Light a fire with this romantic winter meal that can be made almost entirely ahead of time.
There are few things I enjoy more than dining out at a fabulous restaurant—364 days of the year. When it comes to Valentine’s Day, though, I’m a devoted homebody. It’s not that I’m not a romantic at heart, it’s just that every time I make a reservation for the most loved-up night of the year, I inevitably end up wishing I were eating at home. For one thing, many restaurants offer only a fixed menu on Valentine’s Day, generally a multicourse tasting menu of over-the-top dishes loaded with rich ingredients. These meals can be a real investment, not only in actual dollars, but also in time—sometimes they go on for hours! And it’s usually a lot more food than I want to eat. Frankly, I’d just as soon pick what I want to eat rather than have the chef decide for me.
That’s why we’ve made a tradition of spending the evening at home, and this year it’s my turn to cook. These dishes are a little more involved than what I generally tackle on a weeknight, but because all three can be made partially or completely ahead of time, they are actually easier to prepare than something made at the last minute. If I spend a little time prepping everything earlier in the week I can have a really special dinner on the table in no time flat.
To start I’m serving a salad of Brussels sprouts leaves with a tart lemon dressing that comes together in about 5 minutes if you’ve done the fussy part of separating and blanching the sprout leaves as well as toasting the almonds and making the dressing a day or two ahead. The short rib ragù for the tagliatelle can be made up to 5 days ahead of time and kept in the fridge; all I need to do on the night itself is boil the pasta and reheat the ragù. A quick shaving of chocolate on top adds a depth of flavor and is a nod to the holiday. For dessert, smooth, creamy panna cotta is ready and chilling in the fridge.
It’s such a simple meal to pull together, in fact, that I can spend a little extra time setting the table before we sit down to eat. And no valet parking or babysitter required.