Imagine soft candle light, beautiful music, crisp-refreshing martinis, crackling skinned chicken with the fragrance of rosemary and lemon perfuming the air and deep dark chocolate mousse. Your favorite restaurant? No. This is your home kitchen with you at the helm. Usually date night means eating at a restaurant and sometimes having a great meal and sometimes not. I propose that the next date night, whether you are cooking for one, two or a bunch, you treat yourself and those you love to an intimate home-cooked meal.
A home-cooked meal has oodles of advantages.
1. You set the atmosphere. Light your candles, play your iPod and wear your favorite dress up clothes or your PJs.
2. Homemade date night is usually more economical. You have the advantage when you are making food at home of picking and choosing which ingredients to splurge on and which to be a bit thriftier. You also get to eat the leftovers!
3. When you make a fabulous dinner, even if it is for just one, you are giving your heart and soul to the diner(s). Nothing says “love” like a great meal with a little TLC thrown in.
4. Making dinner at home is intimate. You can have your date help you in the kitchen or go for the big “ta-dah” and present your diner with beautiful food.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Next time you feel like making reservations, consider a homemade date night. My simple recipes will help you make a luscious and restaurant quality meal that will have your diners begging for another at DIY Date Night.
Mixed Olive Tapenade
Serve the tapenade with crostini. Cut a baguette into ½ inch thick slices, rub them with olive oil and toast them in a 350 degree oven until they are lightly browned and crispy. Rub the crostini with a peeled garlic clove while they are still warm and then dollop the tapenade on the toasts.
½ cup kalamata olives-pitted
½ cup cracked green olives-pitted
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic-peeled
Pinch of crushed red chili flakes
2 anchovy filets
Extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley-chopped
1. Place the olives, lemon juice, zest, garlic, chili flakes (if using) and anchovy filets in a food processor. Pulse the mixture until it resembles a chunky paste. Add additional olive oil if necessary.
2. Remove mixture and place in a small bowl. Stir parsley. Adjust seasoning. Tapenade can be stored in the refrigerator covered for up to three weeks.
Herb Roasted Chicken
Roasted chicken with a crackling skin and luscious meat is the little black dress (or male equivalent) of the food world. It goes with everything. You can dress it up or down depending upon how you serve and garnish it. Do not even think of substituting boneless-skinless chicken breasts for a whole chicken. Boneless-skinless breasts are fine for some recipes, but a whole chicken just tastes more savory and succulent. Serve this fragrant chicken with a big salad and you will be a star.
1 whole chicken about 3 ½ pounds
½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary plus 1 sprig
Juice and zest of 1 lemon plus 1 whole lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper corns
1 bulb of garlic cut in half horizontally
¼ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
½ cup white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Rinse the chicken thoroughly. Pat dry and place on a roasting rack. Place all the fresh herbs (except for the whole rosemary sprig), zest and juices and black pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.
2. Use your hands to thoroughly rub the chicken inside the cavity and out with the herb mixture. Stuff the lemon, whole rosemary sprig, garlic and ½ onion into the cavity of the chicken. Tuck the wings under the body of the chicken and tie the legs together (this will help keep the shape a little nicer).
3. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes at high heat. Turn down the oven temperature to 250 and slow roast (occasionally brushing on more of the herb mixture) until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 160 (about 1 hour). Remove from the oven and loosely cover with foil. Allow the chicken to rest before carving.
4. To carve the chicken: (You CAN do this part!)Cut the string off of the chicken and remove the vegetables and lemon. Reserve the garlic and discard the rest. Cut down the center along the breast bone on both sides. Remove the breast bone. Pull the chicken apart slightly to expose the back bone. Cut along both sides of the back bone and remove it. Cut the birds into quarters and place a serving platter. Reserve the pan juices.
5. Skim off the fat from the pan juices. Add the pan juices back to the roasting pan and place the pan over medium heat. Squeeze the garlic cloves into the pan. Mash the garlic with the back of a spoon to puree it. Add wine and chicken stock and reduce the mixture until the jus has slightly thickened.
No fake whipping cream needed when you use great chocolate (no cheap stuff or the recipe will not work) and a plump vanilla bean loaded with flavor. This mousse is all about chocolate. Serve with fresh fruit, cocoa nibs and chopped nuts.
4 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa mass), chopped
3 tablespoons strong, brewed, coffee
1 tablespoon cognac (or water)
4 whole eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean scraped
1. Place the chocolate, coffee and cognac if using in a small bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Melt the chocolate. Transfer to a large bowl and set a side to cool.
2. Place the eggs, water, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in the bowl of a high-speed mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high until the mixture resembles whipped cream. This will take 7-10 minutes-be patient!
3. Fold the whipped eggs into the cooled chocolate in several additions.
4. Portion the mousse in dessert glasses or ramekins. Place in the refrigerator to set at least 2 hours before eating. The mousse may be made one day ahead, wrapped with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.