marinating in yuzu-accented miso in my fridge right now.

  14. MM February 13, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Ah, thanks guys. Not sure why I never thought of Isetan. Did not even know there is a Meidiya in Singapore! No wonder. Kept going to Carrefour and Cold Storage and they had none. OK, will try your suggestions … thanks so much!

    Yeah, I love Nobu’s Miso Cod too and was just thinking about it over the weekend!

  15. Cin Fredericka February 13, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    This post ROCK man! Love de way you put across your aft dinner activities. *Wink* Both S & you are so deserving of each other.

    P.S. Dun forget to keep your 2 golden retriever out of sight when U chase S ard de hse. Otherwise, bet they’d loveeee to join in the chase too. Haha!

  16. umami February 13, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Hi chubby hubby, the school did not let us share the profits. We were supposed to appreciate the ‘experience’.

  17. eatzycath February 13, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    this post is great, had a good laugh and will be showing the same to hubby as a BIG HINT :P

  18. keiko February 13, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    Simple yet very elegant… great post, as always!

  19. Melissa February 14, 2006 at 1:26 am

    I couldn’t agree more. I always prefer to cook on Valentine’s Day, though I don’t always remember to keep in mind the ‘simpler is better’ mantra. Thanks for reminding me, and for the spectacular menu!

  20. Lil February 14, 2006 at 3:11 am

    lucky lucky s… and i agree with laura, we should clone a few of you to go around.. ;)

  21. Anthony February 14, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    I’ll be working tonight. : (

    CH you are the smoothness.

    First, I believe that if you’re with someone you really care about, then every day together should be a special day.
    I tried explaining this and was laughed at. That said for romantic meals I try to avoid things with chopped green parsley or nori flakes. They tend to get stuck in the teeth and are somewhat distracting. Ditto for anything I’m likely to spill dowon my shirt.

  22. Nani February 15, 2006 at 10:43 am

    I was surfing away when I stumbled upon your blog.. it rawks i tell ya!! I don’t think I can cook like you do, but I sure can bake cupcakes and lots of it.. :)

    ur blog is such an inspirational one for me.. :)

  23. Helen (AugustusGloop) February 15, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    All I can hear in my head is Will Smith now, but your menu still has me drooling =)

  24. cathrin February 15, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    hi chubby hubby, great choice for the wife’s clutch! how much was it, if you don’t mind me asking..

    love the posts btw :)

  25. Anonymous February 22, 2006 at 1:01 am

    while i agree the VD is basically a commercial holiday, and i applaude your “any time i feel like it” gift giving, most men (and women! but not me) do not do this, and need an excuse to do something nice for, or give something to their b/f, g/f or whatever, although we never go out, we find it better to have a super romantic evening in ;o)

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