Dinner party help

I have relatives coming from interstate. They are staying with my parents, but coming to my house for dinner tomorrow night. I am an OK cook, but I usually stick to simple things like pasta, soup and meatloaf. I need something a bit fancier, but not too elaborate. It will be fairly informal. Any suggestions?

Rule #1: Don’t make something you never made before. My mother learned that lesson early in her marriage, when she wanted to impress her guests with baked Alaska. :eek:

Fish is pretty easy to cook and doesn’t take much effort. How about a large salmon fillet grilled and glazed with garlic pepper, paprika, and honey?

Large dinner bashes are usually socially inviting, so maybe some delicious BBQ chicken wings and drumsticks? Usually you can just soak them in BBQ sauce overnight then throw them on the grill the next day. That or beef short ribs

Shrimp. Everybody likes shrimp right? Get a bunch and fry them with batter

If you’re good with pasta already, do something like a casserole. Maybe jazz up some mac & cheese or make a tuna casserole. Better yet, use shrimp and some store-bought sauce and make yourself a nice seafood pasta dish. You can add your own flavors to it to make it your own, as I prefer a combination of pesto and alfredo with my shrimp and broccoli pasta.

Do they like pork? I got an easy killer pork tenderloin recipe - succulent and tender.

What’s wrong with pasta? Pasta is good, and it doesn’t have to be boring.

Instead of the usual tomato sauce, you can make something a little fancy, like a primavera (olive oil and garlic for the sauce, with lightly sauteed veggies, plus shredded parmesan). We get rave reviews for this all the time.

Or maybe buy some bowtie pasta and prepared pesto. Get some extra pine nuts and parmesan for garnish to spiff it up. (Pesto’s pretty easy to make, but you’d want to do it a couple of times for yourself first.)

Get some decent parmesan and grate it yourself, it’s terrif.

If you gotta have meat, you can grill and slice chicken breast and add to either of those. Or shrimp.

If you want a side veg, asparagus is in season.

Make a fancy salad - see any number of threads for recipes. Start with some nice leaf lettuce, maybe with some baby/spring mix added. There’s a boxed lettuce mix here that also includes some fresh herbs, that’s a really nice add-in.

Add some kind of nut - toasted sliced almonds is good. Add some kind of cheese - chevre (goat cheese) works well with this. Add some fruit - try mandarin orange sections. Get a nice vinaigrette dressing, I like Newman’s Own for this.

Make the salad up, then at the last minute add dressing and toss. Don’t go too heavy on the dressing, you just want a little.

Get a couple of baguettes and warm them up. If you want to go all out, make sure you have some decent olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can make those little plates with the vinegar and oil and cracked pepper for the bread. That’s fun.

Pick an easy dessert that won’t take much work. Strawberry shortcake is pretty good this time of year.

My go-to fancy dish is coq au vin - it’s basically just chicken breasts simmered in red wine. The Joy Of Cooking has a very easy recipe.

It’s got a couple of things going for it; it’s simple (aside from chicken and wine it’s just shallots & onions, carrots, mushrooms), easy to prepare (saute some veggies quickly, add chicken breasts for a bit, add wine, simmer for a while and toss in mushrooms), smells incredible, goes great with a variety of sides (I use something like boiled new potatoes or rice - you can get pre-cooked wild rice that microwaves in about two minutes), add a simple salad and wine (you’ll have plenty onhand) and you’re set. You don’t need expensive vino - I use $2 Chuck and it comes out great. It’s a good date dinner and I’ve also made it as a nice New Year’s Eve dinner for several couples.

And it’s a one-pot meal; some kind of big covered saute pan is perfect depending on how many people you’re cooking for.

Yum, lots of great ideas! Part of the problem is they are staying with my parents, and my mum is an awesome cook, so I have a lot to live up to. Shrimp/prawns will be perfect, though, because my mum doesn’t cook seafood. They are pretty easy to prepare as well.

So could I have pasta with prawns, and a salad and some nice bread? They told me not to make dessert, because they don’t eat it, but the kids can have gelato.

Chicken parmesan is easy and very hard to screw up. It’s the first meal I cooked all alone

You will need:

  1. one piece chicken breast per person eating (noting that sometimes 2 chicken breasts come packed as one big butterfly-shaped piece – I consider that “2 pieces”)
  2. one egg
  3. about a cup of breadcrumbs (Italian-style – or plain is fine, add a little dried oregano and pepper)
  4. one large jar pasta sauce (your choice)
  5. some shredded mozzarella cheese

Take the chicken breasts, if they are over an inch thick pound flat to no more than 1" thickness with a blunt object through wax paper (before I owned a meat hammer, a can of beans worked fine)
scramble one egg, dip the chicken breasts in the egg, and then in bread crumbs (poured out on a plate) till its all covered.
Fry in a oven safe pan (important) until each side is brown
Turn off the stove. Turn on the oven, set to 350F
open jar of tomato sauce & pour over the chicken.
Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over each chicken breasts
Cover with tin foil (or oven-safe lid)
Put the whole thing in oven for 30 minutes

Since the chicken finishes cooking in liquid, there’s no risk of either undercooking or drying it out, the two big worries with chicken breast.

Serve with bread, salad, side of pasta if you like.

Absolutely, that sounds lovely, and good thinking on not doubling up on something they might have eaten at Mom’s already.

Hello, Last week on ‘Party Hints’ I showed you how to make a small plate of goulash go round twenty-six people, how to get the best out of your canapés, and how to unblock your loo. This week I’m going to tell you what to do if there is an armed communist uprising near your home when you’re having a party. Well obviously it’ll depend how far you’ve got with your party when the signal for Red Revolt is raised. If you’re just having preliminary aperitifs - Dubonnet, a sherry or a sparkling white wine - then the guests will obviously be in a fairly formal mood and it will be difficult to tell which are the communist agitators. So the thing to do is to get some cloth and some bits of old paper, put it down on the floor and shoot everybody. This will deal with the Red Menace on your own doorstep. If you’re having canapés, as I showed you last week, or an outdoor barbecue, then the thing to do is to set fire to all houses in the street. This will stir up anti-communist hatred and your neighbours will be right with you as you organize counter-revolutionary terror. So you see, if you act promptly enough, any left-wing uprising can be dealt with by the end of the party. Bye…

That sounds like a great menu. We’ve fed that to guests many times (well, not the shrimp part - I don’t do seafood either :)) and it’s always popular.

Something that always goes over big at my house (and is easy, and leaves you with lots of leftovers) is a grill-out (assuming, of course, you have a grill). You can do half the prep beforehand - put on some chicken breasts to marinade, slice up some tomatoes, stuff like that. Other than that, buy premade hambuger patties, sausages, frozen fries and relish. Add in some hot dogs, cheese slices, and a bunch of different kinds of chips and pretzles, and you’re set!

Where I fancy this up is two spots - mustard and desert. For the mustard, there’s some very nice mustards you can buy to put on the burgers, and there’s some great dipping mustards for pretzles. For desert, you can go a million different ways, depending on how fancy you want - pudding pie always goes over well, short-cut tirimisu (using sponge cake and pudding), or even just a frozen pie or bakery cake jazzed up with hommade whipped cream (add too much sugar and a couple shots of liquor to REALLY jazz it up).