20 Fancy Date Night Recipes – Food & Wine

Whether it’s for Valentine’s Day, a special occasion, or you just feel like having ~a night~ with one you adore, an impressive homemade meal is never a bad idea. These recipes take dinner to the next level and will help you pull off a restaurant-worthy spread in the comfort of your own kitchen. Start with a cocktail to set the tone; we rarely say no to a new take on a French 75. For appetizers, try making your own tartare, or searing scallops and pairing them with a spicy pomegranate reduction. As for main courses, steak is a reliable classic, but lobster risotto and homemade pasta certainly wouldn’t hurt, either. And of course, you can’t forget about dessert! Whether you want chocolate, cake, or even homemade macarons, these dishes will help you end the meal on a sweet note. Read on for all 20 recipes and start planning your date night now.
Max Green, owner and bartender of NYC's Blue Quarter, shares his recipe for the perfect martini, which he makes ahead in big batches and freezes. There's no ice and no stirring or shaking with the Frozen Martini: With a formula of two parts gin, one part vermouth, and one part water, the ideal dilution is built into the batch. When you take it out of the freezer, the liquid won't be completely frozen but will glide right out of the bottle. Let it sit in the glass on the counter for a minute before sipping. Alcohol has a low freezing point, so it warms up quickly, and when it does, the drink will be as smooth as can be. The garnish is up to you.
Freezing the beef before cutting it chills the fat, making it easier to make very thin, even cuts. Tenderloin is a lean piece of meat, without a lot of marbling and sinew, so has a nicer texture when raw. Be sure to choose at least a prime-grade filet.
Fragrant za'atar, a spice blend ubiquitous across the Middle East, flavors these briny, feta-stuffed olives with its notes of thyme, marjoram, sumac, and sesame seeds. Lemon, chile, and parsley cut through the rich, herbaceous flavors, adding a bright freshness to these easy, bite-size appetizers.
Our riff on chef Ori Menashe's scallop aguachile sends scallops to the skillet for a quick sear before bobbing in a spicy pomegranate reduction. Fresh lemon, orange, and pomegranate juices paired with serrano chile bring heat and fresh, fruity flavor to the sweet scallops. Quickly searing them ensures each one has the perfect texture: a lightly crisp, golden brown exterior and a tender, nearly translucent center.
Perfect for a dinner party or any sort of special occasion, this stunning dish from chef Angie Mar is a project that's well worth your time. The crab and scallops lend a delicate sweetness, and the sherry sauce brings nuttiness and brightness. Almond flour is essential, as it holds the filling together and gives it texture.
Puntarelle stays bright and crisp in this salad, while beets bring a tender, earthy sweetness. Puntarelle is a specialty buy—check your local farmers market, or substitute another bitter chicory.
Mezzelune (which means "half-moons" in Italian) is a crescent-shaped stuffed pasta similar to ravioli. They're a relatively simple shape to try that requires little equipment to make at home. Meryl Feinstein of Pasta Social Club fills hers with rosemary and smoked mozzarella. A little semolina flour will give the pasta dough more structure and bite, but feel free to omit it and use the same weight of "00" flour or all-purpose flour. If you can't find smoked mozzarella, another smoked cheese like gouda will work in a pinch. The accompanying thick, rich slow-cooked tomato-and-onion sauce is loosely inspired by a Bolognese classic called il friggione. You'll often find il friggione served with meat, as a side dish, and as an antipasto—but of course it works well with pasta, too.
A small pinch of saffron goes a long way in imparting a vibrant golden hue and floral fragrance to this creamy lobster risotto. Sommelier Tonya Pitts recommends pairing it with a white Bordeaux.
Red wine pan sauce is an amalgamation of fond (those browned bits left in the pan after searing meat), shallots, broth, good-quality red wine, and a few pats of butter to bind it all together and thicken it to a syrupy consistency. A perfect interplay of acid from the wine and sumptuous fat, the sauce is an ideal accompaniment to a peppercorn-crusted rib eye steak. The well-marbled cut stays more tender than New York strip, and its rich, beefy flavor infuses the pan sauce.
This is the most delicious, juiciest roast chicken we've ever made in the F&W kitchen. The simply seasoned bird, nestled in a bed of vegetables and topped with the soaked, steam-creating Römertopf lid, starts in a cold oven, which guarantees slow-cooked flavor. Uncover the pot during the last 20 minutes of cooking for extra-crispy skin.
One of the best ways to ensure pork chops don't come out dry and leathery is to use the sous vide method of cooking. It guarantees the pork will come out juicy and tender. These pork chops are seasoned with crushed fennel and coriander seeds, and finished in a hot skillet with butter, sage, garlic, and shallot. Spooning the flavorful butter over the chop as it sears in the skillet infuses the meat with the flavored butter.
In this rich, beautiful gratin, potatoes and onions are arranged in concentric circles, coated in a creamy cheese sauce, and topped off with a few more handfuls of shredded cheese. Cheddar and Gruyère work wonderfully here, but feel free to substitute with another one of your favorite melting cheeses, such as Fontina or Havarti. A quick run under the broiler at the end browns the top of the gratin for a little extra flavor and texture.
A quick, high-temperature oven roast on a baking sheet yields crispy, golden brown brussels sprouts and almost-charred, smoky broccoli. Tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce studded with tart cranberries, Fresno chiles, and shallots, the vegetables are transformed into an easy, elegant side dish.
At the Brooklyn brasserie Francie, John Winterman and Christopher Cipollone offer this cozy side dish of pureed parsnips. To make it, naturally sweet parsnips are simmered in bay leaf–infused cream until very tender, then pureed in a blender until they take on a silky, mashed potato–like texture. A garnish of diced green apples adds tart, mouthwatering acidity and refreshing crunch, while a generous drizzle of brown butter lends a pleasant richness. At Francie, the parsnip puree is served alongside duck, but it would also be a terrific partner for roast turkey or chicken.
To add an extra-festive touch to macarons, pastry chef Paola Velez paints them with several different colors of edible shimmering luster dust. As for the filling? Pick from homemade dark chocolate ganache, or store-bought holiday jam, apple butter, or firm caramel sauce.
Pastry chef Bronwen Wyatt's rich, elegant cake is perfect for just about any celebration you may have coming your way. You can simply spread the buttercream frosting to cover it, swirling for a little flair, or follow Wyatt's decorating tips by using a pastry bag to form ruffles and squiggles with the buttercream. Top the cake with edible decorations of your choice, such as flowers, fruits, and herbs. If using flowers, make sure that they're safe to eat and not sprayed with pesticides.
Cookbook author Samantha Seneviratne's elegant chocolate cream tart features a double-dose of cardamom, which not only flavors the tart filling, but whipped cream topping as well. Homemade pistachio brittle adds a sweet, nutty crunch and makes a striking finishing touch.
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