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If there's anyone would can give good advice to the nervous home cook, it's Anne Burrell. This celebrity chef hosts two shows on the Food Network—Worst Cooks in America and Secrets of a Restaurant Chef—which teach the home cook how to be more confident and successful in the kitchen. Here, she suggests two romantic meals that the novice home chef can easily impress their honey with on Valentine's Day...
CafeMom: Valentine's Day is coming up...for those of us who prefer spending a romantic night in, what's something easy to cook for dinner to impress our significant other?
Something quick and easy...
Anne Burrell: "On the lighter side I would definitely recommend fish in cartoccio, which is fish cooked in paper. So, for example, halibut wrapped in paper: You open it, and it's steamed, and you get a lovely puff of aroma that comes out of the envelope. And then it's like a one-pot dinner also."
2 zucchini, green part only, julienned
1 small butternut squash, top part only, peeled and julienned
1 pint Brussels sprouts, leaves pulled apart
1 large leek, julienned
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon picked thyme leaves
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets
4 slices lemon
2 cups dry white wine
Fold 4 (9 by 13-inch) pieces of parchment paper in half and starting at the top of the fold, cut a large half circle from the paper. When the fold is opened it should be a full circle. It is okay if it is not a perfect circle-a heart shape is even better. Reserve.
In a bowl combine the zucchini, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and leeks. Toss generously with olive oil and season with the thyme leaves and salt. Oil and salt the halibut as well.
Open the parchment paper circles (or hearts) and brush the paper with olive oil leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Divide the seasoned vegetables between the 4 papers, placing them in the center just above the crease. Lay the fish fillets on top of the vegetables and place a lemon slice on top of each fish fillet. Fold the paper over the fish. Working from 1 end of the parchment to the other fold the bottom of the paper over the top to crease and seal the packets. The closure needs to be very secure so the steam will not escape during the cooking process. Before the package is completely sealed, carefully add 1/2 cup wine in each then seal. Bake at 500 for 8 to 9 minutes.
Remove the fish from the oven, place on serving dishes and serve immediately. Have each diner slice open their own parchment package so they can get the full effect of the burst of aromatic steam that will be released from the package.
Something that takes a little more time...
AB: "If you want to get in there and get right into your husband's heart with something meaty, then I would recommend short ribs."
6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 cups tomato paste
2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
2 cups water
Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.
While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.
Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the oven at 375 for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.
Don't miss Anne Burell on the last two episodes of Worst Cooks in America, airing this Sunday and Monday at 10pm ET/PT, a back-to-back night to determine the winner (the BEST of the Worst Cooks in America) who will receive $25,000.
What are you cooking for your sweetie on Valentine's Day?
Read more about Valentine's Day.