Whole Dungeness crab is simple to make, elegant, and festive, making it perfect for a Valentine’s Day dinner at home. Image source: Flickr CC user Jazz Guy
My favorite Valentine’s Day dinner memory isn’t of the fanciest restaurant that I’ve ever been to, or the flashiest gesture done for me. The Valentine’s Day that stands out the most for me was a actually a night at home. My boyfriend, who is now my fiance, made a romantic dinner of linguine alfredo for the two of us. He even tried his hand at individual molten chocolate cakes for dessert! I should note that he’s never been much of a chef, but he stuck to simple recipes and used fresh ingredients, and you know what? He wowed me. It wasn’t just the dinner that was great--it was the effort he put into it.
This year, in the interest of helping to facilitate romances like mine, I’d like to share another simple blueprint for Valentine’s Day success. This one involves cooking a dinner for two centered on Dungeness Crab. Crab may sound complicated to prepare, but it’s dead simple--partly because we start with a pre-cooked crab.
The Appetizer: Buttery Garlic Shrimp
Even a non-cook can make this--the combination of shrimp, wine, garlic, and butter just cannot turn out badly. Combine the following ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat:
Once the shrimp are done, remove them from the skillet and add:
Once all of these ingredients have been added, whisk in a ½ cup of butter, one tablespoon at a time, and keep whisking constantly, for about 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Finally, take the skillet away from the heat and add the shrimp back into the wine sauce along with ¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley, tossing until the shrimp are coated.
TIME SAVING TIPS: If you want to save even more time, you can use a garlic press to crush the garlic cloves instead of thinly slicing them, but that’s your call. This recipe shouldn’t take much longer than 15 minutes to begin with.
ENHANCE THE ROMANCE: To add to the romantic atmosphere, use a nicer bottle of dry white wine in the dish than you normally would for cooking, and serve the rest of it with the meal. You could even use dry Champagne or sparkling white wine--it’ll cook up just as non-sparkling wine would, will pair deliciously with the finished dish, and is a romantic way to start off the meal.
Side Dish: Tri-Color Slaw with Lime Dressing
This slaw side dish is especially easy because it doesn’t even need to be cooked, meaning you don’t have to worry about timing the cooking so that everything is ready and hot at the same time (something I personally struggle with quite a bit). This slaw’s sharp, citrusy flavor also goes perfectly, in my opinion, with Dungeness crab--the star of your Valentine’s Day dinner. A dish like this is standard fare at any true traditional crab boil, which means it’s a time-tested combination.
In a large bowl, toss the following ingredients:
Separately, whisk together the following:
Toss the cabbage mixture with the dressing in your large bowl and season heavily with salt and pepper. Add a little cayenne pepper if you want.
TIME SAVING TIPS: The key to making this recipe in a minimal amount of time is a food processor. Use it to shred both types of cabbage as well as the carrots. You’ll be amazed at how simple and easy it turns out to be. A mandoline fitted with the right type of blade would work as well, but will take much longer. You could also shred the cabbage ahead of time, or even make the whole dish ahead of time--it won’t suffer for some time in the fridge.
ENHANCE THE ROMANCE: Just go heavier on the red cabbage than the green. The tastes are nearly identical, and this substitution will give your meal more Valentine’s red. You could even leave out the green cabbage altogether if you’re really interested in sticking with the holiday’s traditional colors.
Main Course: Dungeness Crab
There are a few reasons that make Dungeness crab an ideal main course for any romantic Valentine’s Day meal, including: its red-and-white color, the fact that it’s in season this time of year, and the fact that you can buy it many places whole and already boiled. That’s what this recipe calls for, because it’s actually just as good as cooking your own crab, and a lot less fuss. However, you still need to gently reheat the crab meat without drying it out. My suggestion is to steam the crabs for a brief period of time. I suggest one crab per person. If you have a significant other who isn’t fond of crab, or you just want more variety, substitute lobster tails, or throw a couple lobster tails into the steamer basket along with the crab--they’ll take about 5-8 minutes.
Add the following to a large stockpot:
Bring this to a boil with a steamer basket placed over the top of the stockpot. Next, place two crabs in the steamer basket (or do it one at a time if two won’t fit) and reduce the heat under the pot to medium. Leave the crabs in the basket for five to ten minutes, covering the pot tightly and giving it a shake once to reposition the crab. Remove the crabs from the basket with a pair of heavy tongs and serve immediately. Serve with some melted butter, which you should have left over from the appetizer recipe, and some lime wedges.
TIME SAVING TIPS: There isn’t much you can do to make this recipe any simpler, but you can make some of the ingredients play double duty, meaning there will be less to buy from the grocery store. You should already have the melted butter, the lime wedges, and the dry white wine left over from the appetizer and slaw recipes.
Let Your Seafood Come to You
A homemade Valentine’s Day dinner may be about the thought and effort you put into it, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. Your dinner won’t be more romantic if you stress about it all week. So keep things simple, and let the deliciousness of the recipes call attention to how much you care. To make things even simpler for you, the amateur amorous chef, I suggest using Daily Fresh Fish, which delivers only the freshest seafood directly to your door fast, so you can skip the grocery store and focus on your plans. And if you’re going with lobster tails this Valentine’s Day, they’ve also got an offer for a free pound of shrimp, as well as sauces for your seafood.