CLEVELAND — If the way to the heart is through the stomach, one surefire way to show your partner how much you care is to to cook them up something sweet.
Whether you fancy yourself a Master Chef, or a total novice in the kitchen, preparing a great meal or simply a tasty snack is a lot like finding your soulmate: start with quality ingredients, mix them together, turn up the heat and wait for the magic to happen.
This Valentine's Day, try your hand at these tried-and-true recipes, for a special experience that is sure to wow your significant other, from start to finish.
Raw Oysters on the Half-Shell
Serving raw oysters on the half-shell to your sweetheart has two main perks: there's hardly any preparation involved and they are at least thought to be an aphrodisiac (whether that's scientifically true or just a placebo effect is still up for debate).
To do this one right, it's all about the storage, according to SeriousEats.com. Put them in the refrigerator right away, to keep them alive until the moment you're ready to eat them.
"The best way to store oysters in your fridge is to spread them in a single layer, cupped side of the shell down, on a rimmed baking sheet between two layers of damp (not soaking wet) kitchen towels," the post reads. "Do not store them in or directly on top of ice: oysters are saltwater creatures, and melted fresh water will kill them. Only put oysters on ice once they have been shucked and are ready to be served."
At some point, you also need to scrub the shells so they're not covered in dirt when you shuck them. Do this in your sink with either a stiff vegetable, wire brush or a heavy-duty scouring pad. Scrub each oysters under running cold water, with the other oysters waiting their turn to be scrubbed in a colander in the sink. This avoids letting the oysters sit in fresh water, which would kill them.
It's a good idea to do this right when you get your oysters home, before putting them in the refrigerator to be stored before dinner time.
SeriousEats.com recommends that if you are cleaning more than fifty oysters, or have a really warm kitchen, to do this in batches to avoid letting the oysters sit out without being refrigerated for too long.
Aside from this, decide what you want to garnish your oysters with. You can keep it simple with lemon slices, vinegar and cocktail sauce, or prepare a mignonette by combining a little vinegar with minced shallots and black pepper if you'd like. From there, you're all set with a delicious appetizer to start your meal off right.
Marry Me Chicken
This "Marry Me Chicken" recipe is a fresh take on the decades-old story of the Glamour Magazine staffer who made her boyfriend roasted chicken that was "so good" he proposed to her one month later. Glamour referred to the recipe as "Engagement Chicken" at the time.
We're not suggesting anyone trick their partner into holy matrimony with a piece of chicken here, but the recipe sounds good and the idea of getting engaged goes along nicely with Valentine's Day. That said, prepare this one at your own risk!
According to Delish.com, this recipe serves four people, takes 10 minutes of prep time, and 35 minutes to cook.
Here's what you need: 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), Kosher salt, Freshly ground black pepper, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 c. heavy cream, 1/2 c. chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan and Freshly torn basil, for serving.
And follow these directions from Delish.com:
- Preheat oven to 375°. In a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper and sear, skin-side down, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate and pour off half the fat from skillet.
- Return skillet to medium heat and add garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, 1 minute, then stir in broth, heavy cream, sun-dried tomatoes, and Parmesan and season with more salt. Bring to a simmer, then return chicken to skillet, skin-side up.
- Transfer skillet to oven and bake until chicken is cooked through (and juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife), 17 to 20 minutes.
- Garnish with basil and serve.
Feel like "Marry Me Chicken" is too big of a commitment? Pick up the grilled verlaso salmon, amish fried chicken or "soldier & sailor" filet mignon and jumbo shrimp scampi dishes at Betts in Downtown Cleveland. Betts also has vegan options if you and your sweetheart don't eat meat.
Kiss Cookies (also known as peanut butter blossoms)
For dessert, what better way to show your partner that you're sweet on them than by preparing cookies covered in kisses? "Kiss cookies," also known as peanut butter blossoms, are the perfect way to top off an exceptional dining-in experience with your lover.
The recipe from Hershey's Kitchens calls for 20 minutes of prep time and nine minutes in the oven, yielding 48 delicious treats.
Here's what you need: 48 Hershey's Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates, 1/2 cup shortening, 3/4 cup Reese's Creamy Peanut Butter, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup additional granulated sugar for rolling. (Optional: 1/3 cup Kosher salt for Stephanie's twist.)
The experts at Hershey's recommend these steps for the perfect cookies, with one optional tweak from me:
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.
2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. (Here's where I like to also roll the dough balls in Kosher salt to add a bit of a savory touch to this treat.)
4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes 48 cookies.
Don't want to heat up the kitchen before the sparks start flying? Grab the chocolate decadence to-go from Lago East Bank in the Flats, or pick up a pint of your favorite ice cream to share from your closest Mitchell's Homemade location.
To round out your menu, check out the best flirty cocktails to pair with your Valentine's Day dinner here, with recipes provided by Cleveland's premier bartenders.