Making a Romantic Dinner... with Chocolate
As Valentine's Day approaches there is romance in the air, and you want to do something special for your man. The tough part involves going out to a restaurant. Whether or not you're trying to save some cash, businesses always jack up the prices on everything during this holiday. Add in that dining establishments are generally packed, and what you'd hoped to be a romantic evening becomes a nightmare of stress.
The solution to this situation is simple: Surprise your sweetie by offering to make a savory dinner that incorporates a holiday favorite— chocolate— in a delicious dinner of pan-roasted chicken with sweet potatoes at one of your houses. How to put it together? Top Chef Masters alum Anita Lo offers a sensual choclate-inspired recipe that's perfect for a very indulgent Valentines Day dinner.
So have your man open that bottle of bubbly and get cooking.
Pan-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Spiced Chocolate
Recipe by Anita Lo
February's a month when tradition dictates that you bring chocolate home to your sweetheart. And it's no wonder -- the stuff is chock-full of the "love chemical" phenylethylamine and the stimulants theobromine and caffeine, and it's been linked to fertility since the days of the Aztecs. But we tend to think of chocolate only as a confection. What about its other savory applications? Most dark chocolates -- with their earthy, spicy notes -- are perfect in a wintry appetizer or main course. At right I've listed one of my favorite chocolate recipes, which takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. The richness of the chocolate balances the relatively lean chicken breast meat. The paprika, pepper, and orange echo the chocolate's inherent sweet spice, and the sweet potato rounds out its earthiness. Even if you're not yet ready to trade your Viagra in for Valrhona, you'll be that much closer to keeping your sweetheart in the style to which he or she is accustomed.
2 six-ounce chicken breasts, boneless, skin on
3 tablespoons oil, divided
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into L-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon shallot, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch orange zest
½ cup chicken stock
1 ounce extra-bitter chocolate, chopped
Salt and pepper
Preheat an oven to 500 degrees. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and season on both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan on high and then add one tablespoon oil. When the oil is just smoking, add the chicken skin-side down. Leave on the flame for one minute, then place in the oven. Heat another sauté pan on high. Add two tablespoons oil, then the butter, and swirl. Add the sweet potatoes in one layer, season with salt and pepper, then turn and season other side. Place pan in the oven with the chicken. When the chicken is browned and crispy (about eight minutes), turn chicken and sweet potatoes and finish the cooking on the other side. Remove the chicken to a warm plate, pour off excess grease, and add the shallots to pan and stir. Add the spices and stir again, then add the zest and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half, then remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the chicken breast on top of the sweet potatoes, ringed with the sauce, and if desired, decorate the plate with a few drops of chive oil.
Most fine-dining restaurant recipes are long, full of complicated techniques, and require ingredients that can't be found in your dictionary, much less at your local grocery store. This is why a restaurant meal costs so much more than cooking at home. But there are some very simple tricks a home cook can employ to dress a dish in restaurant-quality drag, like this chive oil. Blanch a half-cup of roughly chopped chives by boiling them in salted water for one minute, draining, and refreshing under cold water. Squeeze them dry and place in a blender with a quarter cup of oil and a healthy pinch of salt and blend until smooth. If you want to get fancy, you can strain the results through a fine-mesh sieve, but it isn't necessary. Then use sparingly: A few drops on a white or clear glass plate will brighten any presentation and give it a professional look. Use a basting brush to paint a verdant swath on your plate palette, or a plastic squeeze bottle for pinpoint precision.