When I was in college, I had a friend who insisted on wearing all black on Valentine’s Day. It was her way of protesting the hubbub and commercialization of the holiday. Though I could see her point, I didn’t follow suit. I remained utterly charmed by a day devoted to love.
However, as I’ve gotten older, I have become a little disgusted with how much money people think it takes to do Valentine’s Day right. If you believe the marketing, you need a second job to make your sweetie feel loved. Restaurants take particular advantage of our expectations and raise their prices for the day. A meal that would regularly cost $50 doubles to $100. Wine and cocktail prices ratchet up precipitously, as well.
Here’s my suggestion. Instead of blowing through wads of cash on a meal out, treat your honey to a special-occasion, home-cooked meal. You’ll spend a fraction of the cash you would on a fancy-pants dinner and with just a few carefully placed candles, you won’t lose even an ounce of the romance.
A recipe that works really well for a cozy dinner for two is Giada’s Short Rib Lasagna Rolls. It can be made over the weekend (this is The Weekender, after all) and stashed in the fridge for February 14. All you have to do when you get home from work is pop it into the oven, make a salad and pour glasses of something bubbly.
Before you start braising, here are a few things you should know:
-Divide your lasagna roll prep across two days. I like to braise the short ribs on day one. Once the meat is cool, I shred it and store it in the fridge. On day two, I cook up the rest of the filling and build the rolls.
-When it comes to the marinara sauce, follow Giada’s instructions and buy your sauce. There are a number of good bottled brands out there. No need to be a culinary hero.
-This dish is quite rich, so it does need a salad to balance out its lushness. I like a simply dressed tangle of baby arugula, but any assertive green will work.
-Don’t forget dessert. There’s no shame in stopping by a local bakery. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could try your hand at chocolate mousse.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.