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Casual dinner date suggestions

I have a few casual dinner dates coming up on the radar, and while I'm told I'm a good cook, I get insecure when cooking for other people. I also don't like going over the top and looking like I'm trying to impress with something too pretentious or cliché - no pork belly cupcake foam or surf and turf, thanks. What suggestions do you have for something that's hard to screw up while talking to your guest, but also delicious and moderately impressive?

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  1. Well, first of all, if you're going to invite someone on 1) a date and 2) offering to cook dinner on that date, you will have to go do a little bit of "wow" since you've set expectatiosn that you can cook.

    That said, it's a date so no big bold flavors (goodbye bagna cauda and stinky tofu), keep sauces to a minimum, no long pasta and nothing that you eat with your hands. No casseroles.

    It's winter so you can consider starting off with a potage or doing some quick meze that you've already prepped ahead. Then the main, then cheese and whatever dessert you want to do.

    Pork belly is nice for a main; you can do the prep ahead of time before pressing and slicing. Then all you need is to prep your sides and reheat the belly. Or a fish en papillote (use something like sablefish so that you don't worry about overcooking).

      1. Chicken Francese is fairly easy. And if you want to dumb it down, you could just do some lemon, butter and capers and pass on the wine.

        Bacon wrapped filet mignon with mashed potatoes and a veggie.

        One of my favorite home meals that isn't fancy, but bursting with flavor is chick peas cooked with chorizo, with a grilled chicken cutlet seasoned with smoked paprika.

        And don't underestimate a whole roasted chicken....who doesn't like it. Throw some lemons inside and make some type of grain, like orzo or couscous.

        And if you want to impress and do something easy, do some sort of fish in a bag. Simple, but the presentation is impressive.

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        1. If you live somewhere that is cold right now, I don't think you can beat a stew or braise with interesting veg. Add some mashed potatoes and you have comfort food too which is always nice.

          1. I make a braise-roasted chicken with root vegetables that's pretty goofproof but very delicious, but homey and comforting. I like the idea of starting off with a great soup - one of my favorites is Carrot Ginger Soup with Candied Walnuts. Again, very simple but tastes impressive without being pretentious. And you can't go wrong by finishing off with Cheesecake Brownies... Yum.