Help! I have to cook a gourmet dinner tonight but I don't know how to cook?

This is serious. My wife just bitched me out about not helping around the house. She I asked what I planned to do to help and I blurted out “Cook Dinner”. She asked, “starting when?”. I replied, “tonight”.

Probably not the smartest thing to say since I don’t know how to cook. To make, matters worse, my wife is in the food business and cooks gourmet dinners almost every night.

I need help. I want to cook something, maybe Mexican or some kind of Asian (but anything else is fine too) that I can successfully make and have it come out about right.

This is just a “normal dinner” so lobsters or truffle type things are out. Also, it can’t be too American like a casserole dish or have things like American cheese in it because those won’t meet her standards. Neither of us are picky so exoctic (but good) is fine.

Thanks for your help.

Luckily for you, Mexican and/or Asian are both easy to throw together.

Easy Enchiladas for the Cooking Impaired (recipe by Mr. Athena, who figured this out when he was in a similiar situation as Shagnasty)

1 package corn tortillas
1 large can enchilada sauce (I use Herdez brand)
1 pound hamburger
~ 1/4 cup salsa
1 bag of pre-shredded cheddar or “mexican” style cheese (or use real cheese and grate it yourself - I’m tryin’ to make this easy)
1 onion, diced
Minced garlic, if you want to get fancy
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
Additional stuff to put on top (pick what you like): sour cream, avacados, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, salsa, diced tomatoes, lettuce

1 - Saute onion and optional garlic in the cooking oil. When it’s soft (3-4 minutes) add the hamburger. Brown. Drain grease. Add the salsa and mix together.
2 - Wrap corn tortillas in a clean kitchen towel. Microwave on 50% power for about 3 minutes.
3 - Working quickly, add a spoonfull of the onion/hamburger/salsa mix to each corn tortilla. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Roll up, place in a 9x13" baking pan. Repeat until you’ve used all the tortillas.
4 - Pour enchilada sauce over the rolled up tortillas. Sprinkle with more cheese. Cover with tin foil.
5 - Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until heated thoroughly and cheese is melted.

Serve with any additional garnishes you like, as noted above. If you want to go all out fancy, heat up a can of refried beans and a can of mexican style rice, and serve on the side.

Does she have a cook book lying around that you can peek into?

Man, if she knows you don’t know how to cook she’ll be tickled pink if you manage to not screw up peanut butter and jelly sandwitches.

It isn’t gourmet, but anybody can make simple American Mexican with premade stuff at the grocery store - you buy a package of ground meat, brown it in a pan, drain it, follow directions on the “taco seasoning mix” packet, smack it into taco shells, and top them as you like - you can upgrade from “Mexican in a box” by using more authentic salsa from the ethnic foods aisle, get Mexican cheese, etc. That’s a no-brainer meal for the kitchen incapable because directions for even browning meat are on the seasoning packet. You could also do the same thing and come out with taco salad by assembling a salad with the lettuce of your choice, fresh tomato, whatever else you like, put the taco meat on top and cheese and sour cream on top of that. Add tortilla chips around the edge in a pretty pattern.

It isn’t exciting or incredibly impressive, but it’s quick and easy and available at your local grocery store for tonight.

Check out the Straight Dope Recipe Threads of Doom, I think you can find them at the Teemings website. None of those recipes look too hard :slight_smile:

Stir-fry meals aren’t that tough. It’s good if you have a wok, but you can use a regular frying pan.

Just use whatever meat and veggies you like.

I usually stri fry the onions with some garlic and ginger first (both fresh if you can get it), then add the meat (pork, chicken, beef, shrimp) and stir fry until browned. Then I add veggies. Carrots, bean sprouts, brocolli, cauliflour, green beans, cabbage, whatever you like, Stir fry for a few minutes, then add sauce.

You can get some decent stir fry sauces, or just us a combination of soy, oyster and whatever spices you like. I also like to add some water and get a steam going. Cover and let simmer.

Serve with rice. You can cheat and use minute or boil in the bag rice, but if you want decent tasting rice, just put 1 part rice to two parts water in a pot, bring to boil, when boil turn all the way down and cover. Let simmer 15 minutes and it should be perfect. If you have a pot with a glass lid, use that and after about 13 or 14 minutes, look at it, when you stop seeing bubbles come up out of the rice, it’s finished.

I’m guessing that she doesn’t expect gourmet out of you, she just wants you to show some effort. Cowboy doesn’t cook nearly as well as I do, but I’m thrilled to death when he does, no matter what he makes.

Do you have a grill? Grill up some steaks or lamb chops - throw some corn on the cob on with it. It’s your call whether to soak the husks or not - I’m lazy and usually don’t, and it turns out just fine. When the husks are blackened, the corn is done. Let them cool a little before you strip them off.

Add some french bread - even that pre-made garlic bread stuff from the grocery store is better than nothing, and that’s just heat-and-eat.

Make a side salad - salad in a bag is perfectly fine, and you can cut up a tomato and a cucumber and maybe some avocado, can’t you?

Steam some veggies, but not for as long as you might think. Making the effort is all very nice, but you’d like the dinner to still be edible, wouldn’t you?

Oh, and clean up when you’re done. Nothing’s worse than someone who “helps”, and makes a giant mess in the kitchen that I know I’m going to have to clean up later.

Or, if you really want to make a good impression, forget about making the dinner, and take over post-dinner cleanup. Permanently. Now THAT would be a gift!

One of the easiest things I make to impress people is curry shrimp. The recipe is here, but I usually dispense with the cucumber sauce (one of my friends tried it with the sauce and said that it really doesn’t add anything), and just throw some butter and olive oil in a pan, toss in the shrimp, sprinkle with curry, salt, and pepper, and I’m good to go.

For a side dish, I usually cheat and get a box of Near East Cous Cous, which is easier to make than instant water. :wink:

Good luck!

Stuffed hamburgers aren’t too hard, just time consuming. Here’s what you do:

Sautee some stuff like onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell peppers, whatever you like, until it’s soft. Make sure it’s cut into little bitty pieces first. Add some salt and pepper, maybe some cayenne if you like it spicy.
Divide your hamburger into 1/6 lb. portions. Don’t use lean meat, it won’t stick together well enough for this. Form each portion into a very thin patty. Put a little of the stuffing in the middle, making sure to leave a half inch or so around the edge. You can add some cheese too, but that tends to make a messier burger. Put another patty on top, then carefully seal the edge all the way around, smoothing out any cracks so you have one big patty. Unlike a normal burger, you will want to flip these over when the first side is only halfway done, cook the second side halfway, flip again and finish the first side, then one more flip and finish the second side. If you cook the first side all the way before flipping, it will shrink too much on that side and your stuffed burger will break open. You will probably get some stuff leaking out anyway, especially if you put cheese inside.

Serve on a hefty bun with mayo. If you don’t use mayo your bun will quickly get soggy.

Look, people are making all these somewhat complicated recipes. Here’s what you need - salmon fillets (how many are you cooking for?), broccoli and wild rice.

Pan sear the salmon. Just get a pan and heat it up hot. Brush the salmon with canola or vegetable oil (not olive!) and season with some salt, toss it on the hot pan skin side down for about 30 seconds to a minute, then turn the heat down to medium high and let cook for another 3-4 minutes. Then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes on the other side. Take off the heat and let sit for a couple minutes and serve. Garnish with some lemon wedges.

Steam the broccoli. Put the broccoli in the steamer and cover, bring the water to a boil. Let it boil for a couple minutes, then turn the heat down to low and let it steam for another 5-7 minutes, depending on how you like your broccoli.

Wild rice. Just follow the instructions on the packet.

You’ve got a good meal that should take you about 20 minutes to prepare (or however long the rice takes).

Time it correctly, too. Start the rice first. At about ten minutes start the heat on the broccoli and start heating the pan for the salmon. Turn down the heat on the broccoli and throw your salmon on the pan. Watch the time and everything should be done at about the same time.

Step1. Go to store, buy Stoffer’s lasagna and garlic bread

Step 2. Sneak it into house

Step 3. Make according to directions.

Step 4. Put on plates

Step 5. put water on face to simulate sweat

Step 6. Stagger into dining room with plates and act exhausted

Step 7. Make sure you dispose of evidence properly

Roast a chicken. 350°F for one to one and a quarter hour, basting occasionally with the juices/fat that form in the pan. Stuff a whole, peeled onion or whole scored apple (both, if they’re small) into the chicken first, if you like. No other seasoning required. Slice these and serve on the side after cooking. Don’t be tempted by one of those roasted chickens at the grocery. They are cooked too long and will be dry.

Near East has a wild rice pilaf that’s good with chicken. Add a salad or steamed vegetable and you’re done.

Or scrub and cut small red potatoes into quarters. Add to roasting pan at beginning of cooking time and baste along with the chicken. The potatoes will form a “skin” with bite while cooking, the inside will have a softer creamy texture. Sprinkle with rosemary half way through if you’re feeling adventurous.

I forgot an important point. The chicken and potatoes will look really dry on the surface for the first half hour or so. That’s okay. Do not add any liquid other than what comes from the chicken itself.


Get a bag of flour tortillas, some steak or chicken, a tub of sour cream, a bag of shredded Mexican Cheese Blend, one or two bell peppers, and an onion.

Slice the meat, peppers, and onion, then stir-fry them. Warm the tortillas in the oven for a minute or two. Put all condiments in bowls. Serve.

Basting doesn’t do anything except lower the oven temperature, making your chicken take longer to cook. And if you want to try to pass off a store bought lasagna, I’d go with Marie Callender’s or Claim Jumper. Stouffer’s tastes too obviously like a frozen lasagna. Hell, just make a real lasagna, it’s really not that hard. Get no-boil noodles to save some time, and follow the recipe on the box.

Do you know how to mix drinks? A nice pre dinner coctail can make any event more gourmet. Also kleen up as you go, and make sure the kitchen is clean when you finnish, sounds like you are in the dog house over housework so don’t make any more housework whilst you cook.
Have a starter and desert that don’t need cooking prepared early.

Starter idea. Get a portion of smoked samon, some fresh dill, brown sliced bread and a lemon. place the samon on a plate with a couple of lemon wedges (use the remaining lemon in the cocktail) and a few pieces of fresh dill. Cut the brown bread slices into quaters, butter the bread and place on a different plate (about two slices of bread per person should be enough) cover both plates with kling film and put in fridge. Take out of fridge and uncover just when ready to serve.

Desert get some gormet vanilla icecream (Haggen Daazs has about the best vanilla) after dinner is finished put a couple of spoonfulls of icecream in a wine or cocktail glass for each person, splash on a good measure of her favourite liquer (Baileys, Cointrau (sp?) are good choices) and serve.

Another thought for the dessert: Get some good chocolate. You want semi-sweet, or even baker’s chocolate rather than milk chocolate. Get the most expensive kind in the store. Chips will work if they have something better than Hershey’s. (If it’s slab chocolate, you’ll need to cut it into chunks.) Buy a pint of heavy cream, and a bottle of either raspberry or orange liqueur. (Cheap is okay here.)

Pull out something microwave safe and ceramic. A large coffee cup will do in a pinch. In fact, something as tall as it is deep (like a mug) is what you need here.
Fill it about 1/3 full with chocolate chunks. Cover the chunks with the cream, just barely. Microwave on LOW until the chocolate melts. Watch carefully. You don’t want it to boil. Stir once or twice. Throw in a shot of the liqueur. Stir again.

You now have chocolate fondue. Cut up a banana, rinse some strawberries, and open a can of mandarin oranges. Put fruit on plate. Hand fork to wife.

Thanks for all the advise. I don’t know if I made it clear, but this isn’t just a one-time thing. I have to cook dinner at least three nights a week or so from now on. Tonight I went with the fajita suggestion. It turned out superbly. I added my own spin on things and they were some of the best we have ever had. I will use most other the other suggestions in the near future. Wish me luck.

Shad, see if you can pick up a copy of “Desperation Dinners.” I don’t recall the authors, but they have simple, very quick recipes that turn out great. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks.
Easy stuff that turns out well:
Slice any random meat you have and stir-fry it with fresh veggies. Add some rice and soy sauce, and you have a great meal that involves almost no skill.
The pan-seared salmon mentioned upthread sounds great, and the main lesson there is that simple is good! You can pan fry nearly any cut of good meat, toss in some seasoning or onion, and serve it with noodles or seasoned rice for a great meal.
Crockpot a huge ol’ piece of pork, slice it, top with a bit of barbeque, and stick in the oven for a few minutes to give it that glazed taste.

I’ll see if I can think of any more ideas, but you get the gist–fresh veggies, good meat, maybe a loaf of bread with garlic butter, and you have the makings of a good meal.

Good for you for taking on the task. I’m impressed, and I bet your wife will be pleased. I know I would be happy if someone would just throw on some Prego and spaghetti once or twice a week…sometimes getting dinner on the table is more important than getting Dinner On the Table, if you know what I mean.


Presentation is important too. Buy some strawberries to put on the edge of the plate. Cut up a green, yellow, and red bell pepper to nibble on.

Spaghetti is very easy.
In a large skillet, brown half a pound of ground hot Italian sausage. Chop it up as you cook it with the spatula. Drain grease. Add a jar of spaghetti sauce. I like the Paul Newman stuff. Simmer. Cook spaghetti. Garlic bread, and a salad. You can put a salad together from the salad bar at the grocery store.

Sausage and sauerkraut (pickled cabbage)

Ingredients -

Keilbausa/Polish sausage(Hillshire farms or something like it)

Sauerkraut - 1-2 can/jar(s) of white. Vlasic is good. Red sauerkraut. is OK too. And you can mix and match.

1 - Onion.


Sour Cream.


Chop an onion.
Stick it in a big pot with a couple of pieces of butter.
Sauté. - Get it hot. Stir it.
Mix it up.
Cut sausage into 3" long pieces or so and put them in the pot. Mix it up.
Cook it for 5 minutes or so (the sausage is pre-cooked).
Add sauerkraut. Mix it up.
Turn heat to low and let her go for an hour or so. Just got to get it good and hot at this point, so ½ hour should do it. Don’t burn it.

Serve with a spoon full of sour cream, and a spoon full of mustard on the side of the plate for dipping.

Extra credit - Buy half a head of fresh red cabbage. Cut it into 8ths. Like you would cut an apple. Add the cabbage slices to the top of the sauerkraut and sausage. Put a lid on it and wait for the neighbors to complain about the smell. That’s when you know it’s done.:smiley:

Seriosly, it’s good stuff. Ask your wife if she likes sauerkraut though. It’s pretty strong.