When you need a hero

You’ve been so bold as to offer to cook for them. Whoever it is. A date, a group of friends, your cousin’s new girlfriend. It’s not that you’re nervous, but you do want to impress. You need a hero (recipe). Everyone should have at least one dish they can easily whip up in times of need. Mine are Don Roberto’s penne alla Bolognese and this galette. But I was curious to know what others make to showcase their culinary skills, whether they’re being judged by a potential mate or their own hungry children. So I asked some of our To Taste contributors and friends for their go-to, no-fail recipes and, no surprise…they delivered.

Ali Rosen: There is a mustard salmon in my book Bring It! that is so easy and everyone (even people who say they don’t like mustard) loves. It looks really pretty with whole grain mustard, lime zest, and chives and it honestly takes only 3 minutes of prep work. So that’s one I use all the time and get compliments on for basically doing nothing.

Brittany Bennett: If someone is in need of a dessert and I’m in close proximity, I will go to the pantry and collect what I need for my Oma’s Dutch Appeltaart. It works the holiday circuit and then makes pop up appearances during the year. Putting it together is also a great way to ward off stress so it’s my go to when I need to relax.

Yasmin Fahr: A meat ragu with fresh pasta is my favorite to cook for guests in the winter as it’s so hearty and warming. Plus, I can cook it all day so the apartment smells amazing. I always tend to throw in a Parmesan rind so that it slowly releases cheese and flavors the sauce.

Neal Fraser: Roasted chicken, preferably brined first.

Photo by Alice Gao

Jessie Sheehan: Well, right now my hero recipes would be the butterscotch potato chip balls recipe (available on the site!) from my newest cookbook, The Vintage Baker, and my recipe for chocolate marshmallows walnut fudge with sea salt — also from The Vintage Baker. They are my heroes because I have been making them both for all of the events I have been having lately, to promote the book, as they are easy and delicious and people seem to really enjoy them both (who knew??).

Erinn Simon: My hero recipe right now is probably my kid’s favorite: sweet potato black bean enchiladas. I make my own enchilada sauce, and salsa too. It’s pretty good.

Kameryn Tanita: My paleo turkey chili! It’s super hearty, filled with tons of veggies and you don’t need to necessarily follow a recipe, you can just add in whatever veggies you have on hand. I love serving it with tortilla chips or over rice to make it last even longer.

Emily Elyse Miller: When I want something comforting to cook on autopilot I’ll make an Italian red sauce. Then I’ll need something to go with it so I’ll make a crispy chicken cutlet, douse it in the sauce, and top it with mozzarella, and and excessive amount of parm… also pine nuts. I put pine nuts on everything. Second would be a really perfect turkey sandwich. I take turkey sandwich-making very seriously. Always a crispy semolina hero with thinly sliced turkey, shredded iceberg, tomato, mayo, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and done!