You don’t have to impress your friends with your cooking

You don’t have to impress your friends with your cooking

  • Foods
  • March 17, 2023
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Dinner SOS is the podcast where Bon Appétit answers your highly specific cooking conundrums, thanks to host and food director Chris Morocco and a rotating cast of cooking experts. Here, Chris goes deeper into this week’s kitchen emergency, which you can listen to here.

No seriously – stop trying to impress your friends in the kitchen.

Whitney, a recent caller to Dinner SOS, had a vision of entertaining a large group of friends but felt she lacked the culinary skills to make it happen. Worse, as a self-confessed food obsessive living in the phenomenal food city of Victoria, British Columbia, she knows how high the bar is for good food. Her love of food inspired her to have visions of serving her friends an equally fine meal.

I too once wanted to impress people with my kitchen. My culinary training at the French Culinary Institute was like a drug for me. I was finally doing something I loved, and the pleasure of immersing myself in the codified language of French cuisine was intoxicating. It made me do crazy shit. I set up my home kitchen as a mini brigade de cuisine, with myself as the chef in charge of each station, fired up Pommes Anna for my confused wife and once worked on making a perfect roast chicken with spinach puree for my aunt and Uncle (who immediately removed all the skin before digging in).

The harder I worked to feed people, the less I enjoyed feeding people. I spent sweaty afternoons by the stove and didn’t see my friends until late at night, and those were my days off. Instagram is teeming with examples of people flaunting food, and it’s only natural to have high expectations when it comes to one’s culinary ambitions to emulate the high level of execution that so many people now both consume with their eyes as well as with their mouth.

For Whitney, the instinct to show her love for her friends through an artfully prepared home-cooked meal was palpable. And familiar. So much so that I ignored some warning signs. Did I ask what was in her pantry, fridge door or what was the last thing she cooked at home? Dear listener, I have not. I tried to give her what she wanted, which was something edgy and Instagrammable. I suggested a modern take on Beef Wellington along with Dutchess Baked Potatoes, thinking she was a home cook just looking to step up. Turns out, Whitney didn’t even own salt. I sent them in a salvo of hand-chopped maitake mushrooms, puff pastry (in my defense, store-bought), and photo-worthy mashed potatoes.

My co-host Shilpa Uskokovic read the situation much better than I did. Her suggestions: Shaved pears and radishes with gorgonzola and nori that might look fancy but are incredibly easy to make. Fried Chicken with Turmeric Lime Salsa and Pepitas is a dish anyone can make and love. You could go to the kitchen to make both and be back in about an hour. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I let Whitney indulge that familiar nemesis: kitchen ambitions. In her own words, “no one died” (although my heart broke to hear she canceled the meal, only to have her friends cancel at the last minute). But these days, when I’m entertaining guests, I make a simple main course and place a heavy emphasis on cheese, wine, and a store-bought dessert. That means I can spend the day with my family on the road and still have braised meatballs or fried chicken on the table in about an hour. Never Dessert: Somehow I just can’t manage to make a dessert and cook dinner at the same time. Whatever I can find at a local bakery and throw an ice cream cone at is about my speed. I’m not trying to impress anyone.

Subscribe to Dinner SOS here.

Recipes from this episode of Dinner SOS:

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