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Romantic Dinner Recipes

Forget the reservation this year. The Barefoot Contessa shows you how to pull off the perfect dinner for two

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Ina Garten romantic meal, chicken and potato au gratin

Select a foolproof menu when planning your romantic meal this Valentine's Day, recommends Ina Garten. — Photographed by Melina Hammer

As a busy professional chef, Ina Garten doesn't cook much at home. But once a week the host of the critically acclaimed Food Network series Barefoot Contessa plans a home-cooked meal for her husband, Jeffrey, a Yale professor who returns to their East Hampton, New York, home on Fridays after teaching all week. "When he walks in the house and it smells like roast chicken or something yummy, that's nice," says Garten. "A quiet dinner for two is always romantic."

Here are Garten's best tips for planning your own romantic meal this Valentine's Day.

1. Set up in a surprising place. "Instead of eating in the dining room, cover a card table with a pretty cloth and set it in the library or in front of the fireplace — someplace you wouldn't expect to have dinner," she says.

2. Turn on the tunes. "The music should be quiet and lovely," Garten says. "All of the senses are important when you're dining."

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3. Select a foolproof menu. Garten's latest cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, features dozens of easy, never-fail recipes. Or try the Valentine's Day menu recipes in this article. All dishes can be prepared in advance.

4. Make a timeline. That way you won't forget a step — and you'll be able to relax and enjoy the meal.

Lemon Chicken With Croutons

Serves 8

  • 1 roasting chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 cups bread cubes (1 baguette or boule)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 ° F.

2. Take the giblets out of the chicken and wash it inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the lemons inside the chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry, brush it with the melted butter and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body.

3. Roast for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh. Cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil until very hot. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Put the croutons onto a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place it, with the pan juices, over the croutons. Serve.

Nutrients per serving: 645 calories, 62g protein, 4g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 41g fat, 201mg cholesterol, 1,099mg sodium

Next page: Truffled mashed potatoes. »

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Video Extra

SKIP THE CROWD: AARP food expert Pam Anderson suggests skipping crowded restaurants this Valentine's Day and enjoying romance and simplicity at home. Try her three-course menu of salmon rollups, crab and spinach crepes, and crepes with strawberries and cream.


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