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How Not to Serve a Tasting Menu

How Not to Serve a Tasting Menu


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It's Sunday night at 8 o'clock, there are only four tables filled, and the restaurant's chef was a nominee for Food & Wine's award for The People's Best New Chef, there are three tasting options — Elaborate ($40), Very Elaborate ($55), and Ultra Crazy Elaborate $70) — and descriptions of items of the menu with "exotic," "richest dish you may have ever had," "perfect," "best ever," and degress of "special" attached to them. "Trust us," it reads, " you have no choice but to." Of course, you do. You could construct your own tasting, but with that kind of confidence, why wouldn't you order the tasting and expect an extraordinary experience?

Before ordering the food, things started going wrong almost immediately. There are two servers and four tables, but it takes 10 minutes for one of them to take a drink order. You order the "Ultra Crazy Elaborate" menu for two and ask politely if, as it is at most restaurants worth the time, if it's possible for the two tastings to be different so that you can experience more of the 34 dishes on the menu, only to be told, "That's not something that the chef does."

"Can you ask the chef if it's possible?"

"I can ask, but I can already tell you that he's going to say no."

"Well, can you ask?"

There's an eyeroll and a huffy walk to the kitchen, sign enough that this is a restaurant you should walk out of, and even better, that's followed by a return to the table, and this incredible front of house response to a table: "Unfortunately, I was right. The chef says it will not be possible to do two different tables." Unfortunately, you were right? "Unfortunately." Unfortunately, you were right. Yes, it's unfortunate, it's also unfortunate that you, dear server, will later come to the table and describe braised short beef as "short-braised beef." But then, this is all a very unfortunate situation. Which all raises the important question: Is there a rule for when you should order the tasting menu? And if no? What are the rules for how best to compose your own tasting at a restaurant?

ASK BOTH OF PROMIENT CRITICS


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

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DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!


How to Stay Sane While Cooking for Other People

Now that most of my buds are on their way to being fully vaccinated, I am getting cautiously excited about feeding them . And though there might be a slight re-learning curve when it comes to making fun, casual conversation, I am pleased to say that I have already perfected my menu-planning strategy for when I get to cook for other people again .

The main difference between “cooking for me” and “cooking for people I want to think highly of me” is that the latter calls for a meal. Though I may be quite satisfied with a bowl of cottage cheese and crumbled potato chips for supper, that is not something I would ever serve a guest.

Cooking for friends and family is how I show them that I like them, and that display translates into at least three components—a main and two sides, or a main, a side, and a dessert. It’s a reasonable amount food, but I can be very unreasonable about how intricate and fancy each component should be, so I developed a rule to keep myself in check while menu-planning. To keep yourself sane while making meal for other people, you should make one thing—and one thing only—from each of the following categories.

  • Something that can be made ahead of time: This could mean days ahead or hours ahead—it’s up to you. But basically, you want at least one dish that you can make and then forget about until serving time. A cold salad, homemade bread, a dessert, or even a meat dish best served cold or at room temperature— are all good options.
  • Something you can kind of ignore: This may be a dish that can be roasted, very slowly grilled, or cooked in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. This could be your protein (like a pork tenderloin or some chicken thighs , for instance), but roasted carrots, baked potatoes, or rice made in a rice cooker or Instant Pot also work.
  • Something that demands your attention: This is anything that requires fiddling, watching, flipping, or futzing. Delicate vegetables, meat on the grill, or expensive steaks all fall into this category.

Want a fourth thing? Buy it, or tell someone to bring it when they ask “what can I bring? ”

The nice thing about this framework is that pretty much any component can fall into any category, so you can get real fancy with whatever strikes your fancy, which will keep you relatively calm, but not bore you . The resultant offering could look like a meal of grilled chicken thighs (category 3) with this carrot salad (category 1) and some baked potatoes (category 2) or it could look like this Instant Pot pork shoulder (category 2), with some homemade rolls (category 1), and sautéed asparagus (category 3). I almost always outsource dessert, but if you’d rather bake something sweet than something savory, you could buy the rolls and bake a pie. If, however, you want a dessert that falls into category 1, cut up some fresh fruit ahead of time and serve it with a pitcher of cold heavy cream .

If you don’t want to cook all three components, that’s fine too! I always advocate for doing less over doing more, and outsourcing as much as needed to keep a grip on your sanity, especially if you are new to cooking or new to cooking for other people. Cooking for four requires a different skill set than cooking for one , and overwhelming yourself with a too- precious menu only sucks the joy out of doing the former .

Claire is Lifehacker's Senior Food Editor. She has a B.S. in chemistry, a decade of food journalism experience, and a deep love for mayonnaise and MSG.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

As an adult on the back end of my 30s with not more than two friends visiting for Inside Meals at a time, I recommend sous vide. It may have left the culinary zeitgeist in the last few years, but you can crank this meal out while you sit your ass on the couch for two days. That’s it, that’s the whole meal.

Please look for reusable bags since this does require a bit of plastic!



Comments:

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  2. Merle

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  5. Eleuia

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  6. Robb

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