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A good weeknight dinner for guests?

  • g

My in-laws are coming in on Thursday and we will be eating in. I will have to work all day so I would like something that could be mostly prepped ahead and then put together on Thursday. Up to an hour of cooking time on Thursday would be ok. Doesn't need to fancy. They love all kinds of food. I was thinking of the braised chicken with shallots, garlic and balsmic from Epicurious but would love any other recs. I am sort of at a loss with this one. I do want to impress too :-)

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  1. Not super impressive, but quick, easy and delicious- how about shrimp scampi. Can be served simply with a salad and some crusty bread.

    1. baked salmon is my favorite weeknight "company" meal!

      1. shrimp scampi? i vote NOT

        1. how about a flank steak done under the broiler?

          1. My inlaws, and other guests, love a unique drink to strart off a meal. Mix a sidecar or offer lemon drops and a nice appetizer as easy as smoked salmon and cheese or bruschetta with tomatoes and basil. There are a lot of desserts you can make in advance, especially tarts and pies. Do you have an ice cream maker? If you serve the yummy braised chicken from Epicurious, buy some yummy artisan bread and serve it with this quick dip (I usually mix the ingredients in a small glass then right before serving, invert and pour it into a shallow dish for sharing):

            1/3 cup olive oil
            2 T balsamic vinegar
            2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
            Pinch red pepper flakes
            1-2 T fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley cut in chiffonade

            One of my favorite tricks to fancy up a worthy loaf of bread; my kids love it too!


            1. For weeknight company I often do a pan-fried chicken or fish. My favorite is the Checken Marsala from the Williams Sonoma Chicaken cookbook. It can easily be done in an hour of cooking time, and is best served with simple side dishes like rice and steamed veggies.

              1 Reply
              1. re: SuzMiCo

                That's usually my approach (along with the previous tip of good bread and an olive oil dip). Steamed veggies are quick and easy and sit nicely next to a side of rice or buttered pasta. My go-to meat is either pounded chicken breasts (they cook faster) or pork chops. Then, it's all about the sauce. Here's a few I've done, depending on what I've got in the kitchen:

                -garlic, shallots, butter, chix broth and a bit of cream
                -chix broth, orange juice, dijon mustard (add cornstarch to thicken the sauce), I like this with pork.
                -garlic, white wine, butter, cream, basil

                I'm sure whatever you end up making will be praised by your in-laws.

              2. For a meal that impresses, especially a group of people, I always go with paella. It's a neat family dish too because you serve it from your paella pan around the table.

                Like risotto, paella takes about 20 minutes of actual cooking time. So it's easy to do for a weeknight meal. You might spend about 20 minutes preparing what goes into your paella and then another 20 of actual cooking. Your guests will ooh and ahh over the various ingredients (if you have things like prawns or mussels, etc.) and then like the festive feel.

                1. Enchiladas. The entree takes very little time or effort, and I can chop up some homemade salsa and guacamole in the time I save.

                  1. Any kind of lasagna (regular, white, veggie, seafood) would work great. You could make (and even bake) ahead of time, then warm up in the oven.

                    Serve with a crusty bread and a side salad.

                    1 Reply
                    1. my standby is a Moroccan chicken or lamb tagine. Preparation takes the most time, and it cooks for about 45-60 minutes-- in which you can actually enjoy your guests' company (and they can enjoy yours). The results are always impressive. Saveur.com has a great tagine recipe from a roadside restaurant, and I've tried many of them. I spice it up with some preserved lemons and harissa, and serve with couscous. Dates wrapped in bacon and baked in the oven are a great starter!

                      1. Cornish hens , wild rice, sauted snow peas with mushrooms, Ceasar salad, and ice cream with mixed fresh fruit over it.

                        Starter- asparagus wrapped with proscuitto. do the night before

                        You can prep the hens the night before and they will cook in about an hour.

                        1. I'd go with a pasta dish. Something you can prepare the day before and put together quickly.

                          Make a bolognese sauce and keep it in the fridge. All you do is boil the pasta, heat the sauce - mix and serve.

                          serve with bread and salad

                          1. How about a beef carbonnade (or a stew or daube).... They taste better after a night's rest in the fridge.

                            1. Nigella has a few great recipes for marinated then roasted chicken: one that I like has you butterfly the chicken, toss it in a plastic bag with rosemary, juice of one lemon, a red onion cut up, olive oil and salt (and I toss in some garlic cloves) and leave that overnight. Then the next day, you heat the oven to 425, lay the chicken in a roasting pan with everything in the bag and roast for about 45 minutes. If you put some cut up potatoes around the chicken, they'll roast in all of those great juices, so all you have to do is add a vegetable, some great bread and cheeses and a good dessert, and you're done.

                              1. I know it sounds a bit lowbrow, but do you have a crockpot? I am a huge fan of the Beef Bourguignonne recipe from the Gourmet cookbook: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                My mods include 86'ing the mushrooms (DH doesn't like them), and preparing everything ahead of time, only doing the "braise" portion in the cooker.

                                For guests, serve it over nice parslied egg noodles with a tasty red wine, and you have a terrific meal. If you're home alone, you'll want to slurp it straight from the cooker. Last time I made it I was hoping for a few days' worth of leftovers, but my guests went back for seconds (and thirds!


                                Also, Daniel Boulud's recipe for his short-ribs works well in the slow-cooker. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                If you don't have a slow-cooker, any kind of braised meat dish does well (like shortribs or osso bucco), because you make it the night before, chill & skim it, and then bring it back up to temperature when it's "go time." In facts, these dishes always taste better on the second day, so they're ideal for a "cook & hold" night.

                                1. I'll be doing the twice-baked goat cheese souffles and salad from epicurious on Thurs--the reviews suggest it's the perfect make-ahead dish and it's not even very time-intensive the day you're prepping. (But I haven't tried it yet myself, so it could be one of those epi-duds.)

                                  1. I make a sausage lasagne with pink sauce. Super easy and can do ahead. With a crisp salad, crusty bread and nice red wine, Ideal!
                                    I think the recipe can be found on the Barrilla Pasta website.

                                    1. You've received some great recommendations so far. The only idea that I have is Chicken Marbella. It is great with cous cous and a green salad and veggie and the main dish preparation is done the night/day before. It also makes great leftovers.


                                      1. buy some duck confit and toss it in a pan--impressive and good.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kaye

                                          and fry some potatoes in the duck fat! mmm!

                                        2. I have been really successful with slow cooker beef roasts and pork roasts. Put it on before you go to work and it's ready when you come home! That way, the meat and gravy is already taken care of and you have only to prepare a side and a salad.

                                          1. Short Ribs in the Crock Pot! Start it before you leave for work. When you get home, whip up some cheesey (I'd use the instant, or short cooking)polenta to serve with short ribs and maybe a chopped salad to green beans, corn, lima beans, tomatoes... almost like a cold succotash.

                                            Ah, I love autumn!