If you’re under the impression that only women cook in the kitchen (you might know it better as the “beer storage room”), you’re going to have to come to a new understanding. Men have been master chefs and culinary experts for hundreds of years. A man who can cook is one of the most impressive — and sexiest — things for many women.
And to further edify you, my dear man-bro, there really is no right or wrong in the kitchen, so there’s no reason for you to be afraid of getting your hands dirty. Good cooking is simply a matter of taste. Find out what your girl likes (which you probably already know, based on the times you’ve had lunch and dinner out together), and whip it up. Experiment in the days leading up to your big dinner. You’re a guy. If it’s good, you’ll be cool with eating it a couple times during the week, right?
Let’s start with some easy, step-by-step instructions for meals that we think are surefire winners.
Filet mignon, asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes
It’s hard to beat a grilled steak, but firing up the grill isn’t always possible in February. When it comes to winter months and desiring turf over surf, a nice filet cut is one of the best options for oven cooking. If your gal eats like a sparrow, this probably isn’t the meal for her; however, if she’s adventurous, give it a go. Worst case scenario, you have some leftovers and get to enjoy a steak sandwich the following day. Here’s a step-by-step that should even make sense to anyone who’s never set foot in a kitchen.
- To begin, have your potatoes peeled and ready to go in a pot of water. Consider a potato like a Yukon Gold for the best mashed potatoes.
- Remove the steaks from the fridge and rinse them. Pat them dry with a paper towel and season them with your favorite seasoning. If you don’t know much about seasonings, buy a few options and do your own little taste test. You can’t go wrong with Montreal steak seasoning or Lawry’s seasoning salt. Don’t overdo the seasoning, but be fairly liberal in coating the top and bottom of the cut. You’ll want to allow the steak to warm to room temperature. If letting them sit on an open-air plate weirds you out, cover them with plastic wrap or another plate. 20-30 minutes should do it.
- Prep your asparagus by cutting off the tough, chewy butt-ends. Baby asparagus is a great option, but you’ll need to cook it at a lower heat — it’ll cook quickly.
- Cover your potatoes and bring them to a boil. Once they begin to boil, turn the heat to med-low and let them simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the heat off, test for softness (stick them with a fork — they should feel soft, and the fork should slide right in) and let them sit in the hot water momentarily. At this point, turn on the broiler if you haven’t already.
- Drain the water from your potatoes. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, adding milk and butter to desired consistency. Remember: you can always add more milk or butter — but you can’t take it out. Once mashed, you can whip them a bit with a spoon or a portable mixer. Don’t overdo it, as they’ll become pasty. Good mashed potatoes will be light and fluffy; they shouldn’t run like glue. During the stir, add garlic salt and a ground peppercorn medley to taste. (This is a bit of a cheat, but it’s the “easy” way to do it. Traditionally, you’d press and saute garlic before stirring it into your potatoes.) Cover the potatoes, leave them on low heat and give them a stir every few minutes.
- Heat a skillet/pan (preferably non-stick) with thin layer of olive oil covering the bottom. The oil always goes in before you heat the pan, regardless of what you’re cooking. You can move the pan around to coat the bottom evenly. On the best non-stick, you’ll find that you’ll need enough oil to cover the entire bottom. Sear each side of the steak, just to the point of being brown. Remove pan from heat.
- Remove the steaks and place them on a broiler pan, which has been preheated in the oven. (If you have a broiler pan, a little water in the bottom will serve two purposes: more moisture and faster clean-up.) If you don’t have a broiler pan, wrap the filets loosely in foil and place them on the top rack or in the bottom broiler. Cooking time will vary based on preference. It’s OK to flip the meat during the process. Go with a 65/35 method. 4-5 minutes on side one, 3 minutes on side two. Or, you can simply leave the steaks alone for the full cooking time, as they are in an oven. Depending on the thickness of the steaks, 1 to 1.5 inches should cook between 6-9 minutes. Don’t overcook the steaks. They should be pink in the middle. Remove them from the oven and let them sit for five minutes. They’ll still be hot and will continue to “cook through.” Sitting also helps to retain the juices — never cut them right away (other than a tiny incision to check how pink they are) or the juices will drain out!
- Put your pan of oil back on a heat source and saute the asparagus. Asparagus has a complementary flavor to the meat, so they don’t need to be overly done. Dust them with salt and that’s that. Don’t cook them to the point of being limp and mushy.
- You can slice the steak for presentation or serve it whole next to an equivalent sized serving of mashed potatoes. Place the asparagus like a lean-to on the meat or potatoes. Get creative. That’s part of becoming a good cook.
- Serve with a robust red wine or a flavorful beer like a red ale (if you lady prefers the latter).
Salmon, rice and a vegetable medley
The beauty of the recipe above is that it can be tweaked, substituted, etc. as you learn how easy it is to cook these foods. If you prefer, you can switch out the steak for delicious cuts of salmon. The process is virtually the same. Simply substitute seasonings.
- Salmon is delicious raw, so very little needs to be done in order to prep it for cooking: lemon juice, salt and pepper will make for a simple manner of serving. Instead of olive oil for searing, consider butter and a splash of lemon. If you want to jazz it up, you can marinate it in a variety of pre-packaged or concocted marinades and then simply sear it on a non-stick pan. When broiling it, wrap it loosely in foil to keep it from drying out and set the timer to 8 minutes. When cooked, it should flake easily.
- Instead of potatoes, a bed of rice will much better complement roasted salmon. Cooking rice is as simple as following the directions on the bag. If you want light, fluffy rice that separates easy, as opposed to thick mush, decrease the water, and add a tablespoon of canola or olive oil to the water. Try sprinkling a few spices or herbs in your rice to add flavor (plain white rice is pretty boring).
- Asparagus will work with salmon, but steamed broccoli or green beans sauteed with almonds will also complement the salmon nicely. A vegetable medley, boasting colors and seasonal options is another possibility. Again, get creative, that’s what makes cooking fun and more of a conversation piece during the actual meal.
- Pair these with a white wine such as a chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or a crisp and refreshing beer like a Blue Moon.
Chocolate Fondue to Set Your Night on Fire
Gentlemen: Whether you succeed, fail or fall between the cracks in your culinary effort, you’ll have appealed to the heart and mind of any worthwhile lady. However, if you want to take the experience to the next level (or perhaps save the dining experience), here’s an easy something that will be delicious, while also serving as a natural aphrodisiac.
What you’ll need:
- 32 ounces of dark chocolate
- One can of sweetened condensed milk
- Two shots of Kahlua (or a comparable liqueur)
- Ground cayenne pepper
- Several big, beautiful, long-stemmed strawberries.
Slowly melt the chocolate into the sweetened condensed milk. If you have a fondue pot, use it. You can use a chafing fuel at the table and allow the conversation to flow over wine/after dinner drinks. If not, you can use a small saucepan on the stove-top, where conversation can still be enjoyed. Just. Do. It. Slowly. Stirring frequently. Otherwise you can scald the chocolate, the milk, or both — and you’ll kill the liqueur. You can begin with half the can of milk and modify the recipe based on your desired consistency.
If you choose to use milk chocolate, simply melt it down slowly with regular milk to a desired consistency. Sweetened condensed milk will enhance the sweetness of a bittersweet, dark chocolate, but will be overkill if milk chocolate is used. Do trust, this recipe is best with dark chocolate. Ideally, stuff that’s 60 to 70 percent cocoa.
After the chocolate has melted down nicely, add your two shots of Kahlua and continue to stir.
To serve: take a strawberry for a swim, and when you pull it out of the warm, chocolately deliciousness, allow it to cool briefly before you dip it into a small serving dish of the ground cayenne pepper. Don’t overdo the pepper, but feel free to be as bold as you’d like while enjoying and sharing several servings.