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A Cozy Dinner | Single-Serve Dishes Make Great Dinners to Share

Though spring is just around the corner, there is still a chill in the air and we crave warm, comforting food. Sharing a meal with a small group of close friends or with a significant other nourishes not only your body but also your soul. Most of us have reached the limit of what we can draw from virtual happy hours and Zoom calls but still want social interaction. Buffets may be out for now, but individual-serving-sized portions are all the rage. You can make just about any large casserole and portion it out into ramekins or heat-proof bowls. And with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, what says “I love you” more than a romantic candlelight dinner for two at home? The following recipes offer easy but far superior alternatives to take out.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (or 2 cups frozen pearl onions, defrosted and patted dry)
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3-4 cups shredded, cooked chicken from 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or thyme (optional)
  • 1 egg

You will need 6 to 8 oven-safe (to 425 degrees) soup bowls. For larger portions, use bowls with an 18-20 ounce capacity; for smaller portions, use bowls with a 12–14 ounce capacity.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.

For crust: Dust a clean, dry work surface with flour and place the puff pastry over top. Sprinkle the pastry with flour and roll to about 1/8-inch thick, smoothing the creases with the rolling pin at the same time. Using a sharp knife, kitchen shears or a pizza cutter, cut out 6 circles about 2 inches larger than the diameter of your soup bowls. (Alternatively, cut out 8 circles if making smaller portions.) You can get 4 large or 6 small circles out of one sheet of puff pastry. Place the dough rounds on the foil-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set oven rack to the center position.

For filling: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt butter and olive oil, then add onions, carrots, potato, celery, garlic, salt and pepper, and bay leaf. Partially cover the pan and sweat the mixture for about 10 minutes to soften, stirring occasionally. Add flour and stir to combine. Whisk in stock, milk, mustard and nutmeg and stir occasionally while it thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken. Reduce heat to low/simmer and finish with lemon zest and juice, frozen peas, parsley and dill. Remove bay leaf.

Divide filling into bowls, making sure they aren’t filled more than 3/4 of the way to the top of the bowls.

Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water.

Remove the pastry rounds from the refrigerator. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash.

Place the cold dough rounds over the bowls, pressing firmly around the edges so that the dough adheres. Transfer the bowls to the foil-lined baking sheet. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Using a sharp knife, make a 1/2 inch slit in the top of each pie. Place the bowls on the baking sheet and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the pastry is rich golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then use a wide spatula to carefully transfer the hot bowls to serving plates.

The pies may be assembled and refrigerated up to a day ahead of time. Brush the top of the dough with egg wash just before baking.

Molten Lava Cakes for Two
Chocolate is synonymous with Valentine’s Day, and this is the quintessential romantic dessert. It’s also the easiest version I’ve ever tried! 

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour

If making and serving the cakes at once, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter two ¾- cup ceramic ramekins or ovenproof glass custard cups. Sprinkle granulated sugar in ramekins and swirl around to coat the inside. This keeps the cakes from sticking, and also adds a nice crunch to the outside of the cakes.

In the microwave, on medium low setting (use the melt feature if your microwave has one), melt the butter with the chocolate, stirring after 30 seconds and adding time as needed until chocolate is completely melted. Stir to combine butter and chocolate; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg and yolk lightly, then add sugar and salt and whisk until blended and slightly paler and thickened, about 1 minute.

Slowly whisk in the melted chocolate, in a stream, then whisk in flour.

Divide batter between buttered ramekins.

At this point, ramekins can be refrigerated for a day if preparing in advance; cover them loosely with plastic wrap once they’re cool.

Bake cakes on a baking sheet in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes if preparing immediately, up to 14 minutes if baking after refrigerating. Go by appearance, rather than time; the cakes should be firm on the outside and dry across the top, but the center inch or so should still be quite wobbly.

Remove from oven and let stand 1 minute. Run a knife around the sides to loosen, then turn them out onto individual serving plates.

Sift powdered sugar over them, if desired, and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

French Martini
Pink and frothy, this is the perfect fancy cocktail for Valentine’s Day. The combination of vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord, a black raspberry liquor with a complex flavor profile, makes a slightly sweet but refreshing sipper. The addition of sea salt may seem strange, but it will magnify the sweet and tart flavors in the drink. Just make sure to use fine sea salt, so it completely dissolves when you shake it.

  • 4 ounces premium vodka
  • 1 ounce Chambord
  • 3 ounces pineapple juice
  • Small pinch of fine-grain sea salt
  • Raspberries or pineapple wedges for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice until half full.

Pour in vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice. Sprinkle in the fine sea salt and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Pour the mixture into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a raspberry or pineapple wedge.

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