Valentine’s Day is upon us, and all of the clichés and pressure surrounding this holiday can seem far from romantic. Whether you’re on a budget or short on time, this year skip the fancy restaurant, light some candles, and set the table. Below you’ll find three dinners and a dessert that anyone can recreate, and everyone will enjoy. I’ve also included wine pairings for every dish, leaving you free to think about more important things- like what you’re going to wear.
Roasted Salmon, Potatoes, and Asparagus with Creamy Dill Sauce
In about 30 minutes, you can cook a well rounded gourmet dinner using one cookie sheet- all while swirling a glass of wine. It doesn’t get any easier than this if you time the ingredients correctly, and this recipe at Half Baked Harvest lays it out for you. My recommendation: skip the parmesan cheese and the basil chimichurri sauce in this recipe; instead create a simple creamy dill sauce, like this one I found on All Recipes.
Many people find asparagus a difficult pair for wine, but I’ve never understood why. An oak-aged Chardonnay (typical of Sonoma, Western Australia, Oregon, Loire / Chablis) is the ideal pair for both the asparagus and salmon in this dish.
For a greener, more delicate pairing, try an unoaked Chardonnay (typical of Burgundy, South East Australia, Mendoza, Napa Valley / Paso Robles), preferably with some age on it. Chardonnay is the most diverse, and most planted white wine grape in the world, so you can easily find this grape at any price point.
If you’d prefer a red, the key is finding a low-tannin red wine like Gamay from Beaujolais, or a Pinot Noir. A sparkling red Lambrusco from Italy would also be nice, though avoid cheap bottles of this bubbly if you don’t want to wake up with a headache.
Poulet à la Moutarde
This twist on a classic French dish- Lapin à la Moutarde (rabbit with mustard)- instead substitutes chicken, which is much easier to find and is less likely to offend your date. There are many variations of this one-pot dish, but the key ingredients are dijon mustard and white wine.
No Recipes has a great version of this dish (though it’s much better with mushrooms), and it can be served with bread, over rice, noodles, or even roasted potatoes. For a green side, I like to sautée a little spinach or green beans with a drizzle of olive oil, minced garlic, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Chablis is the perfect white wine for cooking and enjoying with this dish, because of it’s high acidity and steely flavor. 2015 was a particularly good recent vintage, and can be found under $30, but personally I’d splurge for one with two decades on it- it will still be less expensive than if you ordered a $30 bottle in a nice restaurant.
Champagne or another French sparkling like Crémant de Bourgogne would also be an amazing pair, if you already have some white wine for cooking.
Classic Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
Classic Marinara sauce with spaghetti is incredibly easy to make and always a crowd pleaser. Try this recipe at the New York Times, but feel free to make it your own. I like to add red wine, onions, mushrooms, even bell pepper, and serve with sausage or meatballs and grated parmesan.
A store bought Italian loaf or baguette can be transformed into fresh, crispy garlic bread– this recipe on The Kitchn shows you how to it in about fifteen minutes.
Chianti or other Italian wines made from Sangiovese grapes, like Brunello de Montalcino, are generally considered the best wine for marinara sauce. However, a new world Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot would also be a nice pairing and easier to find at a lower price point.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Don’t get suckered into paying $5 a strawberry for this classic Valentine’s Day treat at the store. While these may seem intimidating, they can be made in about fifteen minutes and are a fun activity to do with your date or significant other. You can add chopped nuts, sprinkles, shredded coconut, or a white chocolate drizzle if you want to get fancy.
Martha Stewart lays it out in this two-ingredient recipe, and even teaches you how to make your own double boiler using a glass bowl and a sauce pan to heat the chocolate evenly.
Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark or bittersweet chocolate (recommended) are amazing with Cabernet Sauvignon, because they tone down the bitterness of the chocolate while emphasizing the cocoa flavor.
If you decide to use milk chocolate or white chocolate instead, pair with a Brut Rosé Champagne or Sparkling Wine.