This article is meant for a member of either sex who has somehow offered to cook a romantic dinner for his or her date, but has no idea where to start. If you don’t have a “signature” dish that can impress your date, think hard about perfecting one. When the time comes, and your date is tasting your specialty and his/her eyes light up with that “OMG, you made this from scratch?!” look, you have just advanced closer to the “I’m so in” camp.
First, some prerequisites. You should know how to boil water and not burn toast. Am I asking too much if I think you should be able to taste when you’ve got a good flavor or not? I’ll give you a recipe that I think can work, and would love to hear what your anchor dishes are. Read on…
Second, some general do’s and don’ts for a romantic date recipe:
- DON’T use a recipe that uses a lot of garlic or onion. Need I say more? If the recipe calls for it, as my example will, make sure you’ve cooked it through and through
- DON’T use a recipe that takes a lot of preparation time, but it should LOOK like you prepared it with care. If this is early on in the courtship ritual, you’re going to have a lot of other things to get stressed about: apartment tidiness, grocery shopping, clueless roommate, and the daily grind of work.
- DO make sure you find out if your date has any dietary restrictions. They may be vegetarians, vegan, kosher, lactose intolerant, recovering alcoholics (seriously!), or have that allergy where they can’t eat any starch.
- DO make sure you have some dedicated eating area for the meal. You don’t have to have a formal dining table, but make sure the planned location of your plates is cleared off and visually sanitary before you serve the food. Nothing sucks more than having to sit crouched on an extra smushy sofa with your dinner plate teetering on your lap. The focus of your meal should be the food and the conversation, not avoiding spilling of food or pets pouncing onto you to sample your portion.
- DO make sure a stack of your dinnerware and utensils is cleaned (and dried) and ready for use. This again saves on time and stress during prep time, and keeps you from having to wash dirty dishes in front of your date if he/she surprises you with a store-bought dessert like a tart or pie.
- DO practice making a recipe that you like, so you’ve perfected it. This is your signature dish. And then as you get more familiar with how the flavors blend, you can start experimenting more with ingredient portions, and think about variations too. But you shouldn’t practice with your date. That means your friends need to step up, and you need to cook a lot of these for them. Listen to their feedback. Don’t get defensive. Planning for this prep time will score you major points later. Our friend Bryant, when he was taking some extended time off, made bread pudding dozens of times, over the course of months, to perfect one signature dessert. Now, when he’s bedazzled some unsuspecting lady to dine with him, he makes that, and *bam*, she’s mesmerized.
Where do you start? I have a recipe here that I think will work out for you. Thanks to my friend Nadine for teaching me this. Note, the measurements are VERY general. You’re going to have to eyeball it, so I’ve noted as many caveats as possible.
Baked Chicken with Sundried Tomatoes
- 2 chicken breasts, tenderized.
- 3-4 Tbs of dijon mustard.
- 4-6 Tbs – sundried tomatoes.
- 3-6 Tbs – olive oil.
- 1/4 onion, diced/chopped
- Pinch of taragon
- Pinch of paprika
- Pinches of salt & pepper
- Oven-safe baking dish
- French bread (optional)
- (If you don’t have a tenderizer, you can put the chicken on a plastic Ziploc quart bag, shape your hand into a fist, and just carefully punch the breast so the thickness gets more even.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).
- Use enough dijon mustard to spread over 1 side of both chicken breasts. Make sure you take the mustard OUT of its container first, into another dish, and then take a knife to dip into that to spread the mustard. Do NOT have the utensil that touched the raw chicken touch the mustard in the jar!!
- Empty the sundried tomatoes into a bowl or plate, then take some and spread it on top of the mustard layer on each chicken breast.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken breasts.
- Sprinkle the chopped onion, taragon, paprika, salt, and pepper over the chicken.
- Now roll up each chicken breast…not too tight so the spread oozes out, but just enough so that the unflavored side of the breast is able to touch some of the flavored side. Use the toothpicks to clamp the roll tight.
- Drizzle the rolled-up chicken with a little more olive oil. Make sure that the unflavored side does get some olive oil on it. This will help keep it from drying out too much in the oven.
- Put the chicken breasts in the oven-safe dish, and put in the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, slice the French bread (on a clean, chicken-free surface!) Set the table.
- Check the chicken at about 20 minutes. You can use a fork & knife to prod your serving, to make sure the middle part of the roll is cooking. The chicken should not be pink and raw looking (duh).
- Once it’s ready, put it on the plate. If you think the plate looks too empty, you can stick some bread slices on there, or add a vegetable side dish.
- Serve the chicken in its rolled state. Your date should try to cut the roll, and remove the toothpicks when they get in the way. Make sure you kindly notify your date that there are toothpicks in there.
- Open up a bottle of white wine and voila!