The Way to Her Heart

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The Way to Her Heart

provided by Jim Gordon
Rosé Champagne and shrimp risotto make a persuasive Valentine’s Day dinner

This article is for guys who want Valentine’s Day to work for them. Guys who—let’s be honest about it—want to get next to someone special and aren’t above a little scheming to accomplish their goal. Which includes most of us.

Nothing is more romantic than cooking a special Valentine’s Day dinner for your partner or would-be partner and popping the cork on a great bottle of bubbly. The point is that it’s so unusual for most guys to go to this trouble that you will win major points by simply trying. If you apply yourself reasonably well to the two recipes below, you will enjoy the meal almost as much as what may come after.

So embrace the clichés for one night. Surrender to the idea of romance; it’s not going to hurt you. Imagine this: She walks in to your place and finds candles and a bouquet of roses on the table, Champagne in the ice bucket, and the rare sight of you in the kitchen, confidently stirring the broth into a shrimp risotto. All you need to add is a tossed salad served after the risotto in Euro fashion and a chocolate dessert from the bakery and you have a complete culinary experience.

The truth is you could cook almost anything and she would love you for it, but I especially recommend risotto. This dish has the reputation of being very difficult to prepare, so you will win points for effort, but actually it’s not difficult. It takes several steps but no special techniques.

As for the wine, it’s a great occasion to serve a dry (brut) rosé Champagne. If you buy a good-quality French Champagne or U.S. sparkling wine for about $12 or more, it will be dry and crisp. The fact that it’s rosé (the French word for pink) makes it very appropriate for Valentine’s Day. Along with the pink color comes a little more flavor than your average brut, so you can open it before dinner and continue to drink it right through the main course.

For dessert you could make your own, but why? Plenty of bakeries make a great chocolate torte or other chocolate dessert that you can take home and serve. Pour a glass of tawny Port with most any chocolate. It makes a much better pairing than a dry bubbly. Here’s to your success!


Shrimp Risotto
Brut Rosé Champagne

Baby Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Chocolate Torte
Tawny Port

Shrimp Risotto

Risotto (pronounced rih-ZOH-toe) is a classic Northern Italian dish based on arborio rice. It can be made hundreds of different ways. The Italians often serve it as a starter course, but this one incorporates lots of shrimp so it makes a great main course. The slow-cooking method and the use of lots of broth help make it very rich and satisfying, while it remains rather light in fat.

4-1/2 cups (36 oz.) broth, made of 3-1/2 cups (28 oz.) canned low-salt chicken broth mixed with 1 cup (8 oz.) clam juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter; 2 to be used first, and 1 for later
1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1/2 of a large onion, minced (chopped as tiny as possible)
2 cloves garlic, tips and skin removed, finely minced
1-1/2 cups arborio rice (no substitutions, please)
8 oz. medium-sized shrimp (about 30 pieces) with shells and veins removed (If frozen, thaw first. It works with pre-cooked and frozen shrimp, too.)
1/2 cup peas, either fresh from the pod or frozen ones that have been defrosted but uncooked
  1. Heat the broth in a sauce pan on top of the stove until it’s almost boiling, then turn the heat to low to keep it simmering.
  2. Put a large, heavy pot on medium heat on the stove top. Add the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. When melted, add the garlic and onion and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion begins to turn translucent but not to brown.
  3. Pour the arborio rice into the large pot with the onions and stir it gently with a spoon for a minute to get all the grains coated with the oil and butter. Pour in the wine and keep stirring until it soaks completely into the rice. Take half the simmering broth and add it to the rice. (Most recipes make you swear to add it only 1/2 cup at a time, but this isn’t necessary.) Keep the burner on medium heat and stir frequently as the broth cooks away, being careful not to let it stick to the bottom or burn.
  4. After about 10 minutes, when the broth is mostly absorbed, add the rest of the broth and continue to cook. Stir frequently.
  5. After about 12 more minutes, or when the rice begins to thicken again, add the shrimp and peas. Cook for a final 2 to 3 minutes or until the shrimp (if raw) turn white all the way through. Switch off the burner and add the Parmesan cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir thoroughly until the butter is melted and serve immediately in your best soup bowls. Add freshly ground black pepper if you like. Serves two to four.

Baby Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad uses an all-purpose homemade dressing (a vinaigrette) that relies a lot on how good and fresh the olive oil is. The idea is to moisten all the greens but not drench them when you toss it. Make the dressing ahead, and have the salad greens all clean and waiting in the fridge.
1/2 bag mixed baby greens (or one head of lettuce of your choosing)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse and drain the greens (unless they were pre-washed) and put the greens in a large shallow serving bowl. Combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and a few twists of pepper in a small bowl or large measuring cup. Just before serving, stir the dressing frenetically with a whisk or fork until well mixed and drizzle over the greens. Mix with salad tongs or two large spoons until coated lightly with the dressing. Serves two to four.
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