By Carl Hanson

Take your pick! We've gathered together seven complete meals for Valentine's Day. We turned to Chef John for foolproof, romance-ready recipes, pairing a knockout main dish with standout sides and an impressive dessert to seal the deal. Feel free to mix and match the side dishes and desserts based on your and (maybe more to the point) your sweetheart's preferences. And as Chef John would say, "Enjoy!"

1. Chef John's Chicken Kiev

Is it worky? Well, maybe a little. But it's not terribly difficult -- and the additional effort is so very worth it. Moist and tender inside, a little crispy-crunchy outside, with that secret garlic-butter center, this dish cannot fail to impress. "When you pull this off, you'll be enjoying one of the greatest chicken experiences of your life," says Chef John. "It's also one of the greatest garlic experiences of your life, as well as one of the greatest butter experiences of your life."

Photo by Chef John

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Chef John's Braised Red Cabbage

"We're going to cook a very beautiful, super easy cabbage side dish. All ingredients are totally to taste. It's a little bit sweet and a little bit tangy, with a tiny hint of caraway to interest you."

"Special" Roasted Potatoes

"The secret to these deliciously crusty potatoes is the pre-oven boiling in a salted and seasoned liquid. The potatoes not only absorb flavor and salt, but more importantly the surface of the potato cooks, which is what forms the great crunchy texture in the oven."

Homemade Valentine's Chocolates

"Find yourself a nice decorative box to put these in. It doesn't hurt if it has the word 'love' on it. And then you present these as your gift for Valentine's Day. The flavor profile for these is just perfect: dark chocolate with just a hint of warmth."

2. Seared Scallops with Jalapeno Vinaigrette

If Chicken Kiev is a little time consuming, this recipe is almost too easy! These simple seared scallops are served with fresh orange segments and a mild jalapeño vinaigrette. It's quick and easy yet still elegant and absolutely exploding with flavor. The key here is to get a beautiful crust on your scallops.

Photo by Kims Cooking Now

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Chef John's Asparagus Souffle

"Contrary to popular belief, souffles are not very difficult, as long as you respect the laws of physics. I hope you give this recipe a try, and also experiment with other vegetables. Broccoli, artichokes, leeks, spinach, or any other edible plant you can puree should work with the same basic procedure."

Couscous Primavera

"This is a healthy, delicious, and easy side dish that takes about 10 minutes to make. I'm borrowing the name from Pasta Primavera which, like this recipe, takes advantage of fresh, seasonal, green produce."

Chef John's Zabaglione

"In this classic Italian dessert, sweet, juicy fruit is enveloped in a rich but impossibly light custard."

3. Prosciutto-Wrapped Cherry-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

These may look worky, but they're actually surprisingly simple to make. Chicken breasts are pounded out, then rolled with a dried cherry stuffing, and rolled again in prosciutto. Simply bake the chicken rolls, then make a quick pan sauce if you like. "This stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast has everything you want in a Valentine's Day entree," says Chef John. "It looks fancy, it tastes amazing, and contains dried cherries, a known aphrodisiac."

Photo by Sugarplum

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Green Bean "Almondine" with Garlic and Blue Cheese

"This variation of classic French green bean amandine includes roasted garlic and blue cheese for an extra kick."

Persian Rice

"I believe I've posted a few fool-proof methods for cooking perfect rice, but this Persian version takes the grand prize, and it's not even close for second. The beauty of this method is that it doesn't rely on any specific measurements, or even exact times. This will make some of you very nervous, but just go with it."

New York-Style Cheesecake

"This is my favorite recipe for New York-style cheesecake, and includes a great technique for letting the citrus-kissed cake finish in the oven, so that no crack forms when the cake cools."

4. Valentine's Salmon

These oven-baked salmon filets are decoratively wrapped in green onions and served over a light and tasty bacon, potato, and leek chowder. "This really produces a fantastic piece of salmon, and when paired with a simple potato and leek chowder, would make a terrific Valentine's dinner idea," says Chef John.

Photo by chall

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Classic Rice Pilaf

"Cooking a perfect batch of white rice without a rice cooker can be a challenge. That's why we are going for forget about cooking rice on the stove and show you the incredibly delicious and absolutely foolproof world of pilaf!"

Chef John's Bananas Foster

"When you think show-stopping, special occasion desserts, you usually don't think simple-and-fast, but that's the case with bananas Foster. This delicious New Orleans classic only has a few ingredients, and takes just minutes to make. Except for the folks that burn their houses down, everybody loves this recipe."

5. Beef Medallions with Caramelized Pan Sauce

These beef tenderloin medallions are served with a caramelized mushroom and tomato pan sauce. Elegant and tastes amazing, but it's actually quick and easy to make. Though not technically Italian, this dish is definitely inspired by traditional Italian flavors. You'll deglaze the pan with Marsala wine and a little stock, and finish your sauce off with a little butter. Truly a spectacular combination of flavors -- and you can have this recipe ready in just 20 minutes! "This is one of those dishes that unless someone watched you make it, they'd never believe how fast and simple it is to prepare," says Chef John. "This wonderful sauce would work just as well with pork, veal, or chicken."

Photo by Stirring up Trouble

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Chef John's Potato Roses

"Baked rose-shaped potato gratins would be great for entertaining, since you can make them ahead, and keep them warm in the pan, or cool and reheat in the oven when you are ready to serve. The technique is straightforward, but make sure you season the potatoes generously."

Asparagus, Ham, and Lemon

A quick and easy fresh asparagus side dish flavored with garlic, olive oil, ham or prosciutto, and a splash of lemon.

Chef John's Tiramisu

"In addition to being an incredible-tasting dessert, tiramisu also offers the perfect segue when you're trying to steer the Valentine's dinner conversation towards spicier subjects. This heady, mood-elevating concoction is rich and deeply satisfying, yet remarkably light in texture. Yes, you can use regular cream cheese, but mascarpone is far superior."

6. Chef John's Lobster Thermidor

"I used a nice light sauce on this iconic special occasion dish, rather than the thick, cheesy sauce popular in the '80s," explains Chef John. "Lobster is sweet and rich tasting on its own, so the lighter sauce makes so much sense. And what's even better, you can prep these ahead of time and just pop them in the oven when your guests arrive!" You might also like Lobster Newberg.

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Grilled Hearts of Romaine

"This is truly and ridiculously easy. The trick is to get the grill grates very hot. And the result? A lightly caramelized surface and a slightly smoky flavor. The insides stay cool and crisp. It's quite a contrast of tastes and textures."

Spanish Farro

"I learned how to make Spanish rice at a Mexican restaurant where I worked part-time years ago. Here, we're substituting the 'ancient' grain of farro for the rice, and I think it's even easier to cook perfectly than rice."

Salted Caramel Custard

"These easy 'pots de crèmes' are just sweet enough, just salty enough, and just drop-dead gorgeous enough to be my favorite dessert."

7. Chicken Little (Semi-Boneless Roast Game Hen)

"Armed with nothing more than a sharp boning knife, and some patience, pretty much anyone can make this visually impressive 'chicken little,' or as they say in the biz, 'individual chicken ballotine,'" says Chef John. " Since there is a bit of production involved, I do suggest making these ahead, and keeping them in the fridge until you're ready to serve."

Serve with...

Farro with Wild Mushrooms

"We don't get to eat a lot of food that's identical to what the ancient Romans would have eaten, which is one of the things that makes farro so fun. They must have had mushrooms and fermented cream back then, so it's easy to imagine Cleopatra and Mark Antony enjoying this dish."

Chef John's Five-Spice Carrots

"These five-spice roast carrots are amazingly aromatic and delicious. The ingredients are so simple. Exotic, but familiar and not too exotic."

Fast and Easy Creamed Spinach

"This is a little easier, a little quicker, a little more contemporary, and believe it or not, a little lighter than traditional creamed spinach. Have all your ingredients ready to go ahead of time. It's a classic steak side dish."

Chef John's Chocolate Lava Cake

"Legend has it that this dessert was the result of a major catering disaster. The dessert for this particular event was to be individual chocolate cakes, but someone took them out of the ovens too soon and the centers were not cooked enough and still liquefied. Well, there was no time to take them off the plates and bake them more, so the chef simply had his wait staff introduce the dessert as Chocolate 'Lava' Cake! Brilliant!"


Check out our collection of Chef John's Recipes.


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