"Date Night In" by guest writer Jen Burk

Date Night In

The day is quickly approaching. 
How is it already just around the corner?
You’ve gotta think of who you can call to babysit, and figure out how on
Earth you’re going to look cute again, or at least presentable, when hoodies and toddler food stains have become your new look.
Not to mention, where are you going to go? How are you going to get a reservation when others have been planning this day for months?
The pressure is on.

Or is it?

Who says Valentine’s Day can’t equal pj’s, vegging out, and watching that dorky rom-com with your significant other? I say it can. I say this year should be a date night in. And then you remember, “We still have to eat.”

So here’s my perfect Valentine’s meal to pair with jammies and a chick flick.

When I think date night, I think healthy but refined. And if I’m going to be the one responsible for our date night meal, it has to be impressive. That’s why I chose Lemon Cream Chicken. Yes, it’s just a chicken breast, but when you add the million dollar sauce, jaws drop. It’s a showstopper that makes you look good.

Lemon Cream Chicken

(Serves 2)

2 chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic minced
2T olive oil
2T Butter
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c water

Zest and juice from 1 whole lemon Kosher Salt & freshly ground pepper
Optional: Garnish with fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 °F
Using a meat mallet, pound chicken breasts until thickness is even.
Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Put oil into skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts to smoke slightly, add the chicken and sear both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and place on small cooking sheet and roast until completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 165, about 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, use the same skillet on low and add the butter, stirring to pick up fond (chicken bits & juices.) Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in water, heavy cream, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Add lemon juice and zest. If sauce is too thick, add in more cream until desired consistency is reached.

Plate chicken and pour sauce over each breast.

The adult version of a french fry. I’m not lying when I say, better than a french fry though. I can confidently say that this will probably be your new addiction. These are crispy, salty, buttery, and everything your heart desires...or craves. I’m sorry in advance if you dream about these.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes 
Serves 3

1.5 lbs of petite potatoes
1/2 tsp thyme or 3 fresh sprigs
Olive oil or grapeseed oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Put your potatoes into a pot with heavily salted water that covers them by one inch. Let boil for 10 minutes or until fork-tender.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange potatoes onto the sheet and use a fork to lightly flatten them. Drizzle each potato liberally with oil and then season with salt and pepper.

Bake at 450 °F or broil until they are golden and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
Serve immediately.

 Roasted Caprese
(Serves 3)

10 oz container of grape tomatoes
1 Mozzarella ball
1T Freshly chopped basil
Olive oil
3T Extra Virgin Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Set your oven to Broil. Lay your grape tomatoes on a small rimmed baking sheet and coat with regular olive oil. Roast on High until the tomatoes split and char slightly (about 5-10 minutes.) Remove from oven. Let cool.

In small dish, combine EVOO and basil. Set aside.

Take the mozzarella ball and pull apart into bite-sized shreds. Place them onto the small baking pan with the tomatoes. With a pastry brush, cover everything with the EVOO & basil mix. Season with salt and pepper.

There are no words to convey the moment when your spoon first delves into these heavenly morsels. The waterfall of liquid chocolate that flows from these is something that you have to experience in person. It is the epitome of perfection. It is the cure-all for stressful and insane work days. It is the perfect finale, on this already perfect date night in.

Molten Cakes
(Serves 6)

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Butter 6 six-ounce ceramic ramekins and dust with flour. Melt the butter and chocolate, set aside and let cool. In a mixing bowl, use electric mixer to combine eggs and sugar until pale yellow butter holds shape and forms ribbon on beaters. Blend flour into egg-sugar mixture with the mixer for 3 minutes. Add chocolate mixture being careful to incorporate everything; mix for 2 more minutes. Pour about 6 ounces of batter into each ramekin and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a preheated 475°F (245°C) oven, bake ramekins on a cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are puffed up and don't jiggle when moved. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Best served with vanilla or maple ice cream.

I hope I have alleviated your worries on what your Valentine’s date should be. This full-course meal was curated to take a load off your shoulders. Not every date night has to include someone else cooking for you. Sometimes love speaks through the thought and preparation of something we have made. And I promise, that will speak volumes! Good luck on your soon-to- be, date night in!

 Written by: Jen Burk 

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