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My first dinner hosting the in-laws. Please help, I want to impress!!

Hi Friends!
Ok, next Sunday I'm hosting my new husband's parents, grandparents, and sibling's family for lunch. Very exciting!

I want the food to be amazing.

So far I am thinking Blanquette de Veau for the main dish (I have a recipe I made before and it was a big hit), with either mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or gratin...the mash or egg noodles would probably be better with the sauce in the meat though, right?

I want a veggie side, a salad, another side, and also to make my own bread.

Any suggestions?

For the bread maybe epicurious' Cracked Pepper Focaccia with Truffle Oil? I also made that before and was pleased with it...but I think I'd like to make a heartier bread.

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  1. Keep it simple! Don't stress yourself out. Don't prepare something that will elicit the question "What's this?"

    BTW, I've been married for 52 years and I'm an in-law.

    1. Have you checked on any food dislikes? I don't eat veal and don't like Truffle Oil...but then I'm not your in-laws. So i would focus on making things everyone liked and that allowed you out of the kitchen rather than trying to impress them.

      1. If you are going for impressive, I'd vote for the mashed potatoes over the egg noodles - anyone can make pasta, mashed potatoes is a bit easier to screw up. Many people have never even had homemade mashed potatoes. No matter what you make though, I think it is all about presentation. Good luck!!!!

        1. While I agree with the other posters about checking for food dislikes, I love Blanquette de Veau and I think it would be lovely at this time of year (if it's winter where you are, of course!). I would definitely do noodles with it (actually, I prefer spaetzle, but that may be too much last minute work for you given everything else you're trying to do). A gratin would just be too much creaminess IMO. Mashed potatoes would be nice but I'm a noodle girl myself ;)

          Anyway, as for sides/salads - are you going to serve this meal in courses? If so, you could do a salad to start, then a soup, then just one vegetable with your main. I would do a simpler bread too - something that will go with everything - either a classic baguette or the no-knead rustic boule. Sourdough might be nice also! What about dessert?

          1. Main deal is, don't stress, and last-minute stuff is not a good idea. I'd definitely lean towards noodles w/ the veal, but if you can buy fresh, so much the better. Now, this leans away from your OP and if you don't like this, I apologize in advance, but your inlaws want to visit with you. Your efforts to impress them will pale a bit if you're stuck in the kitchen. So, (deep breath) I'm going to suggest a marvelous roasted chicken; so simple, but everyone loves it and it's so easy and wonderful. Stuff it with lemons and start it breast-side down, covered, at a high heat, then after half an hour turn it over and remove the foil and lower the heat.
            Good luck. Your dinner will be wonderful no matter what you choose to serve, I'm quite sure.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mamachef

              I'm with mamachef (as usual...) -- splurge a little on a really good chicken -- (free range or organic -- or just Murray's because it's cold-air chilled and has great flavor) -- then roast it simply and well.

              You could just roast a variety of root vegetables under the chicken as it roasts (it's best if you put it on a rack) -- they absorb the juicy goodness from the chicken and are oh, so tasty.

              That and a salad -- and buy the bread at a good bakery.

              This is a Very Big Deal to meet the parents -- take as much stress out of the day as possible, because you'll have enough to obsess about without having to obsess over dinner, too.

            2. Dear eviemichael---I know this is a cliche' but it is one that works for me---I have to keep reminding myself of the rule "KISS--- Keep It Simple, Stupid"--- because I love to cook and, even more, I love to show off. I should have KISS painted on my kitchen wall. I still stumble into the trap but I am getting better---this is a hard and lifelong lesson. Re your menu, I agree with you that the mashed potatoes or noodles would be better than a gratin with a saucy entree. Any green vegetable would be nice, preferably one your in-laws like if you know of such because they will be touched that you remembered when Dad once said "I really love broccoli". Fifty or sixty years ago I would have made my own bread. Now I would buy some nice rolls and heat them a little. If any of your guests (grandparents?) must watch cholesterol, be thoughtful and serve an alternative spread as well as butter. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

              BTW, this is troubling me so I may as well say it. You have a sizeable crowd coming and veal is a very expensive meat of which you will need several pounds---might they think this extravagant? My mother-in-law would have---on the other hand, my Italian friend would have appreciated your generosity. (But, I hear you, you want to do something special for them---that shows your kindness.)

              My dear (I am speaking to you as an old lady who has both cooked for a while and has coped with in-laws), I once knew a woman who made handmade pasta for the lasagna for her daughter's wedding dinner for 200 people. Don't go there. This kind of thing leads to a disastrously messy kitchen, exhaustion, and marital fights. Your husband's family wants you to love, honor, and cherish him. That's what they care about. They probably don't care about truffle oil (I take that back if they are all professional chefs or food critics---my in-laws would not have known truffle oil from shoe polish). And if you are tense and the household seems to be in a tangle, they will pick that up with their built-in automatic in-law radar and wonder what their boy has gotten himself into. So make this easy on yourself and the dinner an occasion of joy. Just keep remembering (secretly, just for yourself) that KISS has more than one meaning for a bride. Evie, I hope I have not offended. It's just that you remind me so much of a younger me.

              1 Reply
              1. For a dinner like that, it's really not about the food. Sorry. :)
                I think you are right to go with dishes you have made before. Mashed potatoes can hold longer than noodles, depending on how it goes getting everyone to the table.
                A green side, like green beans, and a carrot gratin might be nice. or simply carrots with butter and a complimentary herb. That way, you ave a couple of vegetables for folks to choose. My husband would love the carrots and hate the beans. I will eat carrots, but would love the beans.
                A chopped salad is nice, easy to eat for a wide range of folks. I make one with Romaine, red pepper, celery, shredded carrot, green onion, bacon bits, (like that layered salad, but tossed, and dressing on the side). It's colorful, and easily made with common ingredients. Or you could do plain lettuce with a few add-ins on the side, so folks could make their own.
                If you want the bread (which sounds fab) and Blanquette to be stand-outs, keep everything else simple and concentrate on the people. and enjoy!!!

                1. I agree with the KISS theme. I would much rather spend the time with my guests, then become a running fool back and forth to the kitchen. Noodles would be my pairing with the veal. But, I wouldn't serve veal to that many people. My go to, impressive dinner would be a Roast Sirloin of Pork, maybe stuffed with a dressing. I've done it and it worked. But, if you're adamant about your main course then make as much sides ahead as you can. Maybe roast some veggies, that you can keep hot, and definately buy some fancy rolls that you can reheat. Making bread is not necessary and will not impress anyone, at least not for all the time it takes you. A nice first course soup was a great idea. Make ahead and serve fast. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

                  1. I agree that simplifying is good (this is not the time to add two more balls to your juggling routine), but no reason you can't feature a standout dish. What's good about your menu is that everything but the noodles are done in advance, right? (and your husband agrees that veal will be a crowd pleaser with his family?)

                    My latest favorite dinner menu is an extravagant spicy chili that I make in the morning (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bo...), corn bread that goes into the oven well before guests arrive, and a salad I can prepare an hour ahead, as well. I seem relaxed, the menu seems homey and puts people at ease, the chili gets rave reviews.

                    Good luck!

                    1. 1. find out what their tastes are by asking your husband. (what does he like? what did he eat growing up? that'll tell you a lot right there).
                      2. find out any dislikes, allergies
                      3. if they are not adventuresome, i'd stick to a recognizable dish -- maybe a lovely braised beef (maybe with a madeira sauce and mushrooms) with mashed potatoes (who doesn't like mashed potatoes…or a gratin?), spinach salad, or broccoli or fresh string beans with a hint of garlic perhaps, homemade rolls or bread, copper pennies carrots.
                      4. veal IS quite expensive, and getting more so, and that will be a large group. this is a very simple, very traditional menu, but i don't know who wouldn't be happy to eat it with quality ingredients prepared well.
                      5. no last minute stuff; you'll stress yourself out. set the table the day before, and label your serving platters/utensils like you'd do for a big thanksgiving feasts.

                      i adore blanquette de veau, but i'm not sure everyone in my family would. you have to know your audience, and don't try to over-impress (you may create resentment, strangely enough. weird, i know, but true).

                      1. Hope you take all this great advice to heart. Family dinners in my life have been much more enjoyable once we stopped trying to do high- maintenance food.

                        My ideas would be a winter salad to start with some escarole or frisée with fennel and some citrus. With the blanquette I would choose noodles and two sides with color. My first thoughts are roasted brussel sprouts and glazed carrots with a bit of tarragon.

                        Good luck and I hope you wow them.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Terrie H.

                          I want to pick up on something Terrie said because I feel like we have all been giving Evie a hard time here for wanting to do a good job and---who wouldn't want a daughter-in-law who cares so much? But I am guessing that Evie already "wowed them" when she said "I do" and that maybe she doesn't have to try as hard as she thinks. Let's put this in a ballet metaphor: she feels as if she has to dance The Swan Queen complete with fourteen lifts, 20 minutes on point, and a run of 42 fouettes without stopping to breathe---but, how about this, they already know she's a first-class dancer, a prima ballerina, and maybe all she has to do now is a few pirouettes and then give them her lovely smile. The folks aren't coming over to critique her cooking---they are coming to celebrate her being a new and wonderful part of the family.

                          1. re: Querencia

                            I just love your take on things, Querencia. What lovely metaphors.

                            1. re: Querencia

                              I wish I had you to give me advice and cheer me on when I was a young newlywed, Querencia!

                              1. re: Querencia

                                What a wonderful reply Querencia! I appreciate it. You're right of course...but I still want to perform those fouettes! ;-)

                            2. I have so enjoyed reading all of your replies! Thank you all so much! I appreciate your perspective and intuition! :)

                              I do agree that I don't want to be in the kitchen half the time..it will all be served buffet style so there won't be courses which makes things easier.

                              The Blanquette de Veau can be sitting over low heat until served and the rest of the side dishes will not need to be attended to last minute.
                              I can make the bread in advance.

                              I was thinking of making chocolate mousse or cheesecake for dessert- both crowd pleasers and make-ahead desserts!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: eviemichael

                                Hm, knowing that you want to do it buffet style creates a whole new set of parameters, because you want things that will either hold well in chafing dishes or that won't suffer too much from being served less than piping hot. I think your blanquette is actually a very good idea for this, since it will hold nicely over low heat and cover up any cooling off of your noodles/potatoes.

                                I'd leave your salad undressed (or just dress it at the VERY last minute) to avoid any wilting issues. Something light with some acid (like arugula with oranges or grapefruit sections and shaved fennel) would cut through the other rich dishes. I'd do roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic and something in a contrasting color, like butternut squash, for your sides. Are the children adventurous eaters? If not, you might want to have something pedestrian on hand.

                                Cheesecake or chocolate mousse both sound like nice choices for dessert, but they're quite rich. Since you're having a big crowd (enough people to eat two full-sized desserts, I assume), perhaps offer something lighter/fruity as well? A lemon tart or even some lemon bars, or an apple galette or croustade (use phyllo for the crust to lighten it further) might be a good option?

                              2. "hosting the in-laws. Please help, I want to impress"

                                cuppala jiggers of brandy ought ta help ;:+)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: iL Divo

                                  RE il Divo's suggestion, I quote Ogden Nash on breaking the ice at a party: " Candy is dandy/ But liquor is quicker".

                                  1. re: Querencia

                                    I was never worried or anxious about the food fair that I'd present it was more passing the white glove test...........since MIL was Betty Crocker and cleaning woman extraordinaire, the whole thing gave me hives ;:+)

                                    I love a caprese salad, it's light enough and simple and can be done in advance.
                                    I just finished watching Rachel Allen Bakes, and thinking her Sticky Toffee Pudding could only get you props. +++

                                  2. re: iL Divo

                                    Too bad the in-laws aren't big drinkers!

                                    1. re: eviemichael


                                      No I meant you indulge!
                                      My inlawa did not drink a drop, EVER, now that was hard

                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                        Oh I sure will! Red wine is never placed very far from me at the dinner table. ;-)

                                  3. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but that sounds like a really heavy meal for lunch. You've got meat with cream sauce, a starch, 3 sides (2 sides plus a salad), bread and dessert. I would lighten it up a bit. Also, I agree with the other poster that you should keep it simple. Do your new in-laws eat veal? Many people don't. And are they adventurous enought to eat Blanquette de Veau, and Focaccia with Truffle Oil? I'll be honest enough to say I had to google Blanquette de Veau just now to find out what it was -- I'm not a high-end gourmand, but I do enjoy fine dining and well prepared meals. I know you'd like to impress them, but don't do it by making things that they will be hesitant to eat because it's unfamiliar to them, especially if you don't know their eating style yet. And you don't want to give them a "I like to eat and prepare hoity-toity food" impression either.

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: boogiebaby

                                      I live in Greece and here Sunday lunch is a big meal! Usually people eat a very very light breakfast, a light dinner, and go all out on a late lunch around 2pm.

                                      They definitely eat veal. I will make sure to have a few light sides and salads to counterbalance the heaviness of the meat and potatoes. :)

                                      I still haven't decided on the bread.

                                      1. re: eviemichael

                                        I'm a vote on pasta with the blanquette, just because I like it better with pasta, and they serve it almost exclusively with pasta here in France, much to my delight.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Would it be too much to have both egg noodles and mashed potatoes with the meal? So that everyone could choose what they would like best to go with the veal?

                                          1. re: eviemichael

                                            No to serving both potatoes and noodles - your guests don't need that much choice and it's a lot of starchy food and more work for you. P.S. I totally agree with Querencia's comments on keeping it simple and enjoying yourself. Your new family is much more into getting to know a happy relaxed you than eating a fancy meal.

                                        2. re: eviemichael

                                          I like a big meal at midday Sunday, and I think yours sounds wonderful and I don't think you need a lot of sides; a lovely lemony salad, crusty bread, a simply steamed or roasted vegetable that is gorgeous. I love spinach with veal, personally.

                                          1. re: magiesmom

                                            I was also thinking spinach, I think everyone would like it.

                                            1. re: eviemichael

                                              Are you able to buy ready made spanikopita? That would be a nice touch and all you would have to do is warm it.

                                              1. re: ChiliDude

                                                I prefer to make things from scratch, although Greece has a lot of great frozen spanakopita brands!

                                          2. re: eviemichael

                                            You live in Greece! Makes a huge difference. In the States veal can easily be $15 a pound, three times the price of beef and five or six times the price of chicken. Serving it to the in-laws would definitely give a message and maybe not the one you want.

                                            1. re: Querencia

                                              I just asked my butcher and he said he'd give it to me 15 euros per 2.2 pounds, so the price isn't as bad here.
                                              I don't think they would take it badly for me to serve an expensive protein, since we all see this lunch as a special occasion. :)

                                              1. re: eviemichael

                                                15 euros a kilo is a **really** good price -- wish I could buy it for that here.

                                                Veal is on the more pricey side of average in Europe, but it is absolutely not considered a luxury meat. We can buy ground veal, veal cutlets, veal chops, veal sausage -- it's a treat, not a luxury.

                                        3. I'm an in-law. If I was served anything by my child's spouse, I'd eat it and be happy, unless it was served with a bad attitude. Honestly, I don't care. Make the grand dinner if you want, but if you are tired and abstracted at the dinner table, understand that the impression might not be what you intend.

                                          If you are truly up for this, then go for it. The advice about food sensitivities or dislikes is good, but surely your husband knows if there are any. One thought--some of us don't eat veal because of conscience. But surely you would know if your in-laws felt this way.

                                          I don't have an opinion about the starch, but for a veggie I suggest something fairly straightforward, like grilled asparagus. And IMO, you don't need another side. The meal sounds wonderful, without. Home baked bread! Wow.

                                          Have fun!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            My son makes this wonderful salad of chopped raddicchio and endive, toasted pecans, and cubed pear dressed with sherry vinegar and walnut oil with some pomegrantate seeds on top - it's really good before or with a heavier main course.

                                            For dessert how about a pavlova - Jamie Oliver's meringue recipe is so easy, it can be baked early and put to one side to be topped later with lemon curd mixed with whipped cream with fresh berries on top, or the meringue broken up in a bowl with whipped cream and strawberries for Eton Mess - it's light, but festive.

                                            1. re: Athena

                                              That salad sounds amazing!

                                              I love pavlovas, but I wanted a more wintery dessert. Berries are not that readily available here right now. I love smitten kitchen's ultimate cheesecake recipe and was considering doing that since I know everyone loves it. Would individual chocolate mousse be better? Both I can make in advance.

                                              1. re: eviemichael

                                                go for the mousse -- it's a surefire winner.

                                            2. re: sueatmo


                                              I wasn't intending on making anything that would need my attention in the kitchen while serving. It will be buffet style, so when everyone arrives I'll have everything on the table.

                                            3. Sorry one more question: Would garlic white wine mussels "go" with the rest of the menu?

                                              Now I'm thinking- Blanquette de Veau/ Egg Noodles, Sauteed Spinach with olive oil & lemon, homemade bread, a salad (havent decided yet), and mussels...

                                              desserts: chocolate mousse and pear almond tart

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: eviemichael

                                                Mussels, especially as a starter, would go with me!

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  Great! I'm serving buffet style all at once, but I should probably have a separate bowl for people to place the mussels, right? And dunk the bread? Yum!!

                                                  1. re: eviemichael

                                                    I always like to have something out before they walk in the door, to have with drinks while waiting for the others to arrive. I like to serve in another area than the main dining room. I do that to occupy them while I do any last minute adjustments, it keeps them from watching me too much and distracting me!

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      Thats actually a great idea but mussels are hard to eat if you aren't seated...maybe ill do a smoked salmon appetizer.

                                                2. I'm impressed, it sounds like a delicious dinner and I love the smoked salmon start & the garlicky spinach and buffet-style service. Good luck!

                                                  Would you be so kind as to share your Blanquette de Veau recipe?

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Snorkelvik

                                                    Thanks! I actually changed my smoked salmon start (SIL and BIL don't like smoked salmon) to leek camembert tart, and veggies with dip.

                                                    I use Daniel Boulud's Blanquette de Veau recipe on epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                    I don't add the green beans though and I use leeks instead of pearl onions. :


                                                    I made it before to rave reviews...I hope I can pull it off again!

                                                    1. re: eviemichael

                                                      Blanquette is ridiculously easy, compared to how complicated it tastes -- which makes it a great recipe for company.. It can also be made with pork, chicken, or turkey, too.

                                                  2. Evie, sounds like you've got it covered! Lucky In-Laws! My main rule for entertaining anywhere from 2 to 50 is MAKE AHEAD! I cannot abide being stuck in the kitchen when everyone is having fun! Easy finger food for aperatif, first course salad OR soup, your main course plus a veg and dessert. Have fun!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: dsharrison


                                                      I plan on making the desserts 2 days before, the salad dressing, veggie prep, leek-camembert tart the day before...Greek lunches start late, around 2pm. So I'll have all morning and early afternoon for the rest.

                                                      I am concerned that since I have to do the sauteed spinach and egg noodles right before serving..maybe mussels aren't the best idea since that also has to be done last minute...

                                                      What do you all think? Will mussels be too difficult since they should also be steamed last minute before serving?

                                                      And how do I keep the spinach warm? Should I do a light spinach gratin so I can keep it covered in the oven on low heat?