Vegetarian ISO romantic meaty meal
September 24, 2012 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Carnivores of Mefi, please help this long-time vegetarian make a smashing dinner for her beloved's birthday! I did see this askme, but I would not consider myself an experienced cook and I really only need one knockout meal (though I will check those resources out!). If you were a meat-eater that did not like pork products or seafood, what would be a great special meal that a regular ol' girl could whip up with a few hours of preparation (and a not-huge bankroll) that would make your day?

I should add that I have some basic kitchen tools available as well as a crock pot, a small food processor, a hand mixer, a microwave and an electric stove and oven with no broiler. Thank you!
posted by PaulaSchultz to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Easy but awesome...roasted or grilled chicken breasts seasoned with any variety of spices, topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions. Top that with mozzarella or even better, Monterrey jack cheese and stick it all in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt. I just use seasoned salt.
posted by tamitang at 4:41 PM on September 24, 2012

A two-inch thick rib-eye steak with sauteed mushrooms and a baked potato would be a bout perfect.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:42 PM on September 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

Let Alton Brown show you how to cook a steak:
posted by joshjs at 4:43 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

You need something fool-proof because you're not going to be tasting as you cook and you probably lack the experience to make important judgements by eye or the particular timings of your oven. Go with the crockpot; Guinness stew is lovely this time of year and great with a salad and some bread, maybe some really nice cheese.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:43 PM on September 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

This time of year I get an absolute craving for chicken pot pie. It's the perfect food on a brisk fall day and it's pretty easy to make.
posted by JannaK at 4:44 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Former vegan here who had to learn to cook meatish things.

A rare steak, baked potatoes, some sort of green vegetable (partial to broccoli in all formats), good wine. Dessert if you're into that kind of thing - check out Nigella Lawson's recipes.

I use the tips from Chowhound about how to cook a steak without a grill and have always had delicious results. I like my steak a lot more bleedy than average (god how was i ever vegan), so you may need to increase the oven time slightly. The butter part is essential.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2012

People who are not vegetarians seem to get a real kick out having a vegetarian make them an awesome steak, and the Alton Brown method suggested above by joshjs is a pretty foolproof way to do it. Since you're gonna have a super-hot oven going for the steak anyway, make these potatoes at the same time, then accompany with whatever vegetable side you like to make and is in season in your area.

But yeah, cooking a big 'ol slab of beef seems to be seen as the most "unvegetarian" thing you could do, and will feel very memorable and special in a way that stew or tacos will not. Plus it's easy.
posted by contraption at 4:52 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

The cast iron pan is crucial and you don't mention whether you have one, so let me make this plug: they're great and if you buy one for this you'll use it all the time (especially on an electric stove where lighter pans will be prone to uneven heating.) If it doesn't fit the budget for dinner, could it do double duty as a gift? Assuming it's something he might like anyway, getting it with its first seasoning on it from the birthday meal you cooked for him would be really cool.
posted by contraption at 4:59 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ground beef, some olive oil, some chopped cilantro, bit of pepper. Make into balls and fry, serve with your favorite side dish.
posted by Mai2k3 at 5:06 PM on September 24, 2012

If steak isn't working for you, chicken on a throne is pretty foolproof.

1) Wash and salt body cavity (remove giblets/neck if they're in there
2) Salt/season outside of chicken. I think I might have slipped some butter under the skin.
3) Open can of tasty, flavorful beer. Drink a few ounces. Set on baking sheet.
4) Chicken "sits" with beer can as far up its business as needed for stability. Bake at 350F for ~1hr. Test doneness at a thigh joint.

You can roast some veg on the baking sheet while the chicken is going.
posted by momus_window at 5:10 PM on September 24, 2012

Agree that you really can't go wrong with a nice steak, but I also wanted to plug this foolproof Whole Chicken Crockpot Recipe. I made it last week for a party and it was SO tender, plus it looks hella impressive, although it is super inexpensive. And! Your beloved will have pulled chicken to make meaty leftovers with!

This is not a very helpful recipe if you are not okay with cleaning a whole chicken--no judgment, it took this carnivore years to work up to it. If you want to try it you could look for chickens without the giblets/neck, or use kitchen gloves to wash the cavity.
posted by stellaluna at 5:28 PM on September 24, 2012

Nthing steak as suggested already. I also love Ina Garten's Beer Braised Pot Roast. It's super easy and delicious. I use a smaller roast than suggested in the recipe. With mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli or asparagus, it's a great meal.
posted by shoesietart at 5:44 PM on September 24, 2012

The Thomas Keller Roast Chicken recipe has been linked all over AskMe before. It's delicious and ridiculously easy to make.

2nd stellaluna, tho - handling a whole chicken can get a bit squicky if you're not used to it.
posted by gnutron at 6:01 PM on September 24, 2012

Yeah, if this is gonna be a one-time thing you kind of want something foolproof. Making a tricky recipe for the first time, for a special occasion where you really want it to be perfect, it way stressful and I'd avoid it if I were you. So like steak is great, but it's easy to overcook or undercook if you don't know what you're doing, and trying to get the timing right under pressure is kinda stressful.

So I'd be tempted to suggest instead some kind of stew, where a couple minutes one way or the other aren't gonna screw things up. The pot roast up above looks like a good bet, and pot roast is a nice special-occasion-y meal.

Alternately: dark meat chicken (legs or thighs) braised in some kind of liquid. White meat dries out and gets nasty if you overcook it; dark meat is basically immune to this, and will stay juicy and tender. Chicken adobo is easy and really delicious.

Or, for plan C: do steak, but do a test run ahead of time. I'm sure you have some carnivore friend who would be thrilled to come over for a top secret trial run steak dinner and let you know how it turned out, and that way you can be confident when the big day comes that you're gonna do it right.

(If you do go for steak, I'd vote for creamed spinach alongside, since (a) homemade creamed spinach is really fucking good and (b) it'll be something filling and not-just-potatoes-y that you can eat too.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:05 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A big part of cooking a great steak is purchasing a great steak. You want to find a friendly butcher. A good butcher, not some super-market meat room slicer guy. And ask, beg, for his most expensive, fineest cut of beef. To cook a great steak, it really helps to know your local butcher.
posted by Flood at 6:12 PM on September 24, 2012

I'm a carnivore, I've cooked for years, and I still find cooking a steak a little dicey, and not a sure thing at all.

If chicken is impressive enough, I'd definitely suggest something involving shredded poached chicken breasts. You can make a wild rice and chicken salad, or chicken tacos or burritos, or (my fave) shredded barbeque chicken on the best buns you can find, or on rice, or with steamed potatoes. Get a good barbeque sauce, marinade the shredded chicken -- you've got a winner. Add the usual barbeque sides: coleslaw, corn, baked beans, bean salad, everybody has different ideas, all are delicious. Because, you know, barbeque.....

And here's how you get the cooked chicken: Put a few boneless chicken breasts in enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, leave the chicken in the water until cool. Pull the meat apart, or chop it or slice it if you'd rather. Thank you, James Beard. (hint: choose smaller breasts and more of them to guarantee they'll be done all the way through.)
posted by kestralwing at 6:25 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

oops -- left out one step for the shredded barbeque chicken. Just before eating, heat the chicken up. We prefer a quick saute in a frying pan, but really anything will work, even microwaving. This really is a foolproof and spectacularly delicious way to eat chicken.
posted by kestralwing at 6:27 PM on September 24, 2012

I find beef brisket really low-stress to make. Sear the outside in a pan, roll it around in some nice bbq sauce, put in covered roasting pan, bake on low (like 250 degrees) for about 6 hours. Look up a real recipe but it'll be something like that. Then you have plenty of time while it's roasting to fix your side dishes. You can do this in the slow cooker too if you need to leave it unattended. Bake it fat-side-up and rake off the fat before serving.
posted by lakeroon at 7:01 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

with the cooler nights, all week long i've had a craving for short ribs. you could also make a risotto to go with it, and that's what you can eat! but they're equally delicious with mashed potatoes or polenta.
posted by kerning at 7:40 PM on September 24, 2012

Thanks everyone for your suggestions, I borrowed a cast iron skillet and made the Alton Brown ribeye and it went very well, just a little pink inside, just how he likes it. I also made the Pioneer Woman Crash Potatoes linked above, I can definitely vouch for those! I'll be coming back to these links for future special occasion meals too, I've got years' worth of birthday dinners now!
posted by PaulaSchultz at 2:48 PM on November 5, 2012

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