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Cooking for the boss - menu?

Before we get to the food, a little backstory: My husband's current boss and his wife are a lovely German couple about the same age as my husband and I. When the boss was simply a slightly higher-ranking coworker (he was promoted and shifted to DH's department about 6 months ago), he and his wife invited DH and I out to an event in the city and basically indicated a desire to hang out with us more frequently as friends. However, with one thing and another, we haven't had a chance to see them again socially since. Now, according to DH, their dynamic hasn't really changed, despite the promotion, but I feel a little oddly stuck between the desire to "impress the boss" and the desire to just get to know them as friends, since that's where our relationship started.

Anyway, I don't know if any of that backstory will have any bearing on what you Hounds may suggest as far as menu is concerned, but there you go. There are no big restrictions on the menu, aside from a tree nut allergy, and my own self-imposed desire not to cook German food for them. I also don't want to do a ton of futzing while they're there, so things that can be largely prepped in advance are perfect. My plan:

Drinks and Nibbles:
A light white wine or prosecco
Caprese bites (cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozz with basil on toothpicks)
A small assortment of Italian meats

First course:
(We'll probably finish our prosecco/white here)
Shaved fennel salad with oranges
Homemade bread with tapenade butter (and regular butter, to be served throughout the meal)

Main:
Something red (I have a nice Zinfandel and a Chianti that should do)
Lasagne Bolognese al forno
Sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts (I know something like broccoli rabe would be more typically Italian, but DH hates it - ditto on spinach)

Dessert:
Lemon Budino

So, what say you, Hounds? Any glaring omissions or huge missteps? Thanks in advance for your input!

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  1. What's not to like? Sounds perfect to me.

    One suggestion on the caprese bites: half the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls, and put them on the toothpick half tomato, basil leaf, half mozzarella; repeat if you'd like. Done like that, you get a taste of everything in one bite. I never enjoy it as much when they are left whole - can't get it all in my mouth in one bite.

    Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: lisavf

      Very good idea! The mozzarella I'm using is in larger balls anyway, so they'll have to be cut down, but I wouldn't have thought to halve the tomatoes. That sounds like a very good job for DH!

      1. re: lisavf

        Agreed--halved tomato bites are infinitely easier to eat. Tried once to bite into a toothpicked whole cherry tomato, and the danged thing squirted juice and seeds right back at me. Certainly not what you want for the boss or his wife!

      2. I like your plan, especially where you purposefully chose to cook something other than German food. That would, IMO, be a risky venture. I don't cook Japanese food for my Japanese friends or Mexican food for my Mexican friends.
        I like your menu. It may be a bit ambitious. Just make sure the Brussels sprouts are very young and tender.
        How about a Shiraz in place of the in place of the Zinfandel/Chianti)?

        Good luck.....................

        1 Reply
        1. re: todao

          If I hadn't made all of these dishes before, I might feel this was too ambitious as well, but all of these are old friends (except the lemon budino, but it's quite simple). Shiraz is our "house" wine so we have plenty of options there, too, if anyone prefers Shiraz!

        2. That sounds fabulous and my Germans friends tell me that "all Germans love Italian food". As with all generalizations, I'm sure that is not true, but it does seem as though all the ones I know do. :)

          8 Replies
          1. re: GretchenS

            LOL, all the Germans I know love Italian food, yet I have had nothing but AWFUL Italian food when dining out in Germany (I spend a few months every other year in Berlin). Hopefully my Bolognese will raise the bar a bit!

            1. re: biondanonima

              can you do your lasagna well ahead, even like freeze & reheat? Would make it even less futz time.

              1. re: pine time

                We're doing this on Saturday night, so my plan is to make my bolognese sauce and pasta dough on Friday night, then roll the pasta and assemble everything in the early afternoon. They're coming at 7 so that should give me plenty of time to get the kitchen cleaned up and such.

                1. re: biondanonima

                  Great--get the kitchen cleaned up and such--that DOES include a pre-dinner glass of wine for the cook, doesn't it??

            2. re: GretchenS

              ok, this is going to sound bitchy when I really don't mean it to be - do you know what they like and don't like? Have you asked? I couldn't eat anything on your menu ; no tomatoes or fennel or brussel sprouts. They all make me gag. Make sure they're not choking it down out of politeness.

              1. re: dianne0712

                I did ask if there were any allergies or dislikes and the answer was tree nuts and peaches. I think I'm safe.

                1. re: biondanonima

                  Then you're good to go! Most people would drool over your menu. I'm just a freak, or as my husband laughingly says "I prefer to think of it as discerning". LOL! He's very tolerant.
                  Since I have about equal amounts of likes and dislikes it's really impossible for me to answer that question in any kind of helpful way so I keep it to the 2 things I will never eat - fish and tomatoes and just cope with whatever comes. My mother's curse worked though- my son is just as picky as I was!

              2. re: GretchenS

                My German neighbor originally from Hamburg dislikes pasta with a passion.

              3. Sounds like a fantastic meal. My only comment would be that since you are shaving fennel for the salad, I would do haricots verts, sauteed with evoo and garlic as the veg, rather than shredded Brussels sprouts, with the main course.

                9 Replies
                1. re: critter101

                  Hm, that's a good thought, although the shredded Brussels have a much different texture than the fennel since they're cooked. I'll run it by DH and see which he prefers!

                  1. re: critter101

                    haricots verts are also a little less...polarizing? than brussels sprouts tend to be. and a little more forgiving; brussels sprouts are very temperature-sensitive, since the reaction that trips off their infamous flavor/smell is a sulfur compound that's heat activated. of course i am biased here since i ADORE haricots verts, especially since they're a little more in season right now i think (where are you?)

                    1. re: chartreauxx

                      We live in NYC - good Brussels sprouts have just started to make an appearance, and since I love them so much I try to serve them at every opportunity, LOL. I agree that they're not universally loved, though - that might be something to think about.

                      1. re: biondanonima

                        yeah, I'd nibble on one to be polite, or roll it around my plate a little, but not a fan of 'em.

                        1. re: pine time

                          I find that they're much more accessible in their shredded form than whole - I've served them this way to lots of people who just saw the green shreds and assumed it was a non-threatening vegetable, tasted and LOVED them, and were then shocked to find out they were the dreaded sprout!

                        2. re: biondanonima

                          I'd say to stick with the shredded brussel sprouts as you have confidence in it. Speaking of which, my brother showed me a great technique, although not shredded; simmer sprouts in a bit of water with olive oil and garlic. The sprouts will cook as the water evaporates, then brown in the pan with the residual oil. Finish with a squeezed lemon, cracked pepper, and grated parmesan.

                          1. re: biondanonima

                            More than being concerned about people not liking brussels sprouts I'd be worried about the brussels sprouts not liking the people. Not everyone tolerates them well. You wouldn't want to create a socially awkward situation or the need for your guests to leave early because of bloated upset tummies.

                          2. re: chartreauxx

                            I have to agree. I dislike Brussels sprouts intensely. I also don't think that they go with lasagna.

                            1. re: roxlet

                              I agree that they don't really go with lasagna - very little does, in my opinion. I would do spinach, but my husband hates it. Neither of us likes broccoli rabe. Maybe sauteed lacinato kale? That's probably just as polarizing as Brussels sprouts, though. Green beans might be the safest bet (although I know plenty of people who hate them, including myself in many preparations).

                        3. As I was often "the Boss" that was invited to dinner, my own personal preference is for something simple and what the family might normally do for "company" or what I used to do when folks came over. It's more the pleasure of the company than the meal.

                          Your Menu looks fine.......keep it light and lively

                          1. I will say up front that I've had something to drink tonight, but if they don't like what you've served them, well, then they're assholes.
                            That's my story and I"m stickin' with it. By the way, will you make dinner for me and my family? :)

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: EWSflash

                              LOL, I tend to agree! I have plenty of food likes and dislikes, but I look at an invitation to someone else's house as an opportunity to try new preparations of things - if there's an ingredient I don't like, hopefully they'll teach me a new way to appreciate it. If not, well, that's what wine is for!

                              1. re: biondanonima

                                I mostly agree with you, as long as the cook is willing to accept that the guest might just move something around the plate a bit and not get offended by that. Can't say how many times I've been served salmon (I'm fish averse), only to nibble or swallow without chewing. Hope the hostess/cook didn't get all miffed that I didn't eat her meal.

                                1. re: pine time

                                  I was shocked when I heard from non-fish fans that there are people who don't enjoy fish, especially flavorful fish like salmon, as much as I do! Fish is something I wouldn't serve unless I knew the guests enjoyed it. Before I found out, though, I would have served it thinking every guest is getting a real treat!

                                  1. re: SAHCook

                                    Ah yes! It's so true! For some reason I violently dislike anything that comes out of the water (much to my chagrin) I just CANNOT choke it down, but every celebration seems marked with shrimp and lobster and salmon and caviar etc. Even worse, it's usually prepared with some sort of tomato thing, my other big nono. It's actually become a joke in my family how often the special at restaurants is some version of fish/seafood and tomatoes. Try it yourself. Count how many of the next 20 specials you're offered come under that category.
                                    When I vomited my mom's shrimp creole all over the kitchen she finally stopped forcing me to eat food I hated.

                                    1. re: dianne0712

                                      TMI

                                      1. re: dianne0712

                                        See, I'd never force someone to eat seafood they don't want ... why waste the good stuff on someone who doesn't think of it as "the good stuff," right? ;)

                                        1. re: SAHCook

                                          yeah, I try telling people that salmon is simply wasted on me (like hard liquor, which all tastes like NyQuil to me), but some folks are sure that THEIR version of [insert fish here] will bring me around. Sorry, but no, it won't.

                              2. Dinner was last night - everything, including the Brussels sprouts, was quite well received! Thanks hounds for your input!