The kitchen can be an intimidating place for a beginner home cook. I often see recipes online that require ingredients I’ve never heard of or techniques that seem overly complicated. So what do I do when I want to make a meal that will impress my friends and family but cause me to pull my hair out in the kitchen?
I stick to the basics or reach out to the internet. Luckily, other home cooks gathered in an online discussion to discuss their go-to dishes that are simple to prepare but turn out fancy and delicious.
Table of Contents
1. Roasted Salmon
In my experience in the kitchen, salmon can be fairly forgivable. Some simple spices or marinades are all you need before baking it in the oven. Instead of worrying about when to flip in the pan, you can prepare some steamed vegetables or roasted potatoes.
The salmon filets come out looking perfect, and you will look like a professional chef.
2. Lamb Shanks
If you are like me, you read that and thought, “No way I can make a lamb shank. Are you crazy?” Well, guess what? It really is not that hard. All the meat needs is a simple marinade that can be made or store-bought.
One home cook agrees, “Marinate the lamb ahead of time and then just stick it in the oven. Make gravy with the drippings. Then you can spend your time on the sides.” This will definitely impress your guests.
3. Beef Bourguignon
Don’t worry; speaking French is not a requirement to make this delicious dish. This French stew is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser when on your table this winter season.
If you own a slow cooker, the ingredients can be added to the pot and cooked overnight or while you run errands. It can’t get much easier than that!
4. Braised Short Ribs
Another daunting task for an inexperienced cook is braising short ribs, which may seem too complicated but relatively easy. This dish is one of my go-to comfort meals in the cold weather months. Cooking low and slow, the oven does most of the work for the tougher cut of beef.
One woman suggests, “I make this close to once a week since I found out how easy it really is. I take the braising liquid and add it to sauteed mushrooms with a little cream and a dash of balsamic. It’s my absolute favorite over tortellini or mashed potatoes.”
5. Lobster Tails
Lobster is a delicacy that is sold in fancy restaurants for fancy prices. Truth is, lobster tails are one of the easiest meals to cook at home. A simple boiling pot of water is all you need to make this restaurant-quality meal at home.
You can also steam, bake, or grill the tails, but boiling them helps the meat not stick to the shells.
There is a wide variety of pasta, but the secret to amping up this dish is to use fresh pasta. A simple plate of fresh pasta can be paired with tomato sauce, presto, or sauteed with garlic, butter, and white wine.
A dish so easy to make can become elegant when paired with a fresh salad and a glass of wine.
7. Pork Chops
I love a juicy pork chop. I find a great pork chop much easier to cook than a cut of steak. Keep your favorite marinades on hand and start with a good sear on both sides. Then finish off in the oven.
The chops come out tender and juicy every time. I like to prepare mine with roasted veggies and potatoes. It is a perfect meal to keep your family happy and full.
8. Cornish Game Hens
Nothing says fancy and elegant like a whole mini chicken on a plate. It sounds challenging, but all you need is some seasoning and sauce, and then toss it in the oven! One cook agrees, “Cornish hens! Mini chickens, but they give off very fancy vibes since you plate one up per person.
And it’s not all that pricey, either. You can do pretty much any potato dish as a side; for a fancier dish, consider pommes anna or fondant potatoes. Neither are very difficult, and the Cornish hen can get you the start of a real good gravy.”
9. Chicken Tikka Masala
This is my go-to meal when I want to cook for someone special. The secret is you can buy the sauce in the store to save time and keep your kitchen clean.
You’ll need a rice cooker, but as the rice cooks, saute bite-size chicken until it’s browned, add the sauce, and let it simmer. Top with diced green onions, and have a quick, delicious meal.
A great appetizer, this dish doesn’t require any cooking but will still impress your guests at your next dinner party. Stop by the deli at your local market and pick out some fancy cheeses and meats for the platter.
It can be fun to design the charcuterie board, and it will be a centerpiece for your guests to gather around.
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This thread inspired this post.
I’m John Schmoll, a former stockbroker, MBA-grad, published finance writer, and founder of Frugal Rules.
As a veteran of the financial services industry, I’ve worked as a mutual fund administrator, banker, and stockbroker and was Series 7 and 63-licensed, but I left all that behind in 2012 to help people learn how to manage their money.
My goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to become financially independent with personally-tested financial tools and money-saving solutions.