You’ve got one shot to impress your valentine, but Valentine’s Day can be one of those holidays where the fantasy doesn’t always live up to the reality: the roses wilt, the chocolate melts, the babysitter is a no-show (What do you mean you got a better offer?). In this post, the Fine Cooking staff shares their stories about Valentine’s Day meals that ended with a few sweet-faced guys asking, “Do I at least get points for trying?” and offer up the antidote for those of you out there looking for no-fail Valentine's Day recipes.
And, of course, guys. You get points for trying.
Lisa starts us off:
My husband prides himself on his pie-making. His repertoire is limited to rhubarb pie in summer, pumpkin pie in winter (but hey, I’m not one to look any gift pie in the mouth).
One Valentine’s, he tackled one of my favorite pastry treats: apple turnovers. Unfortunately, the skill set in putting together a turnover is a bit more advanced than opening up a can of pumpkin puree or making a single-crust pie. Ray didn’t peel the apples and failed to seal the turnovers adequately. He also cooked them too long, turning the filling to applesauce (studded with chewy ribbons of peel) which leaked its liquid out all over the floor of the oven (a lesson in the importance of using a RIMMED baking sheet).
Of course, he got major points for the attempt. And I’m completely happy that he sticks to pumpkin and rhubarb (although I truly just prefer chocolate on Valentine’s Day).
—Lisa Waddle, managing editor
My college boyfriend attempted to bake me a chocolate cake one year for Valentine’s Day, and despite his best efforts, it was a dismal failure. The cake was simultaneously burned on the bottom and unbaked and gooey in the center (but not in a molten chocolate cake sort of way). And instead of using frosting, he poured a thick raspberry puree over the cake, which made it look as if it were covered in blood. If Stephen King’s Carrie had a cake, this would have been it. I think I gave him points for trying, but it was pretty much inedible... and the experience led directly (albeit, years later) to my marrying a chef.
—Denise Mickelsen, associate editor
One Valentine’s Day that I was sick, my husband decided to surprise me by making chicken noodle soup. Points right there. But, oh boy, the execution was all wrong. He decided to first roast chicken tenders with a butter/ herb concoction he created. Then he boiled a pot of water and added about 4 bouillon cubes, here is the clincher, he added about 1/4 cup of salt! He put the chicken tenders in the pot of “broth”, added some spaghetti, and proudly brought it into the bedroom. I’d never tasted anything like it; I literally was in pain as I ate the soup, my lips were so dry from all the salt that they started to crack. I made a “yum” face and tried to continue until he finally tasted it himself.
“I made this wrong, didn’t I?” was all he managed to say. All I could do in response was nod and suck on my poor cracked lip. We ended up having hot dogs that night and it’s a tradition we have continued to this day.
—Juli Roberts, editorial assistant
I never had a boyfriend who was in to making anything other than MAN FOOD; Buffalo Wings, Chili. Not very romantic. One man who scored high marks in this department was my grandpa. When he was in his 70’s he decided he wanted to learn how to bake pies. One February he made his very first lemon meringue pie. Grandpa always believed that if a little was good, then a lot would be even better. I don’t know exactly how much lemon juice he put in that pie, but I was told grandma couldn’t speak for nearly ten minutes. Her lips were too puckered! Hum, maybe grandpa really did know what he was doing. . .
—Pam Winn, associate art director
If you've ever had a Valentine's Day meal that left you or your sweetheart asking, "Points for trying?" we want to hear about it.