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Dinner ideas for cooking with girlfriend

Whenever my girlfriend comes into town we like to at least spend one night in cooking together, playing music, and dancing in the kitchen. We like to cook things that take a while to put together so we have a lot of time to hang out and have fun. Sauces that have a fair number of ingredients and that need to simmer for a while and be stirred every so often are pretty ideal. Any ideas? I live fairly close to the coast so fresh seafood is always available...shrimp, scallops, etc.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Crawfish Monica. Any seafood lasagna.

    1. Sounds like a good recipe for seafood risotto might fit
      the bill. Can't beat it with that fresh shellfish. That and a salad with a homemade dressing--what could be better.
      Don't have a recipe for the risotto, but you might not even need one.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Bashful3

        I think risotto is a lovely idea but I think a recipe, for proportions, is quite important. Here's a seafood one:

        http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/cr...

        @carry, would seafood in a lasagna be painfully overcooked? Never heard of that.

        1. re: c oliver

          Possibly. You could avoid that by cooking the lasagna noodles nearly all the way and just broil the lasagna for 10 minutes or so. Or just make a veggie lasagna and top with shrimp cooked to your liking.

          I've had some pretty fantastic crab (blue is a terrific selection) meat lasagna with white sauce.

          Also, if lasagna isn't your thing a ravioli with cheese and minced shellfish could be nice.

        2. re: Bashful3

          before reading the replies - or even the full OP risotto came to mind - there is something romantic and perfect for "dancing in the kitchen" about risotto

          1. re: Bashful3

            +1 for the risotto
            You could even make your own shellfish stock since you have time

            1. re: Ttrockwood

              Far more simple is to poach a few shrimp in a light wine, such as a trebianno, then poach large scallops. Set them aside and use the wine - broth for the risotto. Quickly sear the shellfish before adding to the risotto at the end.

              1. re: law_doc89

                Perhaps simpler but then you're cooking the shellfish twice. Making stock from shells may be the easiest thing one can do in the kitchen, IMO.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Quick sear, not re-cook. Try it, you'll like it.

                  1. re: law_doc89

                    For me, a quick sear IS cooking for things like shrimp and scallops. In addition I want to cook those shells for quite a while and get more flavor than a quick sear is ever going to give ME.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Well, you'll never know.

                      OP: Try it!

            2. re: Bashful3

              This shrimp risotto recipe appeared in the valentine's day edition of Bon Appetit many years ago. I make it often. It was billed as "a romantic dinner to cook together"

              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              1. re: DGresh

                I've made that to rave reviews. Very tasty!

                1. re: EarlyBird

                  +1 we just made gumbo this weekend and had a great time cooking. And gumbo tastes better on Day 2. I used Alton Brown's recipe mixed & matched with Fabio Viviani's recipe and came up with a wonderful end-result!

                  Alton's recipe is seafood gumbo: http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/good...

                  And Fabio's is chicken & sausage. I get such a kick out of his cooking tutorials. Take 5 minutes for a laugh. http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/fab...

                  1. re: Tehama

                    Great lead. Thanks. On another thread elsewhere asking for gumbo "tricks" I mentioned using St. Alton the Brown's trick for the roux, which is to bake it in a cast iron pan in the oven. Fool proof.

                    1. re: EarlyBird

                      You know, in all of the gumbo that I've made in my life, I have never tried this. I always say, maybe next time.....got too used to setting up a barstool and stirring roux for 45 min whilst drinking wine! Now, with kids, time is more precious.

                      1. re: rudeboy

                        It's so simple you'll wonder why this isn't the way your mom taught you. I do 1/2 oil and 1/2 flour mixed well, placed in a cast iron skillet and bake it at 350. About half way through I stir it well and continue baking until I like it's color, which is usually between peanut butter and chocolate color. Never burn it, and you can be working on the rest of the meal while doing so.

                        1. re: EarlyBird

                          works for polenta as well.....though it is fun to drink wine and stir forever.....

                          1. re: EarlyBird

                            Funny, but this happens all the time. I got that feeling that I just HAD to make gumbo last night. But I still did the roux on the stovetop because the oven was occupied and I wasn't on home turf. Simple chicken thigh/sausage gumbo with a very dark roux. I added some chinese 5 spice, but not too much. It really worked with the dark roux.

                            But gumbo is a good idea for the OP. Where is the OP anyhow? I wonder if this even already happened.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Here's the cioppino recipe I want to make...next time I have access to good seafood.

                      http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Cioppino is a sexy meal. Lot's of good prep with all the ingredients. You could call it fore-prep. I modified a preparation like this - omitting the tomato paste and just using tomato concasse, using hungarian hot paprika instead of cayenne, no salt, but lobster base instead of water, no fish, and then finishing with cream and some sort of liquor. Last time, i used an airplane bottle of Southern Comfort. Cheap stuff, Southern Comfort is, but it was there and gave my concoction a bit of sweetness that really worked in the soup. Sexed up cioppino.

                        1. re: rudeboy

                          Damn, that sounds wonderful. And I love those little bottles of booze for things that I have no need for a big 'un.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            In Texas, there's a state law that says that you can't buy just one in a package store. You have to buy two. I'm not sure where the logic is here (I mean, they could say eight), but it worked for me, because I drank one and used the other in the food!

                            1. re: rudeboy

                              I lived in Dallas for three months many years ago and they had weird liquor laws then. But your situation sounds like a win-win :)

                    2. Maybe try your hand at homemade Asian dumplings, various ravioli, pierogi, etc. We can spend hours chatting and laughing while making them. Want a break? Just cover the dough or wrappers with a damp towel and come back later!

                      1 Reply
                      1. Crawfish or Shrimp Étouffée - make stock from the shells, get your roux working, dice up the trinity (onions, celery, bell peppers). Put on some Cajun/Zydeco music and a pot of rice. While that's all going, whip up some maque choux (the Cajun answer to succotash) in another skillet. Plenty to do, time (and inspiration) to dance.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: mcsheridan

                            Thirded ( after carrytheone). Delicious! You had me@Zydeco:)

                          2. I made a green curry paste and cooked beef and veggies with it--though actually it would probably be even better with seafood. The paste was fun to put together--it had seven gazillion ingredients, and I chopped another six gazillion things to go in the curry.

                              1. Mushrooms can be abundant in the spring, this mushroom ragu is really wonderful and great on polenta or risotto
                                http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/101519...

                                1. Bake a cake. Make shrimp scampi.

                                  1. Sushi. Prepping the ingredients could take a while, then the fun of rolling and picking combinations.

                                    1. Close to the coast.

                                      Fresh seafood.

                                      Cooking with the girlfriend.

                                      Dancing with the girlfriend in the kitchen.

                                      Count your blessings, GrillMaster!

                                      1. Oh how fun!
                                        My husband and I do this from time to time.

                                        Home made pizza - make the dough, let it rise. Make your own pizza sauce. Prep veggies for pizza and whatever ingredients you like.

                                        Paella using all your local coast sea food

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                          In college, SO and I loved to make pizza. We experimented with different dough recipes for a while which was fun. He's a pro at the shaping of the pie and I like to assemble.

                                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                            We do this often. We like exotic combinations. Sometimes we will jsut make a whole bunch of toppings with what I have and I will make super small mini pizzas one at a time. We sit in the kitchen and make one while another is baking. Bake time is 4-5 minutes so there isn't a lot of "down" time waiting around. So much fun.

                                          2. How about mole. That involves a lot of ingredients and a long simmering time and is a PITA to do on your own (but would be fun with someone else). Or something that needs to be assembled, such as tamales or potstickers or pierogies or ravioli. You could work fresh seafood into any one of these dishes.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                              As you say, mole' is time consuming but not at all difficult. And ingredients are easily sourced.

                                              1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                Tamales! Home made tamales are an act of love in my book.

                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                  Boy, I don't know. It's a gigantic amount of tedious work. Doesn't seem like "fun" for a couple just visiting each other.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    I don't find tamales that difficult. For me, it was just a matter of understanding what consistency the masa should be. Once I got that, the rest came together easy. (A tip: You know the masa is right when a small ball floats in a glass of cold water.)

                                                    1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                      Thanks for the feedback. I'VE not made them but a friend did for Christmas some years ago and commented "never again - too much work." Obviously there's a learning curve.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Well, christmas tamales can be quite tedious, especially if you do the whole pig head thing. I've done it exactly once, then decided just to buy christmas tamales from our vibrant hispanic population here in Austin. Pig's heads start showing up in regular markets in certain parts of town first week in December. Always shocking to have them all inverted, staring up at you.

                                                        But it sounds like the OP and his girl love the prep work. If tamales are the choice, may I suggest preparing a good Salvadoran tamal wrapped in banana leaf? Thick, moist masa infused with that unique banana leaf infusion. mmmm.

                                                        I don't understand why they live in different cities with this level of common interest in food!

                                              2. I know I just replied to the gumbo idea with a link for his gumbo, but please indulge me with just one more of his recipes:

                                                http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/dru...

                                                This 'drunken' pasta is out of this world good. We've made it numerous times and I can't possibly describe the indulgent loveliness of this recipe. Doooo try it!

                                                1. Cordero al chilindron - a very magical and special lamb dish. Recipe is on my blog or I could send it to you.

                                                  1. Someone mentioned lasagne. On that vein, you could even make your own pasta with a crank roller pasta-maker. That takes time, involves a bit of playing-with-the-food, and if you do not already know how to do it, is a way to learn something together. It has the added benefit of impressing guests if you want to do it for a dinner party.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                      I find the crank roller pasta maker to somewhat of a two person job as it doesn't anchor well to the counter. Perfect for a couple ;)

                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                        I have the KA one and it's still easier with two people.

                                                    2. http://www.zencancook.com/2011/08/bra...

                                                      This chicken is delicious and it was the first thing I made for my now-fiance! There is not too much prep in the beginning aside from some chopping but you could make your own pasta if you want to be more hands-on! Then plenty of time for dancing and romancing while it braises, and then return to the stove for reducing and finishing the sauce etc.

                                                      1. Have you ever thought about doing a vindaloo?

                                                        I enjoy lamb vindaloo the best but it can be any type. Chicken, shrimp, etc.