The Way to Her Heart: Aphrodisiac Recipes for Valentine’s Day

Feasting is our column dedicated to cooking, grilling, eating and discovering what’s on the menu across America and the world.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching—it’s tomorrow, guys—we’ve come up with all sorts of ways to prepare you for the big day. From which cocktails to make to impress your date to what you should buy if you plan on wooing her this year, there are so many ways to celebrate that don’t require cheesy Hallmark cards and waxy chocolates.

One idea we’re totally stoked on is cancelling those reservations and staying in instead. Think about it—what is more romantic than a dinner you cook for your partner with the bedroom mere steps away? Actually, we can think of one thing, and that’s incorporating aphrodisiac recipes into your meal.

Oysters, chiles and chocolate are no-brainers, so we’ve asked some of our favorite chefs from across the country for their go-to recipes that lift the libido and excite the senses. And because no great meal is complete without wine, we’ve employed the expert help of Emily Molinari, Beverage Director of Eataly Downtown, to hand-pick some wonderful Franciacorta—sparkling wine made in the classic method from a small region in Italy—to pair with each recipe.

Amalia’s Oyster Chowder

oyster chowder

From Chef Amalia Scatena | Cannon Green, Charleston, SC

Oysters are probably the most famous aphrodisiacs in the world, so it’s a great way to kick off your Valentine’s Day meal. “For the first dish, I would suggest a lighter, crisper style of Franciacorta,” Molinari says. “Soup is such an interesting category to pair with it because I think the textural and temperature difference between what you are eating and what you are drinking is more obvious and pronounced. Try a Saten-style, like the Ca del Bosco Saten 2009, because it has gentler bubbles and is very crisp on the palate. A Franciacorta Brut NV—such as the Ca del Bosco ‘Cuvee Prestige’ NV or the Bellavista ‘Alma Cuvee’ NV—would also work well because it has a minerality that would go very well with the briny clams and the smoky bacon.”

Serves 6

6 slices thick-cut smoky bacon, cut crosswise into lardons
1 fennel bulb, diced small
1 yellow onion, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups fish stock
1 cup cream
.75 pound Red Bliss potatoes, diced small
3 dozen fresh raw oysters, liquor strained and reserved
Zest of 2 lemons
.25 tsp harissa spice blend (can substitute Tabasco), plus more to taste
1 sprig fresh tarragon, leaves finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse kosher salt, to taste
Crackers or crusty French bread, for serving


Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until fat has rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Pour off about half of the bacon fat and reserve for another use.

Add fennel, onion, celery and garlic to the pot with remaining bacon fat and cook over medium-low heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until vegetables are lightly coated with flour. Stir in fish stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but not falling apart, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and reserve. Add reserved oyster liquor and cream to the chowder. Continue to simmer until flavors marry and cream thickens slightly, about 5-10 minutes. (At this point, chowder can be made one day ahead. Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, bring to a simmer over gentle heat and continue as directed.) Stir in cooked potatoes and return to a simmer. Just before you are ready to serve, stir in oysters; cover pot and remove from heat, allowing oysters to gently cook in the hot broth.

When oysters are ready, stir in lemon zest and harissa. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon chowder into bowls. Finish with fresh tarragon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a tiny sprinkle of harissa powder. Garnish with reserved bacon and serve with crackers or crusty French bread.

Related: The Lady-Approved Guide to Valentine’s Day Gifts for Her

Chile-Rubbed Hanger Steak

From Chef Floyd Cardoz | Flavorwalla

Chiles are a great way to awaken the senses and open the palate to new and adventurous flavors. Spicy food also cools down the body, so it will get put you at the right temperature to heat things up all over again.

“While the color and temperature of Franciacorta will make your brain think white, Franciacorta is made from both red and white grapes,” Molinari says. “It can express itself as red, even without the color and tannin. This dish has many intricate flavors that you want to stand out and not be overwhelmed the way it would be with a red wine. Also, if there is discernable heat of the chiles, the fact that the wine is served cold will actually be more refreshing than something served at room temperature. The Monte Rossa ‘Cabochon’ 2008 has it all with 70 percent Chardonnay and 30 percent Pinot Noir, so it will be an unexpected pairing—with depth and power—that won’t overpower the flair of the steak.”

2 Ancho chiles, seeds removed
4 guajillo chiles, seeds removed
4 dried chipotle chiles
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp black peppercorns
.5 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
8 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
.25 cup canola oil
2 tsp sugar
3 lb trimmed hanger steak, cut into 5-6 ounce pieces
Kosher salt
Finishing salt, such as Maldon


Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Place the ancho, guajillo and chipotle chiles in the pan and toast, turning once, until slightly colored on both sides, 5-7 minutes. Remove and submerge in the boiling water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a spice/coffee grinder, finely grind the oregano, peppercorns, cumin seeds and cloves. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the chiles and their soaking liquid in a blender. Add the garlic, vinegar, oil and sugar and blend until smooth. Transfer to the bowl with the spices and stir until well combined. Rub the marinade over steak and seal in a Ziplock bag. Place in refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours.

Prepare a medium grill. Remove the steak from the marinade and season generously with salt. Let stand at room temperature while the grill heats.

Grill the steak for 5-7 minutes per side for medium-rare, or to desired doneness. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for about six minutes. Slice steak against the grain, sprinkle with finishing salt and serve.

Chocolate Truffle Cake

chocolate truffle cake

From Mitchell’s Fish Market, Edgewater, NJ

Chocolate is downright addicting, so it’s the perfect way to end your luxurious Valentine’s Day meal. We recommend taking a break from the dinner table and eating this one in bed after some, ahem, exercise.

“Although you can find Franciacorta in many levels of dryness, ranging from non-dosage (barely there residual sugar) to demi-sec (notable residual sugar on the palate), I tend to let the dessert express the sweet notes and the wine provide refreshing counterbalance,” Molinari says. “The Frangelico will lend a hazelnut note, the texture of the cream will be a nice complement to the bubbles and the wine will have enough depth of flavor to stand up to the intensity of the coffee and chocolate flavors. With the Antica Fratta ‘Essence’ Rose 2009, you get the finesse of the Chardonnay and the fruit of the Pinot Noir. Amplified by the benefit of 36 months bottle aging, this wine exudes elegance and a playful persistent perlage.”

Granulated Sugar as needed
6 oz Chocolate truffle cake batter
1 Chocolate truffle
Frangelico crème anglaise*
Coffee chocolate fudge**
Heath Bar


Spray a 9 ounce ceramic ramekin with pan spray. Sprinkle the inner sides and bottom of the ramekin with sugar, shaking off the excess. Place 3 ounces of the batter into the prepared ramekin. Place the chocolate truffle on top of the batter and cover the truffle with the remaining 3 ounces of the batter.

Place the filled ramekin onto a sheet tray. Place the tray into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the tray and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the ramekin and set aside.

Ladle the Frangelico crème anglaise onto the center of a plate creating a pool of sauce. Place the warm chocolate truffle cake on the anglaise. Top the cake with a scoop of ice cream and coffee chocolate fudge. Evenly spread the Heath Bar crunch over top. Enjoy!

*Frangelico Anglaise

1 cup Sugar
1 cup Pasteurized egg yolks
1 quart Heavy cream
.25 cup Frangelico


Beat sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until smooth. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, scald heavy cream and Frangelico. Remove from heat. Slowly ladle cream mixture into egg mixture. Do this about 2 ounces at a time; this will bring the egg mixture up to temperature with scrambling the eggs.

Place over a double boiler and cook until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Once it is to consistency, strain through a chinois into a clean bowl. Place bowl in an ice bath and cool sauce to below 40 degrees. Enjoy!

**Coffee Chocolate Fudge

3 cups Fudge
1 cup Warm coffee

In a stainless steel bowl, combine ingredients and whisk until smooth.