There may be one thing more romantic than cooking for another: cooking together.
Learning the rhythms of each other’s day-to-day movements, like how one folds laundry and cooks dinner — or burns toast — is one of the best ways to get to know someone. For veteran couples, preparing a meal together can be a gentle reminder to check in on one another. If this is something you already do every night, why not go a little luxe on Valentine’s Day?
Here is an elegant menu that lets you do just that. These three courses come together easily, proof that the quality of a meal need not rely on hours and hours of preparation. This will serve you particularly well on a day like Valentine’s Day, when spending more time with your partner is what it’s all about.
For the first course, radicchio, its purple leaves struck through with lightninglike patches of white, pairs well with Camembert, taleggio or another soft and funky cheese that bulges at room temperature. Together, they make an ideal starter that you can nibble on while tackling the other dishes (and sipping on that first glass of wine).
Wonderfully bitter radicchio tastes otherworldly when seared briefly in a skillet, and the cheese melts gloriously in the hot pan. When seasoned with honey and sherry vinegar, the dish sings a sultry melody. (Think Ariana Grande’s velvety “Thank U, Next.”)
The main course is more regal, but takes a modern approach. The English dish beef Wellington — a fillet of beef wrapped in puff pastry — is ordinarily a big project. But the joy of this single-serve version, in which store-bought puff pastry envelops individual filets mignons, is that it’s significantly easier to assemble, making it much less intimidating. And with two in the kitchen, you can split the labor and, like life, meet at the end.
Pâté de foie gras and prosciutto are common ingredients in a traditional Wellington, but they’re skipped here in favor of ease and more balanced flavors. Just as common is a deeply caramelized mushroom and shallot mixture known as a duxelles, which lends a strong anchor of earthy umami for the beef. In this version, a little red wine and heavy cream add richness to the vegetables.
Dessert is a make-ahead affair. The night before or earlier in the day, one person can whip cream for ice cream while the other melts chocolate for hot fudge. For efficiency’s sake, the same can of sweetened condensed milk goes in the olive oil ice cream and the sauce that gets drizzled over it like molten lava, keeping potential waste at a minimum.
The fruity olive oil, with its subtle fattiness that coats the tongue, tucks beautifully into the salted sweet cream — a rogue yellow-green scarf nestled in the folds of a snow-white duvet on laundry day.
The ice cream is no-churn, which means you don’t need an ice-cream maker to prepare it. Instead, the condensed milk base is aerated with whipped cream, which is gently folded in. Once this fluffy mass is frozen and scooped, the silky texture will make you think: Why does anyone churn at all?
And to Drink …
Beef Wellington is the type of dish that goes beautifully with good red wines. Whether you are serving it for Valentine’s Day or not, it’s a great excuse to open something wonderful. A good Burgundy or Barolo would be my top choice, particularly with some age, which will help the wine pair with the mushroom flavors. Figure at least 10 years for a premier cru Burgundy, depending on the vintage, and even more for the Barolo. Properly aged Pomerol would also be a fine selection. If these are unavailable, other red wines will be terrific as well. Options include Chianti Classico, Rioja Reserva, restrained pinot noirs from around the world and savory syrahs, whether from the Northern Rhône or from elsewhere in that Rhône style. ERIC ASIMOV