Dinner @ Your Place

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • How to prepare a romantic dinner — complete with all four food groups.
  • What gear you need to pull it off.
  • Tips on how to tell if the pan is hot, how to keep the grub hot until game time, and more!

Aah, dinner at your place — the Papa of all great date itineraries. Think of this date idea as the ultimate means of getting the fly to jump into the spider’s web. Best yet, women think you’re doing them a favor!

The problem is, it’s hard to cook for women. You never know when they’ll start a new diet, or whether a friend recently warned them not to eat too much in front of a date. If you’re planning on playing sensitive male (or just trying to get her alone) by having her over for eats at your place, the key is simplicity. The following menu is easy to make, easy to clean up and gives off the aura of being sophisticated "lite" cuisine that still tastes good. Every recipe begins with a list of required foodstuffs and another list of the gear you’ll need to make it happen. Check out these easy (but impressive looking) answers to dinner at your place:

Aromatic Carrot Soup

It’s always a good idea to have your house smelling good when someone’s coming over for dinner. Since your apartment is unlikely to smell great in its natural state of being, consider making up a pot of aromatic soup to disguise the scent of your everyday life. Most soups are the easiest recipes in any cookbook. They can be made ahead of time so as to minimize your workload on the day of the dinner, and free you up to ply your date with drinks when she first arrives. Best yet, soup is made in one pot — making for easy cleanup. If your date doesn’t care for carrots, substitute zucchini for an equally great-smelling foil.

Food Required

  • 10 large carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 cup of powdered chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 sprigs of the parsley from the nextrecipe
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Gear Required

  • Cutting board
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Sharp knife
  • Large soup pot with lid
  • Ladle
  • Pyrex 4 cup measuring bowl
  • Braun hand blender

You won’t understand why you didn’t live off soup in school once you see how brainless the preparation is.

Step One. Peel the onion and chop it up into small pieces. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but one easy way is to cut it in half and then cut across the onion in one direction and then the other.

SharpMan Tip: Onions makin’ you cry? Wuss. If you wear contact lenses, make a point of doing your onion duty with the contacts on. The plastic barrier prevents onion hysterics. No contacts? Just grin and bear it.

Step Two. Place the powdered chicken stock in a measuring cup and fill with 1 cup of warm water. Stir around until the powder dissolves. Set aside.

Step Three. Put the pot on the stove and set a high flame. When the pot is hot (see SharpMan Tip on hot pans below) add the oil and the onions. Watch the onions as they cool. You are getting veereey sleepeey . . . Stir the onions for about a minute or until they begin to look translucent (or burnt). Add the chicken stock water, another seven cups of regular water, and place the lid over the pot. Bring the whole mess to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down to low with the lid partially on (so that there’s a bit of air escaping).

Step Four. Wash off your carrots. Transfer to a cutting board. Trim off the heads and tails. Use your handy vegetable peeler to peel the skin off of the carrots. Cut all the carrots into disks (about one third of an inch think) and add them to the pot.

Step Five. Now you can forget about your soup for a couple of hours. When you remember it again, get out your hand blender, plug it in near the stove and immerse the bottom of the blender so that the part with the spinning blade is totally covered in liquid. YouÕll love this thing. Turn on your hand blender and begin lifting it up (still in the liquid) and bringing it down on the vegetables. TheyÕll never know what hit Ôem. Continue this, circling around the pot until most of the carrots have been pulverized. Now taste your soup. Add salt and pepper as needed.

You’re done, buddy. Just make sure to refrigerate it before you turn in.

SharpMan Tip: If you returned to your soup to discover a solid lump of carrot mush, don’t panic. Simply add two cups of water and reheat. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Reheat your soup an hour or so before your date arrives. Serve with a sprig of parsley in the center of the bowl and a bit of salt and pepper on top.

Veal or Chicken Milanese

This main course dish looks like something served in a trendy Italian restaurant, but is actually really easy to make. The other good thing about it is that it constitutes both the main dish and the side dish. Does your date refrain from the veal thing? Find out and opt for the chicken — less dramatic, but also very good. Finally, if your date is freaked out by the fact that it’s fried, use a non-stick pan to minimize the amount of olive oil required, and paper towels to blot out some of the excess oil on the finished product. Either way, it will be delicioso.

Food Required

  • 2 large veal chops or chicken breasts
  • 3 cups white breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper
  • 3 large eggs Large frying pan
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Gear Required

  • Meat tenderizer (like a big mallet)
  • Plastic wrap
  • 3 large, shallow soup bowls or deep plates
  • Whisk or fork
  • Sharp knife
  • Chopping board
  • Paper towels
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Spatula or cooking tongs

Step One. Prepare your garnish (a.k.a. "lite" side dish). Measure two or three tablespoons of olive oil into your mixing bowl and then two tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Add a pinch of the salt and pepper. Using your whisk or fork, whisk all four ingredients together until they are fully integrated.

Step Two. Chop up the tomato into one-inch cubes. Place into the same bowl. Tear the basil leaves by hand (a couple of times) and drop them into the bowl. Mix everything together so that the dressing covers the tomato and basil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge.

Step Three. Now prepare the meat. Take the veal chop by the bone (which should be beneath the pointed end of the meat), and with your knife about two inches from the tip, begin cutting away the meat in order to expose the bone. Carefully scrape away as much of the flesh as you can. This makes the chop look, well, like a chop, but also enhances the flavor due to contact with the bone marrow. If you’re using chicken, obviously skip this step. Then take a large piece of the plastic wrap and place it on your cutting board. Place the veal chop or chicken breast on the plastic wrap, and then put a second piece of wrap (of equal size) over the chop or breast. Now for some fun. Take your meat tenderizer and bang out the flesh of the meat, working outward with your bangs so that they flatten the meat out to about half an inch. Try to flatten the chop or breast out as evenly as possible.

Step Four. Time for the batter. Take your shallow bowls or deep plates. Place them in a row. Fill the first with the flour. Spread the flour around. Crack all three eggs into the second bowl (white and yolk together) and add the milk, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Scramble the mixture with your whisk or fork. In the third bowl, add all the breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and the remaining salt and pepper. Take one breast or chop and lay it in the flour, then turn it over. The flour adheres the egg to the meat, which will, in turn, adhere the breadcrumbs. When both sides have been floured, wipe off any excess flour and dip both sides of the meat in the egg. Remove the meat from the egg and place into the bowl with the breadcrumb mixture. Pat down the meat so that the breadcrumbs on the bottom stick, and then pour breadcrumbs from the sides of the bowl onto the top of the meat. Turn the meat over in the bowl until the breadcrumb mixture completely covers it on both sides.

SharpMan Tip: If you don’t plan to serve the meat right away, set your oven (or toaster oven) to 225 degrees. When you’ve finished the frying process, store the meat in there until ready to garnish and serve.

Step Five. Actual cooking. Place your frying pan on the stovetop and set a medium flame. When the pan is hot (see SharpMan Tip below) add the remaining olive oil and spread it around. Place the breaded meat in the pan. If you’re not using a nonstick pan, you may have to add more oil later. Watch the chop as it cooks. With your tongs or spatula, peek at the bottom to ensure that it doesn’t burn. After about two minutes, use your tongs or spatula to turn the meat over. Both sides should take about three to four minutes (or two minutes each side). Repeat with your second chop or breast. Place each piece of meat flat on a large dinner plate (bone side up for the veal).

SharpMan Tip: For a truly "non-stick" experience, it’s best to wait until your pan is hot to add oil or butter. How do you know when your pan is hot? Dip your fingers into some water and flick a few drops onto the pan. If the water sizzles, your pan is hot.

Step Six. Now time for garnish. Take your tomato, basil and vinaigrette (I bet you didn’t know you made one) out of the fridge and spoon equal amounts onto the veal or chicken. Serve to your impressed date.

Wasted Mixed Berries with Ice Cream

Finally, the pre-sweetness sweet stuff. An easy dessert is a good dessert. An easy dessert that also gives your date the option of "splurging" or being a diet martyr is a great dessert. This one does both and can be made ahead of time.

Food Required

  • 2 small packages of fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 quart vanilla Hagen Daaz ice cream
  • 2 fresh mint sprigs

Gear Required

  • Small mixing bowl
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Plastic wrap
  • Fork

Step One. Empty out berries into your mixing bowl. Fill bowl with enough water to cover the berries and mix around with your hands to remove any berry-dirt. While standing over your sink, pick the bowl up with one hand while cupping your other hand over one side of the bowl. Tilt the bowl towards your "goalie" hand, draining as much of the water as possible without losing too many of the berries. Replace any wayward, sink-loving berries back in the bowl. Cowards.

Step Two. Add Grand Marnier and about half of the sugar (see SharpMan Tip below). Mix with your hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap so that it seals tightly around the lip of the bowl. Take a fork and puncture the plastic several times. Turn the bowl up-side-down over your sink, carefully holding the bowl by sides to that the plastic stays on. Shake out any excess water and Grand Marnier and carefully return the bowl to the counter. Cover with fresh plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

SharpMan Tip: Life is cruel. Sometimes you just can’t get good, sweet berries. No problem. That’s what good-ol’ sugar is for. If you have the misfortune of buying sub-par berries, simply add more sugar to the mix. But don’t go crazy, the secret to this dessert lies in the mix of sweet ice cream and tart fruit. ‘Nuff said.

Step Three. When dinner is over and your date has had a few moments to choke down her amazement, casually offer something sweet (and "lite!"). Spoon about half a cup of berries onto each plate and add two small scoops of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with small mint sprig.

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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