You’re broke and it’s freezing: Why you should cook at home this Valentine’s Day

It's either this, or going outside. Via simplyrecipes.com

It’s either this, or going outside. Via simplyrecipes.com

Very soon, that most beloved/behated holiday of the year is going to fall upon us: Valentine’s Day. Of course, this means that people are in the position to spend lots of money for the sole purpose of impressing their significant other, but for Brokelyners, it means something very different: time to start making stuff. Yep, everyone knows that hand-made gifts are better because: 1. It translates your true love and compassion and 2. You’re so poor you use delivery napkins as toilet paper. Also, good God, it’s murder-stoppingly cold outside.

Making dinner for your boyfriend/girlfriend is an instant panty/boxer dropper, saves you a ton of money, and couldn’t be easier to do. To illustrate that point, here are two super-simple recipes for a romantic night snuggled up inside with the thermostat set to 90°.

Risotto. It's rice. You should not pay $26 at a restaurant for it. via jlooney.com

Risotto. It’s rice. You should not pay $26 at a restaurant for it. via jlooney.com

First off, risotto. Few things to know about this dish: it’s a restaurant staple, people are always very impressed when it’s done correctly, and it’s just freaking rice! While the project has been fetishized and complicated through millions of Italian grandmothers saying they have the best risotto on the entire damn planet, the process is actually pretty easy. I will preface this by saying that there are intensely more difficult recipes out there for risotto, and some do pay off, but starting with this base recipe is a great place to start.

What you need:

6.5 ounces of rice (arborio is best, but to be honest I’ve “risotto”-ed a bunch of different kinds. Arborio’s best though)

2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)

1/2 cup white wine

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Get out a big ol’ pan. You’re going to be looking for a wide sauté pan, not a pot, but ideally something with a few inches of depth. Coat the bottom in olive oil, and over medium-low heat, sauté the shallot and garlic for 2-3 minutes. now, toss in all of the rice and all but 1/2 cup of the liquid, including the white wine. Turn up the heat until it’s simmering, give it a stir, cover it, and set the heat to very low.

In about 10 minutes, give the rice a good stir and cover again, and keep it over the fire until it’s cooked to just under the consistency you like, should be about 10 minutes. Add in the last of the broth, and turn the heat up to high, and stir constantly until it looks good. Congrats, you got a risotto! Granted, a very boring one, so you’ll have to mix in whatever you’d like to make it your own! During the last phase with the high heat, feel free to throw in mushrooms, cheese, shrimp, chicken, whatever your heart desires, and make it your own.

Shakshuka shak-shaking via toriavey.com

Shakshuka shak-shaking via toriavey.com

Next fancy recipe that isn’t fancy even a little: Shakshuka!

The Israeli breakfast sensation also makes for a fine dinner, and it’s got an impressive name to boot. This dish is great for sharing and eating with your hands, both very sexy things to do on Valentine’s Day. The gist of the dish could not be more simple: it’s eggs baked in tomato sauce. No really, that’s all. The key, again, is customization, getting a simple tomato sauce (or making your own, respect), adding in all the stuff you like (peppers, kale, any spices you got lying around, etc.), and also serving it with some awesome grilled bread (note: you will have to have access to really good bread, it’s kinda the best part).

To make “Shakshuka a la Whatever-the-Hell-Your-Name-Is,” sauté whatever vegetables you’d like, toss in some tomato sauce (or tomato puree), season according to taste, then bring to a simmer. Once that’s heated through, crack in a few eggs and cover for about 10 minutes, or until the eggs look cooked through. While this is going on, get out a grill pan/large skillet and cut some bread, lightly coat with olive oil, and grill until golden brown with awesome grill mark things (or not, if you’re lame and using a pan. Bring the whole pan to the table (or the floor, this dish feels weirdly good to eat sitting cross-legged next to someone you’re into), and go to town on it!

So there you have it, yet another incredibly easy dish to impress your loved one with, and to use to trick them into thinking you actually know what you’re doing. Of course, a nice braised short rib is pretty nice too, but you already knew that. Now that you are armed with these recipes for seduction, go forth and have the best/most delicious Valentine’s Day ever. Plus, you totally forgot to get reservations at that restaurant he likes, didn’t you?