A man's guide to making high-impact, low-fuss romantic meals
(BPT) - It's time to banish that old stereotype that the only guys who can cook are professional chefs. Men, even if your culinary expertise starts with boiling water and ends at the microwave, you can serve a dazzling one-pot meal for your significant other, your best buds or just yourself.
"Dining well doesn't have to involve a trip to a restaurant, or even a lot of work at home," says Mike Martini, winemaker at California's Louis M. Martini Winery
. "I don't like fussing around in the kitchen after a day in the winery, but nothing beats a special, home-cooked meal to end the day."
According to Martini, it's not too difficult to elevate a simple meal to the level of a gourmet experience. Ambiance, a well-set table, a good one-pot recipe and the right wine are all it takes. Martini offers a few tips:
Set the mood
Hosting a football party is a far cry from an intimate dinner for two. If it's game day, dust off the sports paraphernalia, find some casual serving dishes in team colors, and you're off and running. For a romantic occasion, however, develop a sophisticated ambiance with music, lighting and decor.
Start with an attractive table top. A tablecloth adds a touch of refinement while protecting furniture and easing post-meal cleanup. Add a floral centerpiece to do double duty as a decoration and as a gift for her. Light some candles to enhance the mood.
Finally, follow the rules of proper place settings. Use your good dishes and set them on opposite sides of the table, or side-by-side for greater intimacy. Place knives and spoons to the right of the plate and forks to the left. Turn the sharp side of knives toward the plate, and only include utensils you'll actually be using for the meal.
Create the perfect pairing
Whatever meal you decide to serve, there's a sophisticated wine to complement the culinary experience. For ideas on what to pour, talk to the wine steward at your local grocer or wine shop. Many stores also suggest recipes to pair with their featured wines.
For a can't-miss meal, go with an easy yet impressive dish, like braised beef short ribs. Simple to prepare and delicious, one-pot short ribs require minimal fuss and cleanup and will leave your guests impressed. A bottle of Louis M. Martini 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect match.
Braised Beef Short Ribs
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
Freshly ground pepper
4 1/2 pounds beef short ribs, well trimmed
1/2 cup corn or grape seed oil
4 cups beef broth, divided
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for potatoes
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups finely chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 750-ml bottle bold red wine, such as Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
6 to 8 large, white-skinned potatoes
Grind together the bay leaf, sea salt, rosemary and sage. Sprinkle ribs with pepper and 3 1/2 teaspoons of the herb-salt mixture.
Heat 1/2 cup oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Working in batches, add beef and brown well, turning occasionally, about eight minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer beef to large bowl.
Pour off oil from pot. Add 1 cup broth to drippings in pot and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour deglazed pan juices into small bowl.
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery; saute until beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Add tomato paste and saute two minutes. Add deglazed pan juices and bring to simmer. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot. Add wine and remaining 3 cups broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low.
Season with pepper. Cover and cook until beef is very tender, stirring occasionally, about two to three hours. About one hour prior to being done, place potatoes in the pot and mix well.
When done, spoon off any extra fat from surface.
Serve short ribs and vegetables in individual bowls, with glasses of Louis M. Martini 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.