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Cooking for the parents?

I'm meeting my boyfriend's parents for the first time later this week, and I have been delegated to make dinner for them. My Bf has told them about all the great and 'fancy' dinners I've made for him, and I'm afraid his parents are expecting something really impressive. Suddenly, my cooking confidence has dissipated.

He's not told me much about what his parents like, other than they tend to eat 'basic' food. My cooking style is very fresh, everything from scratch, and I always like to put a unique twist on things. Presentation and originality are important to way I cook.

Any ideas on how to take basic, everyday American flavors and make them a little more... impressive? I've already decided that I would like to make my cucumber tomato salad and a loaf of fresh French bread is a must, but I am completely lost on the main dish. I don't eat pork, and I don't cook with beef much, so any beef recipes must be rather foolproof. As far as I know, the parents have no dietary restrictions.

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  1. Now is not the time to experiment. Pick something that you do often and do well - and just execute it to the best of your abilities. Even simple is good when done well.
    And try to pick something that doesn't have a lot of last-minute work or timing issues. Keep it familiar and low-stress!! Good luck!

    4 Replies
    1. re: tacosandbeer

      I totally agree. This is about spending time with your boyfriend's parents, not to impress them with your cooking chops. Pick a meal that can be mostly prepared ahead so you aren't harried or worried. If they are nice people, what you cook won't matter.

        1. re: tacosandbeer

          Absolutely. Your BF is impressed with what you usually do, certainly his folks will be too. If you feel you must do something basic, no one I know ever didn't like a roast chicken with salad and bread and a seasonal vegetable. Go all out on a fabulous make-ahead dessert if you want... Leave time to get to know them!

          1. re: tacosandbeer

            I couldn't agree more. And you will be better company (and happier!) if you're not totally stressed out.

          2. First thing I'd do is clarify with BF about what they'd like. Do they really want something impressive or would they be more comfortable with something somewhat familiar, perhaps kicked up a notch? Personally, if I were the 'basic' food eating parents, I'd want something delicious but not so fancy that I felt uncomfortable. Also, something that allowed you, the cook, to focus on the visitors, not the stove.

            What about a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli, plus your salad and the bread? Or meatloaf. Or you might be interested in the recipe for salisbury steak I just made from the Chow site. It turned out to be delicious and was simple and attractive. We invited a neighbor over at the last minute and he loved it:

            http://www.chow.com/recipes/11438-sal...

            1 Reply
            1. re: tcamp

              Really be clear on what basic is. I would have shot myself in the foot with a typical basic meal for my in-laws when I first met them.

            2. Ditto on Tcamp's recommendation of roast chicken as the main course if they like "basic" food -- practically fool-proof to make and it doesn't require a lot of attention and last minute work. You can gussy up the meal to meet their expectations of "fancy" with the sides -- maybe something like potatoes Anna rather than just mashed taters. And assuming that your "fancy" cooking skills extend to desserts, make something special for dessert -- tarte tatin maybe?

              5 Replies
              1. re: masha

                I have never understood why people say a roast chicken is foolproof. If it was why would people always be asking for how to make the perfect one? You need the right bird, the right seasoning, the right temp, the right timing, the right resting, the right sauce and then the ability to carve it properly. I think that's why it is sometimes given as a test for a prospective chef, no?

                1. re: escondido123

                  It is the one cut of meat I haven't managed to screw up. Tastes basically the same every time I do it no matter what method.

                  1. re: melpy

                    Agree, I don't think I've ever made a "bad" roasted chicken. But pull up a chair and I'll tell you about overcooked pork loin...

                  2. re: escondido123

                    For a self-described accomplished cook like the OP, a roast chicken is pretty easy. The fact that there are threads on this board devoted to how to make the "best" or "perfect" one doesn't contradict this. You can fall short of perfection with a roast chicken and it still will taste excellent, especially if you are a decent chef.

                  3. I agree - don't experiment.

                    A perfectly roasted chicken would be easiest and no fuss in the kitchen while your guests are there. You could pre-make a pan gravy by roasting some chicken wings and making a stock.

                    1. yes yes and yes to all the other comments.

                      keep the fresh and 'from scratch' elements, but spend your energy on making it look completely effortless (even if that means doing backflips in platform heels backstage)

                      presentation? sure why not? I've found 'basic' food types are easily intimidated by ingredients/techniques, not plating and you would prefer to screw up the 3rd impression rather than the first, right?