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in a funk...hosting a dinner friday night

my brain is fried...just got home from work...my husband and I are hosting a dinner...there will ONLY be the 4 of us...but I guess I'm thinking too much about the menu.

I won't get home til 6pm Friday and we've invited them over for 7:30.

One doesn't eat cheese, the other doesn't eat fish...

I was thinking of bbq'ing some filet mignon, a starchy side, some veggies and a salad...but is this too boring? what about a sauce for the filet? I know it doesn't really need one..

we'll be drinking some awesome red wine and finishing off w/muscato from napa valley.

I need to be able to prepare most of the menu tomorrow night...

please, any suggestions for a menu, etc.. would be sooo greatly appreciated.

I do want it to be a lovely dinner, but not over the top...no time for it.
thanks so much :)

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  1. assuming you're set on filet mignon (otherwise i'd suggest an easy but tasty roasted chicken a la barefoot contessa), you might make polenta the night before then slice and grill friday night, as a hearty accompaniment, now that the weather is cooling down. you could also do some couscous, which is obviously very easy since it's a 5 minute cooking process.

    as long as you're grilling, maybe marinate (starting tomorrow or friday morning) some asparagus in a balsamic marinade, then grill off with the meat.

    you could do a whole grilling theme, and grill off some pineapple and peaches with some basil for dessert, served with either vanilla ice cream, creme anglaise, or creme fraiche...

    1. I think that is charming that you are inviting people for dinner. Your menu doesn't sound boring to me, just high quality food simply prepared. You want to be relaxed when they arrive, not stressed. Mood is important too. Plus if you don't go too elaborate, they might reciprocate and invite you for dinner soon. However if you set the bar too high, they might feel they have to match you and just not want to go to all that bother.

      1. The filet mignon absolutly needs a sauce. Filet is the most tender but also the most flavorless cut of beef you can buy. Why not go for a more flavorful cut that requires a little more chewing like a strip, hanger, or tritip. If you must use tenderloin try a porterhouse that way you get the tender filet on one side and the flavorful strip on the other.
        If you want to go barbeque I say make your own bbq sauce tomorrow. Then in the morning of the dinner throw the bbq sauce you made in the crock pot with some shank (makes a bold statement on the plate with the bone) or shoulder, some spices, vegies, and water to cover. When you get home the meat will be braised and the sauce will be full of flavor. Pair this with spoonbread, polenta, grits and a green like kale, collards, or rabe. Sometimes traditional is as fancy as you need if you do it right.
        If you want to go more classic french then forget the bbq. Make a sauce by searing your steaks in a pan. Add some diced onions or shallots deglaze with the wine you plan to drink (the easiest way to pair is to use the wine in the food). You can add beef or veal stock and herbs and spices (thyme, bay, peppercorns, parsley). Reduce. (add cream if you want and reduce more) then finish by straining and whisking in a few pats of butter. Other quick french sauces that would work well Beurre Rouge and Hollandaise.
        Don't forget pork, chicken, quail, cornish game hen, duck breast, veal and lamb. All viable options. Heck veal scallopini (your butcher will pound or slice it thin for you) can be cooked and on the table in a minute and a half.
        If you just want some inspiration think seasonally apples, pears, dried fruit, squash, pumpkin, pepitas. If it is local and in season people will almost always be impressed.

        1. Menu sounds great. I just blogged a recipe for roasted squash and mushrooms for which you canslice the squash the day before and day of just slice mushrooms, layer them on a baking sheet, lay squash on top and it'sin the oven cooking while you are barbecuing steaks. You can use a variety of mushrooms for interest and it's great colour on the plate. Would go beautifully with potatoes or with the polenta suggested.


          1. Your menu doesn't sound boring. I think steak on the grill is great. Throw some nice potatoes in to bake at 450 degrees, until they are nice and crusty will do nicely. Roasting carrots or asparagus, salad and having a crusty bread makes a great dinner.

            Also, it is easy to prepare and lets you sit down and relax after a long day at work too!

            I've learned a lot over the years and enjoying one's own dinner parties is top on my list now. Have fun!

            1. Instead of a sauce, how about a compound butter? You can prepare it the night before and all you have to do is serve a pat on top of each steak. My favorite is garlic and anchovies, mashed into salt, and stirred into the butter with a bit of lemon - if you keep the anchovy subtle, your non-fish eating friend probably won't even know! But an herb butter, or blue cheese, would be nice, too.

              I hate to disagree with recommendations about the asparagus, but it's just not the right time of year. Last week, I made a glazed brussels sprouts and cipollini onion dish that was amazing. I just melted a few tablespoons of butter, stirred in some sugar and a glug of balsamic, and then browned the (halved) sprouts and onions in that mixture on the stove for about ten minutes. I then popped them in the oven for probably another 15 minutes or so, and they were INCREDIBLE. That would be seasonal and complementary to your steaks.

              As someone who's not a huge potato fan, I do like a rice pilaf or, as some people mentioned, a polenta. But polenta can pool a bit too much, I think, for a steak - it's better with something braised. A simple mashed root vegetable, with taters, sweet potatoes, turnips, etc., would go nicely with everything else, would be fast and easy, and is a bit more interesting than plain taters. Stir in some caramelized shallts at the end for a bit more fun.

              And for salad, one of my favorite salads is a bit of a surprise for people. Cube up manchego cheese and toss it in a 2-1 ratio of apples (more of the apples than cheese, I should say) that have been peeled and cubed into the same size. Dress them with salt, pepper, chives, cider vinegar and oil, and serve. It's deceptively delicious and gives people a giggle.

              Sorry to write a book! Good luck!

              1 Reply
              1. re: katecm

                Second the compound butter. I like the classic "hotel butter" for filets or just pick 1-2 of your fav herbs and an acid (lemon, vinegar, whatever). I put mine in the freezer rather than the fridge when I'm using it on freshly grilled steaks.

                Do as much on the grill as possible. How about throwing some potato, fall veg and shallots in a foil packet and grilling your sides as well? Could be topped with the same compound butter as the steaks, if you like. A Wedge salad with really good bacon & bleu cheese is classic steakhouse fare & would only take a minute to assemble if you cook the bacon ahead of time.

              2. Yikes! Tomorrow night! No sense suggesting something you can cook well ahead and that tastes better warmed up than it does newly made. Rushing home from work on a Friday night and having to cook is bad enough for just the two of you. Ah, well. What about something that's fun and everyone gets involved in? I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy a fun taco buffet. If you have a food processor to do the chopping and grating for you, it isn't as much work as having to use a chef's knife. Or you can always get the guests involved... "How about you dice the tomatoes, you chiffonade the lettuce, you grate the cheese, and I'll take care of the shells and filling.''

                Then fondues are making a come-back. Got a fondu pot?

                It's really too bad one guest doesn't do fish. I did linguine with scallops for lunch yesterday that takes about four minutes, once the pasta is boiled. Olive oil, butter, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley and scallops. Done!

                Well, you've already got the fillets, I assume, so assuming you're pan broiling the steaks (sear in hot skillet, move to oven to cook to desired doneness), then a really easy but good sauce is to saute some sliced and well cleaned leeks in the pan after you remove the steaks, when soft add a dash of white vermouth and a little beef or chicken stock. Reduce quickly, seaon to taste, and finish with a generous pat of butter with the pan off the flame. You can also use an herb butter in the sauce.

                Unless you know that your guests or SO have voracious appetites, I think I'd go for a really easy soup with a crusty artisan bread for the first course. Or stop at a Thai restaurant on your way home and pick up a quart or two of your favorite soup. I love lemon grass/coconut. But any nice soup will work just fine. Then I would serve the steaks with a tossed salad (on the same dinner plate) and continue the artisan bread. Leaves room for as hearty or light a dessert as you'd like. Cheese cake with fresh raspberries. Rich chocolate (molten or not) cake. Hey, I once did great huge warm and chewy chocolate chip cookies with a glass of milk for dessert and people loved it! So unexpected, but so good!

                After a day at work, the key is to make it as easy on you as possible. Enjoy!

                1. You could have a mushrooms sauce, just saute some mushrooms, shallots and little garlic de.glaze with red wine , you can add a beef bouillon cube and thicken it up with some beurre manier. or you could simply have some whipped horseradish [ whipped cream and horseradish.] I think your menu sound delicious

                  1. Your menu sounds great. The most important thing is that you relax and have a good time. I'd make a mushroom sauce for the steaks, and if you make baked potatoes or rice for the starch, it could be used on that too. Glazed baby carrots would be an easy veggie (simmer baby carrots in butter & honey until tender and glazed). Fresh green salad (top with some sliced almonds and fresh or dried fruit, if you want something more elaborate) and you're done. Good luck and have a good time.

                    1. You could make the classic steakhouse meal -- Caesar salad, grilled steak, baked potato, and creamed spinach. The Caesar dressing and spinach can be made in advance. Dessert can be as simple as ice cream topped with creme de menthe or Kahlua, and a decadent chocolate truffle (or two) (or three!)

                      1. The filet sounds wonderful. Even though it's not anything new and exciting it always makes for a lovely, thoughtful meal that's well appreciated.

                        I usually make a red wine peppercorn sauce for tenderloin, but to save time tomorrow night I'd go with the suggestion to make your own herb butter. If you really want them to think you care you can use a rose candy mold or other candy mold to shape the butter into individual servings.

                        For a starchy side I'd go with scalloped potatoes, roasted root vegetables, or other dish that you could prepare tonight and would cook in the oven without needing any attention tomorrow night.

                        For the salad, use a bag salad for convenience, but upgrade to better dressing and additions. Squeezing a lemon over the salad before you toss seems to impress people for some reason. A harvest salad would work well. Use a mixture of your favorites; dried cherries or cranberries, dried or fresh pears, pistachios or slivered almonds, sesame sticks or croutons and a balsamic dressing on dark mixed greens.

                        I'd take Kate's idea on the brussel sprouts. I had some asparagus last week that tanked. It's hard to find a good sprout that's been lovingly prepared. I think we can all appreciate a brussel sprout that hasn't been boiled to death (sorry Mom). It's easily a showpiece and they don't take very long to cook.

                        Fresh bread! No one cares if you made it, it's soft, it smells good and it's the sign of a complete meal. Grab some from your favorite bakery on the way home.

                        For dessert I'd make a blueberry or peach crumble. Use frozen fruit (this is why I specify the fruit). There aren't very many ingredients, it's not supposed to look perfect, it smells great cooking, and anything warm and gooey with ice cream on top is a winner :)

                        1. So many awesome posts from chowhounds who care. Be sure to let us know what you decided coco puff and how it all turned out.