"There are two sure-fire ways to impress someone these days," says chef Sam Talbot. "One is a handwritten note and the other is a good home-cooked meal." He'd know. The Top Chef alum, who's currently in charge of the menu at The Elk in Manhattan's West Village and working on a second cook book, entertains at home a lot. And he promises that while a meal can make a lasting impression, it doesn't have to be overly complicated. So whether you're hosting friends, entertaining a client or setting up a romantic dinner date, we asked Talbot for a game plan.
Chef Sam Talbot
His first suggestion? Hit up the farmers market or a grocer that's selling quality, fresh and local ingredients. Speak to the people there—they're experts on what's in season and what goes well together. "Plus, it'll give you something to talk about at the table when you're eating," he says. "You know, coming in with some local produce and talking about how they were just picked today." The key, he says, is to stay calm, go with the flow and don't get too hung up on your plan. Keep it simple and get cooking.
Your Dinner Options
Talbot provided some tips for making three dishes. You could prepare each on their own
or make them together as a larger, three-course dinner. Your call.
"Some people don't think salads are great for dates, but I'm going against the grain here. Most women appreciate a good salad—they're light and fresh—plus you won't feel so heavy afterwards. Maybe some luscious red beets, a little citrus and fresh herbs mixed with your greens. To make it a bit more hearty, top it with a few seared scallops, lemon zest, a little sea salt and a swirl of olive oil."
"I love the idea of a beautifully roasted chicken. It's simple, satisfying and everyone loves it. Rub it with salt and pepper, some herbs like thyme and a little olive oil, then roast it in a hot oven (425°F for 45 minutes, until the meat registers 150-155°F). Serve with some simple Yukon potatoes fried up in a pan, seasoned with chives and a little of the chicken's pan drippings."
"An easy way to end on a sweet note. I melt a nob of butter, sprinkle in a little coconut sugar (or brown sugar) and some cinnamon to make a syrup, and add in some chopped apples. Cook for about five minutes then deglaze the pan with a splash of spiced rum and cook for an additional two minutes. Serve that over vanilla gelato and you're done."