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Another Menu to Impress... the B-I-P

Hello to all... I know this question has been posed in a zillion ways, but hopefully it won't offend...
I'm having the B-I-P (boy-in-progress... not boyfriend, but not seeing others... my term) over for dinner on Tuesday. I want to impress, no, knock his socks off. He loves food and cooking, but I feel like given his restaurant choices thus far, that I can blow what he conceives of as good food away.

Some info... He's British, unfortunately allergic to shellfish (my favorite), doesn't have too many dislikes... My allergies I will deal with altering for myself.

I had originally planned on making Tikka Masala... Chicken for him, and either chicken or veggie for me. If I go this route, I'm not sure what I want to make to go with it. Was thinking about some form of Saag... and probably rice... Any suggestions for nice complimentary menus?

My other thought was not to go *all out* on the first meal. Something simple but classic instead. Then I can go more complex next time, and not set the bar too high. :) Roasted chicken, probably over roasted veggies and potatoes. Maybe a nice salad and a homemade loaf of bread? The bread and potatoes sound like too much starch, but I know he's a meat and potatoes guy.

I'm usually not indecisive like this when cooking for boys. My mind seems to keep going blank when I try to access my arsenal of proven dishes. Nothing I normally make sounds good enough to me. I want to make a meal that I feel good about, as I don't want to impart nerves to the food. He'll surely be polite, whatever I serve, but I want to make him go ohmygod-this-is-brilliant, and to still be thinking of the meal days later...

Help me curl his... taste buds! TIA!

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  1. Probably not what you are looking for, but Spaghetti and meatballs are always a winner with the men folk I know. Add a really nice green salad with some heirloom tomatoes and you are good to go. You could do a nice berry panna cotta for desert.

    1. I think the Tikka Masala sounds perfect. Since he's British that might even be classified as a comfort food. I would make it all chicken so the two of you are sharing the same meal and you can have a couple different chutnies on the side with varying heat levels. And maybe find some Indian beer?

      2 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        I love Tikka Masala. I serve it with Long Grain Rice, Cucumber, Tomato and Red Onion Raita, and Naan that I heat up in the frying pan with butter and oil. Then keep warm in the oven. If you want a starter Fatoosh Salad is always enjoyed.

        1. re: escondido123

          This boy agrees wholeheartedly. Don't care if it's chicken or tofu, but I want to be eating the same thing you're eating.

        2. if you're confident of the execution, go for it! make one dish that you both can eat, however, not 2 versions of the same thing. less work and seems more polite.

          i can't advise much on that tiki masala menu, since i never eat, nor cook, indian food.

          in general, don't make anything too heavy, or too saucy. one can spoil ardor with a food coma and the other is potentially too messy! shirt-spills can be embarrassing for some, lol.

          1. If you and he love Indian food, I'd go for Badam Pullao with edible silver leaf (have a good recipe, if you need it), to which you could add Tandoori chicken, and a raita. Rasgullas or gulab jamon for dessert.

            7 Replies
            1. re: pine time

              would love to see your recipe!

              1. re: Emme

                I'm admittedly paranoid, but I usually steer clear of trying out recipes for the first time on guests, unless we're super-close already. I'd stick with something you're already comfortable making. That's just me though.

                1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                  Generally I agree with 8" pestle, but occasionally I've broken that rule with great success. Sorry for the delay, but here's my version of the badam pullao:

                  1/2 c ghee or clarified butter

                  2-4 ozs blanched or toasted almonds

                  1/4 c fresh coconut, finely chopped

                  3/4 c pistachios

                  1/4 c raisins, optional

                  1" piece gingeroot, grated

                  1 bay leaf

                  6 crushed cardamoms

                  4 whole cloves

                  1/4 tsp saffron threads, soaked in 1 Tbl warm milk

                  1 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

                  3/4 tsp ground mace

                  2 jalapenos, diced

                  2 1/2 Tbls cilantro, finely chopped

                  2 c basmati rice, washed & drained

                  2 tsp salt

                  2 tsp sugar

                  3 c thin coconut milk

                  Heat ghee, fry almonds, coconut, pistachios for 1 min. Add raisins, if using, ginger, bay, cardamom, clove, saffron & milk, nutmeg, mace, jalapeno & cilantro. Cook & stir about 1 min. Add rice, salt, sugar, coconut milk; boil 3-4 min. cover & simmer on very low about 20 min. Remove from heat, keep covered for 10 more min. Fluff. Garnish as desired (for company, I often use silver leaf for garnish; can purchase online or at a good Indian store.)

                  1. re: pine time

                    oh man! i've got all those ingredients except the coconut milk and mace on hand. definitely going to try this to impress myself and MY honey!

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      Let me know how yours turns out. I think fresh coconut is imperative--tried it once with the packaged kind, and just wasn't the same.

                      1. re: pine time

                        What is "thin" coconut milk? Is that in opposition to coconut cream?

                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                          2 options ( I always use fresh coconut, but the 2nd one is for canned):
                          1. 1 cup of freshly grated or chopped coconut, 1 c of boiling water. Boil, remove from heat. Let stand about 1/2 hr, put in blender. Strain, use.
                          2. 1 oz coconut cream in 1 c of boiling water.

            2. Beef Wellington is surprisingly easy to make and makes a great impression. Serve w/ garlic mashed potatoes and a salad or green veg. Always goes over big when I make it for a dinner party.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sherriberry

                Its the first thing I ever made the DH and its now an occasional anniversary dinner. It's a winner every time. I did a brandy cream sauce to go with it this past time and it was wonderful!

              2. thanks for all the help so far!

                to clarify... i don't eat red meat or pork (but am happy to cook it... however for tuesday i'd rather have something we both eat).

                if i make tikka masala with chicken, i may also add some eggplant, in case i'm not in the mood myself for chicken (i'm on a med right now that is changing my taste buds, and making me a bit fickle).

                i'm much more confident with a whole bloody chicken, but i don't want to underwhelm either.

                dessert i have covered either way... cookies of one ilk or another. i have a new one under development that has garam masala, so i figure it's a nice tie in :)

                to drink... well, i found out he loves dirty martinis, and apparently can't get good ones in London... so i'm trying to perfect my technique... swirl with vermouth, dump it out. shake the vodka with ice, but carefully not to bruise it (what the heck is bruising it?), then pour and make sure it has formed a thin layer of ice... add a splash of olive juice/brine and three olives on a toothpick :)

                ...still mulling, and would love any more input... i can't believe that i'm stressing about this!

                1 Reply
                1. i'm going to agree with 02putt about the cucumber raita, and like your idea of adding eggplant to your tikka masala. and if you're a bread maker, i hear that naan is actually pretty easy to make, and that would be totally impressive, wouldn't it?

                  as for the martini, maybe there's a way to macerate a spice, like cardamom maybe? in your gin or vodka to maybe give it a little indian flair? just riffing a bit..... love the idea of your garam masala cookies!

                  1. Let him make the martinis...tell him they sound like a great cocktail and you'd love to try his version...if he expects to be waited on better to find out now.

                    1. Tikka masala sounds lovely. I am from the side of the oind and would always expect naan with a curry. Naans are really easy to make. Some nice chutneys and maybe pilau rice. If you wanted a second dish Saag is great or a daal?

                      Your dessert cookies sound perfect

                      1. I would go with the roast chicken - granted I'm biased because my boy LOVES roast chicken and what you described is probably his desert island meal (if you make it a greek salad). Also, even though it's a simple dish there is something impressive about a lovely browned chicken fresh from the oven. And, at least in my experience, it's not something that singles tend to make for themselves so it's kind of a treat. Good luck! I'm sure he'll love whatever you make.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: corneygirl

                          if you go in this direction...i think stuffed cornish hens make a very impressive presentation and are as yummy as roast chik

                        2. My suggestion is meatloaf. I believe the love of meatloaf is hard-wired to the Y chromosome, and never met a meat-eating guy who does not love it. From what I have read on CH, it seems that meatloaf is not that well known in the U.K., so you could introduce him to something for which he may not have a basis of comparison. Chicken tikka masala, which I love, is the most popular dish among Brits, but can you make it as well as an Indian restaurant? I can't.

                          This and other meatloaf posts attest to the enthusiastic reception from men: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/722037

                          Although I think the best meatloaf is made with beef, you can make a very good one with ground turkey, keeping in mind that it is bland and needs more flavorings than beef does. I would use a packet of dry Lipton Onion Soup or Golden Onion Soup to two pounds of ground turkey, 2 large eggs, 1 T tomato paste, 2 slices of bread (torn up and mashed with a couple of tablespoons of milk), 2 minced garlic cloves, a large minced onion, 1/2 cup coleslaw, a shredded carrot, a shredded celery stalk, 1/2 cup minced bell pepper. The Lipton is salty, so you only need to add black pepper. Mix it up in a big bowl, form into a rectangular loaf, and either place in a two-part meat loaf pan or prick holes in tin foil, put the foil on a cake cooling rack set on a sheet pan or roasting pan and place the meat atop the foil. With the heel of your hand, press a lengthwise groove down the middle of the loaf and fill it with ketchup or chili sauce (the red kind in the bottle, sold alongside the ketchup, NOT the sriracha type). Lay a strip of turkey bacon on each side of the ketchup canal. Bake at 375 for 75 minutes. Deglaze the pan and thicken juices with a roux or cornstarch slurry. (A meat loaf pan has a perforated insert that is the same width and length as the outer pan but is 1/2" shallower, so the meat does not sit in the juices that drip out of it. The leftovers are great as cold or hot sandwiches, and don't forget that mashed potatoes are MADE for meatl

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: greygarious

                            Greygarious: Mr Pine can't stand meatloaf. He's from India, so maybe not having it as a child has something to do with it. Don't remember if the OP boyfriend is from India, but seems to like spicy food, so better 1st check if he'd like something like meatloaf. I love it, and make it for myself a few times a year; Mr Pine heartily disapproves.

                            1. re: pine time

                              my b/f is american and he also hates meatloaf. (as do i, so no menu conflict, ever, lol.)

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                i found out (much to my relief) that he detests meatloaf. :)

                            2. re: greygarious

                              Greygarious, thank you for posting your turkey meatloaf recipe! I saved it in my recipes files for when I am cooking for my daughter's family. My SIN and the two grandboys love meatloaf, meatballs and lasagna that I make and I am sure they will love a lighter version of the meatloaf. Very generous of you!

                            3. gonna do all my replies here :)

                              first thank you to everyone!

                              @eight_inch_pestle -- i tend to not like to make guinea pigs out of people i don't know well... esp those that i'd like to impress...

                              @hotoynoodle -- thank you for the info about the vodka! my friend is obviously a dope... i shall shake with decreased trepidation.

                              @mariacarmen - neat idea... depending which way i go, i'll consider it... though i think i want to try to impress with a straight up dirty martini

                              @escondido123 -- i don't think he can make em well himself, just said they're crap in London

                              @greygarious -- perhaps meatloaf another time, for him. i don't feel like it myself, don't love ground turkey, though i do have a good recipe of my own that also uses Lipton's.

                              last night, i was thinking i was gonna do Chicken in Tomato and Onion Gravy (Sahni), with Raita, Naan, and a Spinach something or other. however, due to work stuff tomorrow, along with a last minute doctor's appointment, and some friends leaving town on wednesday (who will want leftovers)``, i may "chicken" out for tomorrow night, and go with something i know i can whip out easily and consistently... i just threw some dough together for no-knead bread (i have sourdough starter too, but decided i want a nice crusty artisan loaf instead). i'm 75% sure i'm gonna roast a chicken. probably throw in some red potatoes, and a tray of veggies as well. for starters, i'm thinking possibly of a spinach, fennel and heirloom tomato salad with a nice homemade dressing (any great ones you love?), and a chilled creamy chipotle corn chowder. still thinking cookies for dessert, really out of sheer laziness. assuming there's another date, i'll do the indian spread next time, when i have the mental mindset to plan.

                              thanks again! i will report back :-)

                              1 Reply
                              1. My thoughts in this interesting thread are almost in violation of the Chow site rules, because, honestly, I think that certain factors about you and your relationship are at least as important as what you make. Have you suggested what you're thinking of making, or asked him whether he has special favorites or aversions (apart from shellfish)? I always get a bit spooked if anyone worries more about their foods than about whom they're with.

                                That said, I fully understand your desire to make the food great. Think simple? What's really fresh in the markets? (I remember one time when a woman visited my apartment and was about to swoon simply from eating one of the perfectly ripe peaches on my counter.) And if you want to make something with significant labor involved, I suggest that it say something about YOU and what you value most. (For me, that would be like making a lasagna from homemade pasta sheets and a favorite sauce recipe.)

                                1. OP reporting back... Time constraints trumped, and the meal went into hyper simplicity mode. However, despite what I consider a throw together, ridiculously simple meal, he was blown away.

                                  LOVED the dirty martini.
                                  LOVED!! the chipotle roasted corn soup -- i joked that i bought it and heated it up.. when we were eating, he said it was brilliant, then asked if i said it was TJ's... i said i made it. he was shocked and raved.
                                  LOVED!! the homemade boule. shocked again that it was homemade
                                  LOVED!! the roast chicken. though i goofed by using my thermometer and not cutting into it. i usually never do it that way. had to stick it back in the oven when he went to carve it. he was completely lovely about it. said it might take a few months, but he'd forgive me. when done, it was fall off the bone lovely. if i do say so myself.
                                  roasted veggies with fennel seed and bay leaf also a hit
                                  salad was the most meh part of the meal, but that's because i didn't really make one and just threw tomatoes and roasted fennel on top of fresh spinach.
                                  cookies and such for dessert.

                                  i told him it boded well for him that that meal impressed him. i'll be able to impress again if i take it to the next level :)

                                  thanks again hounds for all your help and advice.

                                  PS as i noted above, he detests meatloaf, so i'm really glad i didn't go that route, though perhaps a good for suggestion for many other men.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: Emme

                                    congrats! your meal sounds wonderful. I love it when Brits' say "brilliant!" - good thing he threw it around for your dinner! this looks like the beginning of a beautiful... foodie romance!

                                    1. re: Emme

                                      I'm glad it went so well and that he loved it - bodes well for future dates. It's such a fun and nervous thing to cook for a boy for the first time!

                                      1. re: Emme

                                        Glad your dinner went well. Can I get your recipe for the chipotle roasted corn soup if it's not too much trouble? It sounds great!

                                        1. re: dmjordan

                                          Sure! Made just enough for two servings...

                                          I took 4 corn cobs, shucked to kernels... like 3 - 3 1/2 cups... i nicked off maybe 1/4-1/2 cup and roasted em. also took the corn cobs, broke em in half and stuck em in a pot with over a cup of water, and simmered to make a "corn stock."
                                          in a deep saucepan, melt 2-3 tsp Earth Balance (feel free to use butter) til it stops foaming. add in 3 diced scallions (not the deep green top parts), 1/4 - 1/2 tsp chopped chile in adobo (i mince some pieces up and add a bit of the liquid... adjust to desired heat level), simmer for a minute. add unroasted corn, 3/4 cup of corn stock, 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, and some salt. cook for 10-15 until corn is tender but not mushy. puree in blender or with immersion or food processor, then run through a food mill. serve garnished with roasted corn and scallions.

                                          1. re: Emme

                                            Thanks so much. I'll be making it today!

                                            1. re: dmjordan

                                              hope you enjoy it! ...just wanted to add, though you may be inclined to skip the food milling step at the end, it really makes all the difference in the velvety texture.... try it the first time, and omit it next if you are so inclined... or not inclined :)

                                            2. re: Emme

                                              Was just looking at the 5 ears of corn I bought yesterday, and will have to try your soup! Could I grill vs. roast the corn?

                                              1. re: Barbara76137

                                                however you like. i only roast the garnish anyways...

                                          2. re: Emme

                                            I can't imagine a boy who wouldn't be impressed by that. (On a side note, people are always in awe when you make bread.)

                                            And meatloaf isn't really date food anyway. :)

                                          3. As he's British, you probably shouldnt give him Indian food. England has the best Indian food on the planet apart from India itself! Every street corner has a local Indian restaurant. Something simple and fresh from your local market would probably be better.

                                            1. Good job with the dinner. Sounds like BIP means, "I wish he was my boyfriend."

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                                thanks.. more so, "it looks like we're moving in that direction, but no labels yet." :)

                                                at dinner last night, he did however say how that meal has stuck in his mind and continues to resonate with him. nice chap.

                                              2. Emme, I'd be all over the roasted chicken/veg. idea. There's not a person alive who eats meat that doesn't love a nice, crisp amber/brown bird which you've let baste the vegies underneath. And I think you're right about the "all out." Save that approach for when the romantic quotient has been defined, because roast chicken says, "I care, and I want to feed you well" without shrieking, "I want to impress the F*** out of you!" It's like the never taking a date to a wedding thing; such events scare people off (male and female), and while I know your food would never scare him, too much effort just might. (Edit, 40 seconds later) Annnnnnnd I see that once again I am way tardy for the party. :) Sorry, Emme. Glad it all worked out.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                  that was my thought, but thanks for confirming. ironically, he was F***ing impressed, and even brought it up two days later :) i made him dinner again on saturday night before he went out of town. another simple meal of salmon croquettes, cauliflower soup, sourdough bread, brownies and homemade vanilla ice cream. all totally simple stuff, but he was completely thrilled. (he usually tends to do the cooking, as he likes to cook, and obviously hasn't had a woman take care of him in this way...)

                                                  i'm working on the next meal for this saturday night, when i'm introducing him to one of my closest couple friends... i may ask him what he'd like, as they'd eat anything. if i hadn't already served him chicken, i'd totally go that route. if he does request that, i'll be more than happy to oblige!

                                                  thanks again.

                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                    no worries at all... i had the same thoughts, don't want to seem like i worked *too* hard. it cracked me up when he brought up the meal two days later as still resonating with him. cute.

                                                    i did another dinner last saturday, as he was leaving for out of town sunday, and he was again blown away by another meal i'd consider simplistic - salmon croquettes (i will only eat mine :) ), herbed roasted cauliflower soup, sourdough bread, brownies and homemade vanilla ice cream. he loved it.

                                                    now i'm thinking about this coming saturday night, when my closest friends couple is coming over to dinner with him. if i hadn't made roast chicken that first night, i'd totally go that route, but... i think i'm gonna ask him what he'd like. that way, if he says chicken, i can just go that way. either way, i'm looking forward to introducing him to them.

                                                    thanks again mamachef for the kind advice!

                                                  2. Your idea sounds perfect. Chicken tikka and some saag. Throw in some aloo gobi and that rounds out indian food perfection for me. Would you consider trading in your BIP for me?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: joonjoon

                                                      haha, let me see how this pans out, but i will keep our culinary rapport in mind. :)