HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


help me...gonna cook for the inlaws and i need a menu

hey, my boyfriends birthday is coming up. and we decided we'd keep it personal no big parties. i have several ideas in mind like a small get together with his parents and lil sibling. but i'm stumped on the perfect menu to prepare..can u suggest something simple yet good enough to make a good impression.????

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think you need to be a bit more specific as to the kind of food you/they like, and how complicated a meal you feel comfortable preparing.

    1. why don't you tell us what you had in mind? then we can offer better help. how skilled are you in the kitchen? any special dietary or budget issues?

      1. My first question is "what does he like?" and the follow up question to that is "... that his mother doesn't make?" Around here, if I am trying to make a good impression with the in-laws, I have to do something "not-too-fancy" - they aren't particulary adventurous eaters. I like Alton Brown's Broiled, Butterflied Chicken. It takes a little prep, but it's not hard to do, and it always looks pretty and tastes good. If I did that, I would steam or roast a veggie (or several), and do scalloped or mashed potatoes. If I mash potatoes, I do red, and leave the skins on.If they like sweet potatoes, I like those baked, with butter and cinnamon for topping when they come out of the oven.

        1. To keep it simple.

          I'd serve a simple green salad (add some nuts/mandarin oranges/goat cheese to spruce it up).

          Make a prime rib roast, bread/baguette, mashed or roast potatoes, roast carrots or some other veggie.

          To make gravy, go to Costco and buy yourself a bag of TRIO gravy and use that along with the roast drippings to make gravy.

          For dessert, how about a apple pie (you can buy unbaked and bake it off) with some ice cream.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

            i make everything from scratch though...i don't like pre made/ or ready to cook

          2. If you have dined with the family before, try to remember what they cooked or ordered and go with something similar (you can add your own touches).

            Do a test run of the menu before the event for you and the BF and get his opinion on whether or not his family would like it.

            If you haven't dined with them, then just ask your BF to suggest some favorite dishes.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pamf

              If everyone eats red meat, it's hard to beat short ribs. Do them a day in advance then you only need to fix sides and dessert the day of.

            2. Find out what dish the mother is famous for or thinks she is famous for and DON"T cook it!

              Knowing nothing about what people like, pork tenderloins are good, easy and inexpensive.

              Make sure you brine it and don't over cook it and you can't go wrong. I oven barbecue mine but there are dozens of ways to cook them.

              Swiss steak is always popular around my house. Lasagna is fairly easy, tastes good and is impressive.

              1 Reply
              1. There's a blog called apples and onions that has a terrific, easy recipe for Asian short-ribs. It was originally on for Lunar New Year, but I make it all the time. I have made it for my in-laws with great success and they have been pretty impressed. It's a 2 day process, but super easy! http://applesandonions.com/?s=short+ribs

                1. gotta echo above. we need more details than that to help!

                  1. i'm well versed in the kitchen, however his parents own a restaurant and are both chefs. so that makes it difficult, i want a simple meal so i was thinking steak? i'm usually good at planning menus, but this adds some difficulties. so maybe a green salad, steak and twice baked potatoes with my sour creme dressing, or maybe smoked salmon with a alfredo pasta???

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: kissdachef

                      Steak can be simple, or simply disastrous...... what is your boyfriend's favorite meal? That will go farther to impress than trying something you think THEY will like. A braised meat dish is simple, and scrumptious, and no issues with "doneness" like steak.

                      1. re: wyogal

                        wow, thanks, his fave meal...lolz is what ever i cook. he says i cook like his mom...which i think is a compliment. he loves his stomach, so that's a no for the steak, how about the smoked salmon

                        1. re: kissdachef

                          That might be good, I'm not a fan of salmon. I like the braised short ribs idea... either the Asian one, or just another good recipe... They could be served with pasta of some kind. Or your twice baked potatoes, especially if you have a special sour cream topping.

                          1. re: wyogal

                            maybe i should try the short ribs with my twice baked potatoes, and my special creme dressing, the matter of what wine compliments the short ribs? i have a feeling a red wine would do the trick, however i'm ot a fan of red wine.

                            1. re: kissdachef

                              I make the short ribs when I have the in-laws over and I always have a nice red on hand to serve. I prefer white wine in general, so I serve and pour a sauv. blanc b/c that's what I tend to like. I know pairings are important, but I like what i like. If you do the Asian, you could also offer sake or a nice Asian beer, I suppose, too.

                              1. re: kissdachef

                                zinfandel, makes for a great sauce for the ribs, and to drink with. I too am not a fan of red wine, but it makes a wonderful sauce for short ribs and I have to remember that not everyone doesn't like red wine. Serve a wonderful chilled rose to switch it up a bit.

                        2. re: kissdachef

                          smoked salmon with alfredo sauce would send me screaming from the room, sorry. raised in an italian home, we would never have a creamy sauce with fish.

                          are you in a region known for a certain dish? like oregon and salmon or new england and lobster?

                          i'm with the others about a braise. short ribs can be made the day before and taste even better after a rest overnight.

                          lately for parties, i've been making home-made potato chips to have with cocktails pre-meal and they get devoured. have some olives or nuts too.

                          a green salad with some fall garnishes, like candied walnuts and diced apples with a sharp vinaigrette would be a nice start.

                          the shortribs and the twice baked potatoes sound great. have some roasted brussels or asparagus for color on the plate.

                          a simple apple or pear crisp for after with good vanilla ice cream or home-made whipped would be very nice.

                          plan on having as much done ahead so you basically have to heat and plate for dinner. reduce your stress.

                          also know most restaurant pros are thrilled to have others do the cooking, serving and cleaning. they'll be happy just to be somebody else's guest for a change.

                        3. If you want this to be special, don't cook anything you haven't cooked before and are comfortable with. If you need to do a dry run before the dinner, please do so.

                          I'd also recommend doing a prime rib roast. it's pretty simple and if you use a thermometer, it is really hard to screw up. Use a thermometer though, please use a thermometer.

                          Roasted root vegetables are a good accompaniment with steak/chicken and are really easy.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: jameshig

                            if a dry run is needed, i would use my roommates as test subjects, i love the suggestions it was greatly appreciated, i would select a part of my menu from everything suggested... but if someone could suggest a wine to go along with the meal would be great???

                            1. re: kissdachef

                              are you making the shortribs?

                              generally i braise mine in a mix of port and water + herbs and spices. if you use a base like that, i'd serve a softer style red, like a spanish or french grenache, either of which can be gotten reasonably.

                          2. I can see why you are thinking hard about cooking for your in-laws. I think the advice to cook something you know how to cook, and something that your BF likes is very good. On the wine, if your BF was raised in the home of chefs, he probably knows something about wine. Let him pick that. And actually, let him help choose the menu too. This shouldn't be a one woman show.

                            And, as an MIL myself, I want to assure you that if you are trying to please them for your son's sake, they will cut you a lot of slack. If you love their son, then they will love you. If you treat him badly, they won't like you. And, it doesn't hurt to ask a little culinary advice from your MIL, either.

                            Be sure and let us know how it went for you. Good luck!

                            1. i apprediacte all the advice i was given, and i'll be sure to put a lil bit of everything into my menu...:p we'll it was basically the same so..:P but i'll tell you how it went. and post pictures. i hope to make a good impression on them because i love their son, and he loves me and his stomach, so in order to be accepted by his parents i have to be able to make an excellent meal, i consider mysel an excellent chef so let's hope they do to...:) thanks again guys

                              1 Reply
                              1. What were you going to do for dessert? (If anything.)

                                Since you want to do things from scratch, how about an apple cobbler. Easier to do than a pie and you could have it all set up in advance.

                                Or ice cream or sorbet with a little sauce you make.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: karykat

                                  i was thinking a red velvet cake because that's his favorite dessert, or maybe a pie of some sort. with ice cream... homemade of course

                                  1. re: kissdachef

                                    That sounds very good.

                                    But don't make it too hard for yourself and figure out how you can do as much as you can in advance. (Like your pie shell if you make a pie or your dry ingredients put together for the cake.)

                                    It sounds fun.

                                2. First of all what an important meal this is. Your boyfriend's birthday a very special day for his mom as well. As the mom of the three sons, I can see this as a rather important evening.

                                  He wants his mom to love you as much as you love him. If she see that your cooking to please him but also keeping the family namely his mom in sight, she and he will love your dinner. I wouldn't try impress and I wouldn't buy expensive ingredients.

                                  Short ribs was an excellent suggestion but for 5 it might get a little pricey. The other idea was a spatchcock cooked chicken. Roast chicken is another food that is hard to mess up. Yukon Gold's mashed with the skin on, and roasted carrots. A great little salad with your own dressing, and to drink, wine and non- alcoholic offerings. Sparkling water with lemon. For dessert, a fruit cobbler or apple tartin.