The Perfect Valentine’s Menu, Minus the Fuss

How to nail the classics for a three-course meal that won’t leave you stressing on the 14th

No holiday (besides Thanksgiving) sees so many not-so-regular cooks thrust into the kitchen with the directive to impress. Which is why we’re here to say, 1) breathe, 2) you can do this, and 3) not only can you do this, but you can make a perfect, totally impressive Valentine’s meal for two in just a couple hours.

Because the real perfect Valentine’s begins at home, far away from frenzied restaurants and close to everything else that matters. This menu isn’t just about taking it easy—it’s about getting the little details right, and having a meal you’ll remember.

Getting it right comes down to two simple things: planning ahead and keeping your menu straightforward. Now's not the time to break out new recipes and unexpected ingredients. Stick to the basics, flavors you know and trust, and take the time to execute them perfectly. No one's looking for surprises on Valentine's Day—not surprising food at least. These are the classics we'd call on for the big night.

Start With a Salad

Blue Cheese, Grape, and Gem Lettuce Salad
Yes, oysters are lovely on Valentine's Day, but shucking them while preparing three courses isn't exactly a breeze. Let an oyster bar handle the oysters. Instead, make this lovely gem lettuce salad. You can toast the nuts, crumble the blue cheese, and halve the grapes in advance, and it's just rich enough to kick start a full meal without weighing you down.Anders Schonnemann

Now Make Steak

How to grill the perfect steak indoors
It's a classic for a reason, and a good, juicy steak has one of the best reward-to-effort ratios we know. Salt your steak the night before for the deepest flavor penetration, then follow our simple rules for perfect steak. With your salad done, this'll take all of 10 minutes from fridge to plate.Matt Taylor-Gross

Rainy Day Chicken with Eggplant Salad

Don't eat red meat? How about a roast chicken with this beautiful pan-roasted eggplant salad? It'll take a little longer to make than a ribeye, but not much.Farideh Sadeghin

On the Side

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini
While your steak is on the stove, this cauliflower should be in the oven. Cauliflower rubbed with a simple spice mix, roasted until crisp and nearly burnt at the edges, and topped with a squeeze of lemon and drizzle of tahini looks and tastes so much more impressive than it actually is to make. This is exactly the kind of bold-but-friendly side you want to fill out your dinner plate.Neal Santos

For Dessert

lava cakes
Molten chocolate cake: great idea, but done to death. A single-serving chocolate cake is the ideal Valentine's dessert, though, and with these bittersweet chocolate pudding cakes, you get that wonderful mix of moist cake and creamy chocolate in a dish that's actually better made ahead and left to sit. No more fussing with molten cake right from the oven.Signe Birck

And to Drink

Champagne Cocktails
This is the night to break out the bubbly stuff. Here are five Champagnes for every budget, and, if you're feeling mixed drinks, recipes for sparkling cocktails to keep you celebrating all night.Matt Taylor-Gross