One of our favorite things about food (forgive us, we know we say this all the time) is how it brings people together. But, what about those times when getting together feels incredibly stressful?
There comes a time in every cook's life when their significant other turns to them and says, "So, my parents are coming over for dinner." First of all, don't panic. As intimidating as they can sometimes be, parents are just people who probably have their own cooking nerves and idiosyncrasies, too. You're going to be great.
We know you want to be impressive. We know you want the food to look great, taste even better and for the conversation to flow effortlessly. But, we also know that you are probably very busy and that you want to keep your sanity. Which is why we've put together an in-law-entertaining menu full of showstoppers that are easy to prepare in advance, to help you keep your cool. Oh, also it includes two cocktails, because that is just how we like to entertain people.
A few essentials to keep in mind:
- Cocktails are a great way to make people a) hungry and b) relaxed.
- Do everything that you can ahead of time, so you barely have to lift a finger once company arrives. This way, when they say, "Oh, [chosen sweetheart of our precious child], this must have taken you FOREVER," you can insist that it was no big deal and not even be lying.
- If you are in the weeds, don't be afraid to ask for help! A host/ess having a melt-down is endearing to no one. (Also, if one of your in-laws offers to chop things/carry things/pour things, say yes. People love to feel useful.)
- If you use a little too much salt or the cake is not quite as fluffy as you wanted it to be, no one is going to die. It's just dinner!
Now, let's talk menu. And don't forget -- they're going to love you.
Get the Elderflower Sparklers recipe It's the dead of summer, so a pre-dinner aperitif should be light, refreshing and not so strong that you'll be under the table if you drink more than one. A cocktail before dinner both whets our appetite and relaxes us. Two tricks that are essential to taming your in-laws (although I'm sure they're lovely people).
Get the Shrimp Mini Smørrebrød recipe You can impress your dinner guests both by knowing how to properly pronounce smørrebrød, and by serving them something that will perfectly compliment that fizzy cocktail in their hand. The remoulade can be made a day in advance and the entire assembled smørrebrød can be covered in the fridge for up to eight hours.
Get the Prosciutto Date Cigars recipe Anything stuffed, wrapped and arranged nicely on a cocktail tray will look like you made a huge fuss. In reality, you will have thrown these in the fridge the day before and forgotten about them until cocktail hour. Because you are a genius.
Get the Tangy Green Zebra Gazpacho recipe Not sure about you, but when we go to someone's home and they hand us a bowl of soup (be it warm and comforting, or cold and refreshing like this one), we feel like they care about us and want us to be happy. That is exactly how you want to set your in-laws up for a life of thinking you are spectacular. We promise not to tell anyone that this soup can totally be made up to two days in advance, then just ladled and garnished at the last second. This summery gazpacho is a great transition from standing around drinking cocktails and eating snacks into sitting down for a delicious meal. (It's also a great time to let your steak rest, but we'll get to that in just a minute.)
Get the Grilled Flank Steak with Corn, Tomato and Asparagus Salad recipe Okay, the main event. The timing on this may seem complicated, but I promise you it is dead simple: Your steak has been marinating in the fridge for a few hours (up to eight is fine). About half an hour before your guests arrive, take it out so it can come up to room temperature. Once you get your guests settled in with cocktails and snacks (and don't forget your own), get your grill going and cook off the veggies while you socialize. Once cocktail hour winds down, throw that steak on the grill for ten minutes, and let it rest while you serve and eat your gazpacho. Then it's just slicing the steak, assembling the salad and you're done. You are actually way better at this than you expected. (Also, this recipe calls for morels, but substituting shiitakes would be lovely and they can be cooked in advance as well!)
Get the Sicilian Granita recipe Everyone loves coffee after dinner, but no one wants to drink a hot cup in the middle of summer. This granita solves that problem. It's basically an adult sno-cone, with icy espresso and homemade whipped cream. Oh, and you've totally made this in advance, so all you have to do is serve it up, graciously. We can hear it now: "Oh, [chosen sweetheart of our precious child], a palate cleanser? How elegant!"
Get the Strawberry and Lemon Curd Cake recipe By this point, your happily full and mildly drunk guests are probably begging for mercy. But they'll find room for this stunning cake, we promise. You can make this beauty the morning of the party and take it out of the fridge 20 or 30 minutes before serving.
Get the Mother-In-Law Cocktail from Chronicles of a Stomach Grumble We promise, that is really what this is called. Your mother-in-law will be flattered that it's named after her. Everyone else will just be glad to have a digestif after all that food. You make this robust cocktail in large batches, so that it's ready any time you need it. Sit back, swirl it around in your glass and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. You totally knocked this out of the park.
We want to help you figure out what to eat next! Need to know What To Eat When A Vegetarian Comes To Dinner? What about What To Eat When You Have A Cold? Submit a tip, let us know in the comments, or tweet @HuffPostTaste and we'll pull it all together for you!