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What to make for a simple, midwestern guy?

I'm a bi-coastal girl with exotic tastes and a preference for ethnic and very healthy cuisine. Any suggestions for what to make for a self-proclaimed "simple, Midwestern guy"? He likes burgers and eats a lot (too much) fast food ... what can I make that will show him that home cooking can be delicious? I'd like to avoid frying since I don't have a deep fryer. I'm leaning toward traditional "comfort" food ... though I'm not entirely sure what that means ... since my comfort food is sushi!!!

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!!

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  1. How about really great steak au poivre with a red wine reduction? Sort of fancied up steak and potatoes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: porceluna

      I think this is a great idea. Push the envelope just a bit. Baked potato with "the works", steakhouse style. Maybe some glazed baby carrots or little onions if he hates greens, but I'll bet he wouldn't object to a simple green salad, with ranch dressing of course. The only thing you will have gussied up in the steak, and he probably will love that.

    2. meat loaf and garlic mashed potatoes? would be comforting to me just about now!
      braised short ribs with pappardelle.

      1. A really great pork roast with veggies - then as leftovers, carnitas tacos!

          1. Oh dear, good luck with that. I think maybe a steak, or roast chicken and baked potato or mac and cheese. Avoid green garnishes. A homemade dessert. He probably won't eat any vegetables. Avoid seasonings of any type other than salt and pepper.
            I'd probably stick with beer for the beverage. They tend not to drink red wine, or any wine for that matter.

            Definitely no salads or broccoli.

            The only exception to the above is if he's from Chicago. Then you might be able to get slightly more exotic.

            Now lest you all think I am making this up, I dated a guy from Cleveland who always insisted "nothing green on the plate".

            2 Replies
            1. re: mlgb

              who doesn't like a good roast chicken, with the crrrriiisssssppppy skin!!! yay!

              1. re: mlgb

                Begging your pardon, Miss, but this here smalltown Midwestern downstate Illinois kid grew up eating lots and lots of great salads and fresh green vegetables, as did most of the folks I knew. I imagine city kids were different - pity, that - but we and most of our neighbors had a backyard garden every year, and actually planted something besides tomatoes. My mom's German-style wilted lettuce was deliriously good, and since it required leaf lettuce, which Kroger seldom carried, we always grew at least one row of that...and summer sandwiches and potato salads always came with a leaf or two.

                If he's not a fresh-greens kind of guy, of course, you could always feed him some slow-cooked green beans with bacon and onion, simmered until almost too tender. That'll melt most Midwesterners I know...and they go with everything from pork chops to roast chicken to fish.

              2. There's loads of Midwestern foods that aren't fried.

                A good pot roast with lots of veggies
                Swiss steak (braised round steak with tomatoes & onions or onions & mushrooms)
                Most French daubes would appeal to Midwestern tastes
                Roast chicken, as everyone else says (roast some lemons alongside to squeeze over the chicken, for you if not for him)
                Spaghetti & meatballs
                Spaghetti Bolognese
                Pork chops (a million ways)

                Check out one of the old versions of the Betty Crocker cookbook, before they started calling for so many canned foods. They have a lot of good, solid recipes.

                1. Gee, I dunno... us yokels like us some boiled chicken and maybe some hamburgers, hyuck hyuck.

                  In all seriousness, I don't know what this guy's individual tastes are (emphasis on individual), but having spent half of my adult life in Los Angeles and half in the Midwest, the "Midwestern palate" is one of the most tired, condescending, insulting myths out there. Speaking like this, all you people are doing is putting your own ignorance on display.

                  1. Please, this guy eats burgers and too much fast food because he is a single guy, not because he is from the mid-west, like Calvin Trillan. Just cook good grub and watch it inhaled. You betcha.
                    Relax, your uptight like a bi-coastal girl.

                    1. You seemed to have touched some raw nerves on the whole stereotyping thing... but if he's a SELF-PROCLAIMED simple, mid-Western guy and there's obviously a stereotype to personify that... why would you ignore it and try to cater otherwise?

                      To me, you're looking at something like chicken pot pie, braised beef (stew, pot roast etc.), country-fried steak with potatoes, corn, coleslaw and maybe, maybe, green bean casserole. Any of those dishes are delicious as home cooking. In fact, they're best that way, and traditional comfort food.

                      If you're looking for an introduction to more exotic cuisine, try making something like braised veal shanks with potato dumplings with maybe bits of celeriac and sweet corn or something. That way it's familiar (pasta/potatoes with stew, basically) but when you tell him it was osso bucco with potato gnocchi and a celeriac and sweet corn puree and that a lot of "exotic" foods can be simple and delicious like that, just with fancy names, he might be more willing to open up to different ideas in the future. Perhaps I'm assuming too much about relationship status here though :)

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: afoodyear

                        "You seemed to have touched some raw nerves on the whole stereotyping thing... but if he's a SELF-PROCLAIMED simple, mid-Western guy and there's obviously a stereotype to personify that... why would you ignore it and try to cater otherwise?"

                        I'm not suggesting that at all, afoodyear. And my comments weren't directed towards the OP, but rather the follow-up posters who implied or outright stated condescending sweeping generalizations about millions of people in hundreds of diverse cities strewn throughout most of the country.

                        I absolutely agree, if this fellow's tastes run towards simple comfort foods, that's what the OP should make. But to go from "this guy I know in Cleveland doesn't eat vegetables" to "people in the Midwest don't like any seasoning other than salt and pepper and don't drink wine" is downright insulting, not to mention idiotic. That's as far out in left field as saying that you shouldn't cook any animal products for somebody from the West Coast because they're all vegans and Buddhists out there. It's so incredibly ignorant that it almost goes right past insulting and straight into funny.

                          1. re: Dmnkly

                            Umm, it was supposed to be funny, but obviously SOME Midwesterners are also lacking in senses of humor. Tsk tsk.

                            1. re: mlgb

                              mlgb, believe me, I'd like to assume something on that level is a joke and take it as such, but you'd be shocked by the number of times I've seen as bad or worse delivered with the utmost sincerity.

                              My sense of humor is tuned just fine, thanks, but satire is generally dependent on being at least somewhat distinguishable from reality :-)

                          2. re: afoodyear

                            Yeah, apparently I've accidentally hit a nerve. Not my intention. Having not spent any significant time outside of CA and NY I was mostly looking for suggestions about traditional comfort food.

                            Thanks for the suggestions of meat and potatoes variations. Perhaps I'll try a meatloaf or steak with garlic mashed.

                            Apologies to anyone that took my classification as a judgment call, it wasn't that at all. He calls himself simple, midwestern so I thought that was the most accurate descriptor, though perhaps it was overly general.

                            Thanks again for the suggestions.

                            1. re: KrazyB

                              No worries, Krazy... like I say, my comments weren't really directed towards you. The guy clearly self-identifies that way, and the point is taken -- he's a simple meat and potatoes guy. It's drawing that individual preference into broader generalizations about the Midwest that's ridiculous :-)

                              1. re: Dmnkly

                                You are very good. The best steak I've every eaten was in the Amana Colonies of Iowa, mid-midwestern, this soundst like a meat loaf and mashed kinda guy. Howabout hot dish?

                          3. I am from the Canadian equivalent of midwestern, and I am not in the least offended by the descriptor 'simple'. Think of it as 'uncomplicated'. There are some really nice 'meat and potatoes' ideas here but I also like the comments on veggies. We ate tons of veggies - fresh from the garden. I think he just means less fuss, good quality, focus on the '100 Mile Diet' type of stuff rather than the exotics - which are becoming less interesting the more I cook. If I want exotics, I think I would like them in their milieu.

                            1. underestimate and you'll get what you ask for...

                              check out the "cooking for him for the first time" thread

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: hill food

                                Ooooh, thanks for that link! Lots of good advice!!

                              2. I married a man like that -- his mother's cooking was awful! Roast beef until well done, microwave some canned peas with mashed potatoes (w/ no butter!). Plain, dull.

                                And I'm a cook. So when he moved in w/ me I got off my mostly vegetarian/Indian/ethnic lentil kick and . . . it was sauteed veal chops w/ a pan sauce, potato gratin, sauteed greens. He didn't dive into the greens, but ate some. Roasted pork tenderloin w/ apple cream sauce. Grilled spiced rib eye over arugula (that wilts under the steak), beef stew, roast chicken. You get the idea -- meat-based, yes, but with taste and flavor.

                                1. The chicken fried steak thread makes me think that would be a good choice for you. With some cream gravy, good mashed potatoes and a green veggie, I'd bet he'll be in heaven.

                                  1. okay others have touched on the perils of gross regional stereotyping, saving me a bit of grief--

                                    where in the incredibly broad expanse of "midwest" is the gentleman from? missouri, minnesota?? ohio, nebraska? is he urban midwestern, from chicago, cleveland, madison, kansas city? or is he from population 200, nebraska, or 50 miles north of pierre south dakota? did he grow up on a farm, in a metropolis, or suburbialand? why has he never eaten in a "home" before, or is there some reason why he would not believe that "home cooking *can* be delicious?"-- has he lived in a tent, or a 1970's van equipped only with a deep fryer for cooking his whole life? why is the op's assumption that every person in the midwest is homeless and transient, and has never had a garden, visited a farmer's market, eaten a vegetable? has the gentleman in fact done none of these things?

                                    why does the op want to cook for someone she obviously condescends to? any chef will tell you that food cooked from the spleen rather than the heart will taste remarkably bitter and will nourish neither body nor soul. in short no worthwhile relationship will result from such a meal-- there is no need for the op to waste any mental or physical effort on it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      Good call soupkitten! My midwest experience is pretty much the exact opposite of what the OP describes. I really did grow up about 50 miles north of Pierre, SD in a home with a kitchen(was that a random location or are you familar with the area?) and the nearest fast food restaurant was 50 miles away, in Pierre. I grew up eating like a locavore-- vegetables from the garden, meat came from pigs and cows grown by my uncle and butchered by our neighbor etc. The vast majority of our meals were home cooked because there weren't too many other options.

                                      I would agree with the poster above who said this guy's love for fast food has far more to do with being a single guy and much less to do with his Midwest upbringing.