A romantic Valentine's Day meal doesn't require a whole day's work. Show your love with this elegant menu, designed to impress with minimal fuss. Less time in the kitchen means more time spent with your loved one. Cheers to that!
On the Menu
Amuse Bouche: Easy Melted Brie with Honey and Herbs
Starter: Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus
Entree: Coffee-Rubbed Rib-Eye Steak
Side: Cauliflower Gratin
Dessert: Pistachio Cannoli
Find these 5 quick recipes, and 745 more, in the America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook.
Easy Melted Brie with Honey and Herbs
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: This great last-minute appetizer has all the warm, gooey appeal of classic baked Brie but takes just a few minutes to get on the table -- no puff pastry required. To balance the rich flavor of Brie, we drizzled honey over the top and sprinkled it with a bit of fresh thyme. A very quick spin in the microwave warms the honey and softens the Brie for a no-fuss yet elegant appetizer.
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serve with crackers or thinly sliced baguette.
1 (8-ounce) wheel firm Brie cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or rosemary
Using serrated knife, carefully slice rind off top of Brie; leave rind on sides and bottom. Place Brie cut side up on microwave-safe platter. Drizzle honey over top and sprinkle with thyme. Microwave until cheese is warm and just begins to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: A few minutes of broiling is a fast and unfussy method to parcook the asparagus, rendering it tender but allowing it to remain crisp and brightly colored. A pat of spreadable Boursin cheese provides tang and makes a handy paste to hold the prosciutto around the spears. (It also comes conveniently pre-seasoned with garlic and herbs.) Then a few minutes in a hot oven heats the asparagus through without overcooking the prosciutto.
Serves 6 to 8 (makes about 24 spears)
Total Time: 25 minutes
Do not add any additional salt to this recipe because the prosciutto is already very salty. If necessary, thin asparagus can be substituted for thick; just roll 2 thin spears into each bundle. Don't overcook the asparagus in step 3 or else the prosciutto will turn tough and leathery; the asparagus should just be warmed through before serving.
1 1/2 pounds thick asparagus, trimmed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (5.2-ounce) package Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese, softened
8 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in half crosswise
1. Adjust oven rack 3 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. (If necessary, set upside-down rimmed baking sheet on oven rack to get closer to broiler element.) Toss asparagus with oil and lay in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil until asparagus is nearly tender but slightly underdone in center, about 5 minutes, tossing halfway through broiling. Let asparagus cool slightly.
2. Spread Boursin over each piece of prosciutto. Roll prosciutto around center of each asparagus spear and transfer to rimmed baking sheet. (Wrapped asparagus can be held at room temperature for up to 4 hours before baking.)
3. Before serving, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake prosciutto-wrapped asparagus until just warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Coffee-Rubbed Rib-Eye Steak
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: A well-caramelized exterior is one of the hallmarks of a juicy steak. After cooking dozens of steaks, we've found a couple of key tips. First, it's crucial to start with the right size pan. A 12-inch traditional skillet will ensure that the steaks have enough room to sear -- if you try and cram the steaks into a too-small pan, the steaks will steam. Next, it's important to get the pan very hot -- you can tell it is hot enough by the smoking oil. Cooking steaks in a pan that isn't properly heated leads to steaks that overcook before they develop a good crust. Also, pat the steaks dry before searing. If the steaks are wet, their exterior will not brown properly and the fat in the pan will splatter when the steaks are added.
Total Time: 35 minutes
Cooking the steak over medium heat is crucial here, or else the spice rub may burn.
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 (1‐pound) boneless rib‐eye steaks, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches thick, trimmed
1. Combine coffee powder, chili powder, paprika, sugar, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl.
2. Heat oil in 12‐inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until just smoking. Pat steaks dry with paper towels and rub evenly with spice mixture. Lay steaks in skillet and cook until well browned on first side, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Flip steaks and continue to cook until meat registers 120 to 125 degrees (for medium‐rare), 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer steaks to carving board; tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice steaks thinly against grain.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: The common rule of thumb when making a gratin or casserole is to undercook the components slightly so that they can finish cooking through in the oven. But that is not the case with this gratin! It took us several tries to realize that the dense cauliflower florets were not going to soften any further in the oven while the gratin baked. Rather, we found it crucial to cook the cauliflower through completely before even assembling the casserole. Steaming the florets with a little water in the microwave makes quick work of this.
Serves 4 to 6
Total Time: 30 minutes
If buying a head of cauliflower rather than cauliflower florets, you will need a 2-pound head of cauliflower in order to yield 1 1/4 pounds of florets.
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 (5.2-ounce) package Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss panko with oil and spread onto rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring often, until golden, about 2 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, microwave cauliflower and water together in covered bowl until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain cauliflower in colander; set aside.
3. Wipe bowl dry with paper towels, add Boursin, cream, salt, and pepper and microwave, uncovered, until cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Whisk Boursin mixture until smooth, then add drained cauliflower and toss to coat.
4. Transfer cauliflower mixture to 2-quart gratin dish and sprinkle with toasted crumbs. Bake until hot and lightly bubbling around edges, about 7 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: To bring a taste of Italy home, we filled store-bought cannoli shells with a traditional filling of ricotta cheese enriched with creamy, rich mascarpone, sugar, and chopped pistachios. Instead of draining the ricotta overnight, we placed it under a plate weighted with heavy cans to remove maximum moisture in minimal time, resulting in a desirably dense filling in only 25 minutes. We garnished one end of each cannoli with shaved chocolate as a flavorful and elegant alternative to mini chocolate chips.
Makes 10 cannoli
Total Time: 45 minutes
You can find cannoli shells at most markets in the international foods aisle, the gourmet cheese section, or the bakery. Make sure to use a high‐quality whole‐milk ricotta, such as Calabro. Use the large holes of a box grater to grate chocolate for a garnish.
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) whole‐milk ricotta cheese
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, chopped coarse
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cannoli shells
1/4 cup grated bittersweet chocolate
1. Line colander with triple layer of cheesecloth and place in sink. Place ricotta in prepared colander, pull edges of cheesecloth together to form pouch, and twist to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place taut, twisted cheese pouch in pie plate and set heavy plate on top. Weight plate with 2 large, heavy cans and refrigerate for 25 minutes.
2. Discard drained ricotta liquid and transfer dry ricotta to medium bowl. Stir in mascarpone, sugar, pistachios, vanilla, and salt. Transfer cheese mixture to pastry bag or large zipper‐lock bag. (If using zipper‐lock bag, cut 3/4 inch off one bottom corner.) Pipe filling evenly into cannoli shells from both ends, working outward from center. Sprinkle 1 end of each cannoli with grated chocolate. Serve.
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