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Easy meat recipes for vegetarian to entertain with

Since I don't cook a lot of meat (I cook fish) and the one time I tried to cook chicken it was a failure beyond failures (baby chicken that would not turn white from pink and appeared raw while my husband ate it despite being in the oven forever), I need help in getting a dish together for my in laws. I need a recipe where you handle the meat very little and it comes out great. A let-the-ingredients-speak-for-itself type of recipe. I know this will probably cost me kindly, as they do.

MIL: Favorites are italian, chicken and (maybe) pork (as in, pork chops), simple food. Likes sweet potatoes, anything parmigiana. Probably likes cooked basil more than fresh type of gal. Dislikes: things that could be seen as exotic, new flavors, any asian (indian, thai, chinese could fly if very very mild). Doesn't like potatoes, mashed or otherwise.

FIL: Health nut, loves fish, will eat anything, with emphasis on health and fresh foods. He definitely will eat cheese, and seems to enjoy it, but he often speaks of how it's the epitome of bad health, clogging arteries, etc.

I've seen roasts on tv where they take the meat, tie it up, sear it, bake it, and slice. Something like that where I don't actually have to handle the meat too much would be great- then just need to come up with a good, crunchy fresh salad counterpart for myself and FIL. Bonus points for any menu with fish AND meat that isn't too fussy.

Thanks so much! I thought I'd do a trial run today if I get any good ideas. I apologize if this has been asked before, did a search and could not find.

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  1. Are you sure you want to do meat? I mean, you came into the family, I assume, as a vegetarian, and they have embraced you as DIL. Do fish, since you're comfortable with that, or eggplant Parmesan. I think it's very caring of you to want to make something that takes their tastes into account, but just cook them a wow vegetarian meal because it's who you are.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nemo

      That's my thought as well. What's wrong with a vegetable lasagne, for example? I'm a meat eater but I would never expect a vegetarian friend or family member to feel obliged to cook meat for me.

    2. I'm vegetarian, and my wife isn't, but she almost never cooks meat. One of her first forays into cooking meat was Thomas Keller's roast chicken method (lots of videos on youtube; the one from No Reservations is probably the simplest). You can get away without trussing it, but there still will be some potentially gross parts about prepping it. Anyway, she's found this method pretty bulletproof.

      1. Tenderloin of pork. Marinate it with olive oil, chopped rosemary, garlic, s&p. Wipe off marinade, pan sear and then put into 375 oven until temp reaches 145--instant read thermometer is best for this. Let rest ten minutes and then slice. Some might say taking it out at 145 will make it too well done but I'll bet MIL would leave the table if there was a hint of pink. Make a butternut squash risotto as the side and that can work for everyone.

        5 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          I like this suggestion too, and coming from a carnivore that runs at the sight of pink in pork I remove mine at 160 and let it rest for about 10 minutes. The temperature will peak at about 165 and you will still have a very moist and tender piece of pork. I like to baste mine every 15 minutes if I'm using a recipe that has more moisture. I'd check the temp at about 40 to 45 minutes.

          1. re: lilgi

            I'm thinking of one of those small, thin tenderloins not a loin of pork...my tenderloin would be hard and dry in 45 minutes. I picked it for this woman because it doesn't look like an animal, really needs almost no prep and doesn't need extensive carving.

            1. re: escondido123

              Got it, but I make the small tenderloins this way as well, so the difference here is that I've always made a couple tied together, but never have I had a problem with them being dry, it's cooked through but still moist.

              For the op if your tenderloin comes with string then you have 2 pieces there and the timing I posted is okay but much less for only one piece and Escondido is right you will have to check much sooner. I'd still go by the temp that I use, it will still be moist and tender but cooked through.

          2. re: escondido123

            escondido123, That sounds great! Just what I was looking for. I can do a great butternut squash risotto actually! Thanks! The thermometer is definitely something I need to get for piece of mind. Add some greens and done.

            1. Braised chicken thighs are really easy, just buy the thighs, brown them, add flavor components and a little liquid, then simmer a while until cooked through. It is possible to overcook braises, but I think you get a bit more leeway than with roasts, I do mine at a slow simmer for 45 min-an hour until the chicken is falling off the bone (or close to it). Here's an example that seems easy and Italian-ish for your MIL: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              1. if you insist on cooking something with meat, Ellie Krieger's Jambalaya with Shrimp & Ham would work - meat *and* seafood, nothing to prep that might make you squeamish, healthful for your FIL, and nary a potato in sight.

                another meat option would be Chicken Cacciatore served with polenta - you can buy pre-cut chicken pieces so you spare yourself the butchering.

                personally i think you should prepare something you'll actually EAT. in that realm...
                - seafood: cioppino or bouillabaisse
                - vegetarian: polenta with a hearty wild mushroom ragout, or eggplant rollatini

                9 Replies
                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Thanks everyone for the comments. I hear what you are saying about cooking what I like, but the reality is my MIL is quite picky- Her limited diet is a source of a bit of aggravation between MIL and FIL. Plus, I would feel bad trying to teach someone a lesson about vegetables over dinner or to have her hungry at my home!!

                  The shrimp and ham would be too exotic for her, eggplant parmagiana is what she always makes for me, and she truly won't touch seafood, unless its fried. Don't want to serve a fried dinner, though it would be good, I'm sure. She doesn't care for mushrooms... Its a tough one! A roasted chicken is something I wish I could do, but I've come to terms with the fact that I just cant handle the chicken.

                  The pork I think will be fine, just tie it up , sear with tongs and be done. Who doesn't like rosemary, right?

                  So, how would I ask for the tenderloin at butcher? If serving 5?

                  1. re: arugala

                    A serving of meat should be 4 (small) to 6 (more generous) ounces. If your husband will take care of any leftover pork, I'd recommend 2 lbs of pork for 5 meat eaters.

                    1. re: babette feasts

                      I don't know if I've ever been able to get tenderloins large enough to make a full 3 1/2 pounds (I think closer to 3, at most 3 1/4) but she should have enough with other sides. With 4 of us (when I'm not cooking for more), we always had a small portion left over after generous servings, even with my older son inhaling it.

                        1. re: babette feasts

                          I'm used to cooking more that's why I mentioned it. I thought 2 pounds was a bit skimpy and was being polite. I'm sure you can get by with less if needed.

                          1. re: lilgi

                            Thank you for clarifying.

                            How many ounces do you allow per serving? 3-1/2 lbs for 5 people would be 11 ounces each. That's a lot of pork!

                            1. re: babette feasts

                              Theoretically it may seem so, but it cooks down a bit after juices get released and when you have considerably less pork it cooks down to nothing (imo). But I always have some leftover with the amount that I make (plus one that eats a ton of it). So in essence 3 1/4 is very comfortable for us and less would be just enough. But in any case this also explains why I'm comfortable checking temps at 40 minutes because I consistently get the same size tenderloins wrapped from my butcher, never any larger (or smaller for that matter). Italians almost always cook more food in general :)

                              1. re: lilgi

                                I see. I guess I was figuring tenderloin is pretty lean and you wouldn't lose much. But you obviously cook more of them than I do!

                    2. re: arugala

                      You can get two of the smaller tenderloins, spread garlic, rosemary, S&P between them and then tie the two together any way you want since you will cut away the twine afterwards. Just wrap it around, knot and cut then move on, maybe half a dozen ties in total should do it. When the pork is done, just cut away....I use scissors.

                  2. One vegetarian to another:

                    I refuse to allow meat into my home, that is a personal choice that I have made. It just isn't something that I can personally deal with. I fully accept that you have made a different choice in order to please your inlaws, but, it's just not something that I could do even if I had inlaws that i actually liked!

                    If you are comfortable with this being in your home then why not buy a few things pre-made so that you don't need to deal with them. I see those fully cooked rotisserie chickens at a lot of places and there are certainly pre-done dinners under glass at the grocery stores. If you see the need to have meat save yourself some grief and buy a part of the meal that is done and just needs to be reheated for example and make the rest yourself.

                    Also, does your MIL of FIL like to cook? Maybe they can make something while there and you can make something to go with it for everyone.

                    Also, do you have a grill? Could you buy some items that are grill ready that could go from packaging to grill that one of the others around could handle while you do other foods to go with?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Allice98

                      I agree with this post. When I'm dining at the home of a vegetarian friend, I expect we'll have a vegetarian meal. I know family can be more complicated, though (for lots of reasons...), but maybe you can find a compromise of some sort. Undercooked or improperly prepared meat can be a health hazard, and if you don't ever cook meat otherwise, you might not know how to cook it safely without overcooking it. If one of your in-laws would be willing to cook, make it clear you're glad to pay for ingredients. Otherwise, what about getting prepared chicken or pork, either from a grocery store or restaurant, then making a variety of healthy and seasonal sides? Maybe roast some sweet potatoes or some kind of fall/winter squash. A vegetable risotto could be a hearty side dish for the in-laws while still being enough to serve as a main dish for you.

                    2. This recipe is a winner. I actually won 1st runner up in a local live cooking contest with it. It might be the answer you need: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (I think it will appeal to mil and fil). You can serve it with a salad, wine and be done.
                      Olive oil to coat cookie sheet and vegetables
                      2 small Japanese eggplants, sliced thinly in circles
                      4 small zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise
                      1/2 pound portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
                      15 lasagna noodles, cooked following box directions
                      32 ounces ricotta cheese
                      1 egg, beaten
                      1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
                      1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
                      1/3 cup of heavy cream
                      52 ounces jarred or homemade marinara sauce
                      3 red peppers, roasted, chopped and charred skin scrapped away
                      3 cups of mozzarella cheese, shredded
                      5 cloves of chopped garlic

                      Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place foil on a large cookie sheet and apply a thin coat of olive oil to prevent sticking. Layer eggplant slices, zucchini strips and mushrooms onto the sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil, oregano and salt. Keep the vegetables in their own groups, do not mix. Cook for 25 minutes or until soft and golden brown.
                      While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the noodles.

                      Now make the cheese mixture. In a food processor, place ricotta cheese, 1 egg, parsley, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, chopped garlic cloves, and heavy cream, mix until smooth.

                      Now prepare the lasagna. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch-by-2-inch lasagna pan with cooking oil. Then pour 2 cups of sauce into lasagna pan and spread.
                      Use 3 noodles to cover bottom of pan and dollop ricotta mixture over noodles.
                      Place roasted peppers over the cheese and sprinkle with mozzarella.

                      Take 3 more noodles, cover the layer, then dollop ricotta over it. Sprinkle mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese. Make the third layer: top with 3 more noodles, ricotta cheese, zucchini strips and mozzarella cheese. For the fifth layer, top with 3 more noodles, dollop ricotta cheese, fan eggplant circles over cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
                      For the final layer, top with 3 more noodles, pour remaining sauce over top, sprinkle remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
                      Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

                      Yield: 6 servings.

                      1. Fish en papillote is very easy recipe to pull off, and requires very little contact with the meat. Lay a portion of fish on a bed of thinly sliced veggies (onion, peppers, fennel, leeks, shallot, carrots are all good here). For a nice flair, you should use parchment, but if need be, you can use foil. Make one pouch for each diner, place on a sheet pan, and bake in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes. The fish will be ready when the packets puff up. If you use parchment, you can put the entire packet on the plate, and have each diner cut open their own. The first whiff of steam is wonderful.

                        1. Don't get me wrong. I see no reason to serve meat at a meal and a good half of ours have little or none. I was just trying to find an easy way for the OP to make her MIL happy based upon what the MIL liked and didn't like.

                          1. You are a very nice person to do this for your in laws and definitely going above and beyond the call of duty. I would be purchasing a rotessiree chicken and then making all vegetarian dishes to go with.

                            I hope you find something good and easy for you to cook, and that they appreciate it, and you have a lovely time.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Matahari22

                              I obviously didn't clarify enough- I cook AND eat fish. I don't eat pork, beef, chicken, turkey etc. In other words, I'm not a vegetarian, but it's easiest to describe my diet that way (the majority of people consider it vegetarian anyway, even though its not). Though I eat vegetarian 90% of the time, I'm technically a "pescatarian"... but I find that term so obnoxious I just can't use it!

                              I'm probably understating just how picky my MIL's taste are, but I won't elaborate!

                              The veggie lasagna recipe is a good one (I like the roasted peppers), though I'm trying to stay away from pasta as a center of my meals. The main reason it wouldn't work though, is that I stink at making veggie lasagna except in very small portions for some reason. Whenever I do a big tray of it, I'm unhappy with the results, despite it being an objectively easy dish. Just gets all mush.

                              Thanks everyone.

                              1. re: arugala

                                Cooking for an unadventurous MIL and trying to please her is hell. I've given up on trying to please mine (and I've only been married a year!) because to me, her opinions on food are crap and therefore invalid to me. That said, I always try to make her feel catered to.

                            2. My husband married into my beefless home (I eat fish and birds) and once a year I make a brisket for him and a large group.

                              Get a smallish brisket (I make 9 pounds). Preheat oven to 325. Slice some onions into a roasting pan. Salt and pepper. Sear the meat in a large skillet and transfer into the roasting pan. Deglaze with red wine. Add more wine, pureed tomatoes (or paste), some brown sugar and cider vinegar. Pour over meat. Add enough more wine til the meat is covered. Cover with foil. Bake 3 hours. Let cool. Let meat-eating husband slice brisket and place back into liquid. (Touching the raw meat is a little icky to me...but cooked is actually worse...) Cover and refrigerate overnight. Reheat. Send in-laws home with lots for sandwich fixins. (Or give to meat eating husband for his lunches.) I am told this is simply awesome.

                              Oh, and make sure hubby knows to cut the meat the right way against (?) the grain or it will be stringy and awful. And you could probably skip the searing step without too much downside if you don't want that much hands-on.

                              All your meat cooking is done the day before, so use the evening they are there to cook something that you will like!

                              1. If you're still considering non-meat options (though pork tenderloin is an easy, little handling, idea, liked that one) .. . . . . my recommendation would have been for braised chicken thighs (brown thighs, add red pepper, tomatoes, olives - cook in 400 oven for 40 minutes - very little handling and very yummy, had it last night in fact)

                                I find vegetable pot pies to be a VERY meat eater friendly main dish. it seems very substantial to meat eaters (which is a typical complaint of meat eaters when eating vegetarian meals). I have served it many times when I have had vegetarian diners and no one notices there is no meat.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: thimes

                                  I was curious when you wrote that there was very little handling on chicken thighs. When I get them I not only remove the skin, but also get rid of the fat hanging around on the outside and though I am obviously not a vegetarian, I have to admit it always reminds me that I am eating an animal.

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    yeah sometimes that can happen - I brown with the skin on, so don't take that off. Recently I've been buying Bell Evans chicken thighs in their cryovac container and they don't really have any fat that needs to be trimmed. So I guess it depends where you are buying your thighs.

                                    1. re: thimes

                                      I don't do any extra prep to my chicken thighs either, just dry them off and brown. If there is extra fat it just renders out.

                                      It seems like my store has more options for skinless thighs than skin-on, so when I buy skin-on its because I want the skin.

                                      1. re: babette feasts

                                        I almost always buy a whole chicken which we then butcher into a breast/wings for roasting, legs/thighs for a second meal, and the rest for stock for risotto or soup. Usually only cooking for two.

                                2. Personally, and if it were me and I did not like to handle raw meat and your MIL does appear to like pork, I would go to the deli and have them cut a maybe 1/4" slice of their best ham, heat it up, and serve one of the following sauces to go with it. Of course, you would probably want to adjust the recipes for amount. I think it is very admirable of you to go this extra mile for your MIL.

                                  Carrie's Ham Sauce

                                  Without question, it would be what my family calls *Carrie's Ham Sauce.* My mother's best friend made the most wonderful sauce ever, which we always served whenever the menu included ham. Mom would ask Carrie for her recipe but instead, a day or two later, Carrie would arrive at the front door with a quart jar of her famous sauce. Well, years and years (decades, really) pass, and Carrie is on her death bed in the hospital. She sends her husband to fetch her recipe box and, finally, gives my mother her recipe, which follows. Pilotgirl210@chowhound

                                  1 cup apple cider vinegar

                                  1 cup sugar

                                  1 large egg

                                  Pinch salt

                                  1 heaping tablespoon dried mustard

                                  Place all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan, mix well and bring to a rolling boil. Boil about 10 minutes. Run the sauce through a strainer and serve either hot or cold.

                                  This stuff is beyond yummy.

                                  Raisin Sauce for Pork Roast

                                  This sauce is served warm, in the same manner that a gravy would be, over the meat. Makes 1 1/2 cups, for a roast large enough to serve 10.

                                  1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

                                  1/4 cup water

                                  1/2 cup golden raisins

                                  2 tablespoons vinegar

                                  1 tablespoon butter

                                  3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

                                  1/4 teaspoon salt

                                  1/8 teaspoon black pepper

                                  1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

                                  1/8 teaspoon ground mace

                                  1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce

                                  In a small saucepan over medium low heat, combine all ingredients, stirring from time to time, until cranberry sauce is melted; increase heat for a minute or so just before serving.

                                  (Notes: This sauce can be made ahead of time, and slowly reheated just before serving. And, although this doesn't become solid in the freezer, it can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for two or three months)

                                  Thyme Sauce for Ham

                                  Sauté half an onion (finely chopped) in a skillet in a little butter until limp, then stirring in the leaves from about 3 sprigs of thyme, 1/2 a bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Then pour in a cup of chicken broth and 1/3 cup good-quality apple cider. Bring to a boil and let it reduce 3-5 minutes or until it has a syrupy consistency. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in a teaspoon of mustard; pour the sauce over slices of ham.

                                  (It's not as sweet as most "glaze"-type treatments, and the flavors are compatible but also a little bit unusual.)

                                  1. Ossobuco is one of the greatest tasting yet least involved meat dishes you can cook. After a quick browning the meat spends the rest of the time over low heat without need for further involvement from you.


                                    There is nothing quite like fall-off-the-bone veal shank.

                                    Serve over rissotto or polenta.

                                    1. This is the easiest dish I know how to make. Get some meaty country-style pork ribs (boneless are easiest to handle). Use a sharp knife and make some slits on the top of each piece, then place them in a baking dish. Slice up a few cloves of fresh garlic and put a piece in each slit. Then pour your favorite BBQ sauce - homemade or not - all over the top of the ribs. Sprinkle some S&P over the top and into the oven it goes, 350 for about an hour. You might want to baste the ribs once or twice. That's it. I usually serve this with orzo with sauteed onions and peppers, a vegetable and a green salad. It's not exactly fine cuisine, but really good comfort food. The ribs are reasonably healthy as there isn't any added fat.

                                      I'm actually making this exact meal next week when I visit my son. I haven't cooked in his kitchen yet and want a foolproof meal for my first time there (and we're having guests over too).

                                      1. giving this more thought. Chicken or veal picata? You don't have to touch a thing, use tongs. Sautee in a pan, serve with rice or pasta. Everyone pretty much likes it. It's light, well not healthy if you use butter, but you can use olive oil and smart balance for a healthier slant.