This Valentine’s Day, I’m carving out the afternoon to cook a meal with my boyfriend. We’ve been together for a few years now—we’ve done the awkward negotiation of the first Valentine’s Day. It came just a few weeks after we began dating, and we agreed not to celebrate, but the holiday ultimately culminated in the coy, tender delivery of a small bouquet of flowers. (This is, by the way, the exact right way to handle the holiday for new couples.) We spent our second Valentine’s day out to dinner at a very crowded restaurant, feeling bad for the servers around us and wishing we’d stayed home. Our next two Valentine’s days we spent apart, working in the restaurant industry and living in different cities. This year, we’re reunited in the same city, with neither of us facing the need to work a harried shift.
We will certainly not be going out this year. Instead, we’re carving out the afternoon to braise some meat (or vegetables, if that’s more your speed) together. Why a braise, you ask? Because braises are very romantic. Here’s why.
You begin with a cut of raw meat, well-seasoned, and proceed to brown it deeply on all sides. There’s caramelization happening, lots of good smells, and a healthy amount of oil—try to tell me that’s not sexy. Then you build flavor, sautéing aromatics and opening a bottle of wine to deglaze the pan, and transfer the pot to the oven to slowly tenderize the meat, letting it become delicious over the course of several hours. That’s where the magic happens: Warm, moist heat transforms your meal into a rich, juicy indulgence as you find yourself with several un-busy hours and a mostly full bottle of wine.
That’s the real trick, you see—giving yourself and your partner a couple of hours to hang out on the couch, hopefully uninterrupted, enjoying each other’s company. You could watch that movie you’ve been wanting to see. You could quietly read together. You could play a game. You could catch up on your lives. You could…do any number of things.
Making a braise is much like building a relationship, if you think about it. You start out hot and fast, with lots of action, but soon it’s time to slow things down, to build the flavor, character, and depth. You’re taking an imperfect thing, with gristle and toughness and maybe a little extra fat, and transforming it, through time and care, into something something luscious and indulgent that will nourish you. And isn’t that what relationships are all about?
So this year, skip the dinner reservation and make your Valentine’s Day all about braising with one of our favorites: