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Cooking for plain jane inlaws?

Hi! I have the pleasure of cooking for the most boring inlaws ever... And I want to impress them (seeing as they have sent food up several times so we don't "starve") but I am at a loss as to what to make. They are pretty plain... here's some favorites.

lemon chicken,
steak (grilled with just salt and pepper)
pasta with tomato sauce.

They also seem to like all their side dishes with a ton of butter and salt and pepper and that's about it... meaning corn, green beans, rice with butter or pasta with butter. I know she won't eat anything raw, no avocado, no custards or puddings.

I think my father in law is dying to break out of the box, and I think she just doesn't know any better and sticks with what she knows she likes. My only for sure thing is dessert, I'm making a chocolate graham cracker cupcake with a meringue icing. Here's a link http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/s...
Looks tasty and pretty impressive. I'm a pretty decent cook (IMHO) so difficulty is not a problem and I have 7 hours to prep before they arrive tomorrow... suggestions?

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  1. What about lamb and/or beef kabobs, rice pilaf (with extra butter :)), Sauteed mushrooms in butter, green beans cooked and chilled on red lettuce leaves with oil/vinegar dressing and scatter with feta.

    1. You could make a Zuni-style roast chicken - the ultimate in simplicity yet delicious. If you don't think the bread salad would suit, try potatoes. Last week I bought 3 diff colors of fingerlings at the farmers market, scattered them around the chicken as it cooked. Potatoes in chicken fat are ridiculously good.

      Nothing raw? Not even salad? My very traditional Dad really liked it when I made a version of the Nigella watermelon and arugula salad. You could possibly tone it down w/ baby spinach if you think the arugula pepperiness would be too much. Actually, my Mom said his favorite meal EVER that I cooked was last year, and fortunately I remember what I cooked:

      Surf and Turf (a filet to split between each couple + grilled HUGE shrimp)
      Grilled corn on the cob
      the above mentioned watermelon and arugula salad
      Banana pudding (good thing your mom inlaw wasn't there)

      There's a twice baked potato on Epicurious w/ mushrooms that has gone over well w/ MY in-laws. They also liked crab cakes.

      I feel for you. the FIRST spoonful my inlaws put in their mouths on the FIRST meal of their 9 day visit this summer was rejected as too spicy and I got up and re-made the soup. I would say there was 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce in a large dutch oven full of sweet potato bisque. *sigh*

      1 Reply
      1. re: danna

        I think they'll eat salad and stuff "supposed" to be raw- I meant raw as in fish, carpaccio, tartar etc... which I love, them, not so much.

        O and btw, if you think potatoes in chicken fat are good (and I do too!!) you should try brussels sprouts with a sliced onion underneath the whole chicken. SOOOOO good.

        I like both suggestions for grilling. My kitchen isn't huge, and it might be a little less stressful if I can pass out some wine/beer while we watch the food cook outside. :)

      2. Lola, I am detecting a British accent - is that so? Why not roast beef, yorkshire pudding and carrots Vichy with honey, parsley and butter? Get the roast beef on the bone, if $$ is not a concern, always very impressive. If you want to jazz up a little, make a different gravy using homemade beef stock, some Burgundy or port wine and some herbs? Roasted potaoes with pan dripping and parlsey are indeed plain Jane, but also very tasty. If you need recipes, let me know.

        1. Ooooh, I know what you mean: just came back from a trip where I cooked a lot for my very plain in-laws. They eat bbq'd meat (S&P only), buttered green beans, corn, steamed potatoes, tomatoes and salad in a predictable rotation. Well prepared but a little dull after week 1. One thing we made that they really enjoyed (or else they're just polite??) was a salad of arugula (its meant to watercress but not available in small town) with grilled potatoes, and a blue cheese vinagrette on top. This is on epicurious. Served with a plain steak. Also one day I cut corn off the cob and made it into a salad/salasa thing with green onion, basil and tomato. As long as they recognized the basic ingredients they were happy.

          1. My plain jane in laws always enjoy it when I cook a bone in ham. It's a treat for them. Since it's only just the two of them the MIL cooks canned ham. I make a traditional pineapple glazed ham. I also make home made potatoes au gratin. Sometimes I make ribbon veggies with carrots and squash, sometimes fresh asparagus or fresh green beans. I keep it simple, but elegant.

            1. hello ok i have some suggestions, if you havnt already decided what to do. I'm kinda new here but will try to help. ok well maybe for chicken i like to take skin off whole to keep it all intact then make like a roll with the skin put the chicken meat you like back in. i use the tenderloin then some dark meat. cheese goes good inside as well like maybe a nice swiss, or other meats. umm i have put cashews in it before whatever u think sounds good. so basically fill it roll the skin up then i poach it. after to reheat can seer then toss in over or even bread it and deep fry. also if you make ur own pasta you could do ravioli with like mozz cheeseinside tomatoe sauce cover with panko or breadcrumbs do this in oven safe bowl then toss in over to brown top maybe garnish with chives. so thats a few ideas

              1. I have similar problems cooking for some of my own family (one of my sisters and her husband in particular have totally white-bread tastes) and I find I can get them to go for a good basic chowder - fish, clams, or our family favorite, lobster with corn.

                4 Replies
                1. re: BobB

                  Ina Garten's Roast chicken, potato-fennel gratin and sauteed carrots. Simple and Mmm, Mmm good!

                  1. re: jesoda

                    Thanks for all the suggestions. I decided to go with something grilled... I decided to do the blue cheese arugula salad to start and then mustard garlic chicken breasts that I got out of a Martha Stewart Cookbook (she's pretty Wasp-y so I think I should be OK ;) ), a steak pretty plain (just in case the other has too much flavor) , green beans with shallots and almonds, and a potato gratin. And of course those gorgeous cupcakes... now I have to find butane for my torch and clean the house (the really daunting task LOL) Thanks again for the ideas- I knew someone would suggest something great!

                    1. re: lolaeatspickle

                      So just as a side note... the inlaws just left and complimented the meal about 100 times before they left- so it was a success! YAY!

                      1. re: lolaeatspickle

                        Good for you. I made my plain jane son lavender cupcakes, and he loved them. It feels awesome to have all your hard work complimented, and to know you helped someone to 'branch out!"