Sometimes having a good friend over for dinner can be stressful. You want to impress them (obviously), but you don’t want to be slaving away while they’re sitting on your couch awaiting your latest dating gossip. The trick to really winning the at-home dinner date is having everything pre-prepared so all you need to do is heat and serve.
Last week, my friend Maggie was planning on coming to dinner. Maggie is an editor at people.com and is always up on the latest news, gossip, trends—so I knew the meal had to impress. She also isn’t the hugest carb fan, so pasta (my usual go-to) was out of the question.
I decided to go with Asian beef tacos with a cabbage slaw. And I made it ALL the day ahead, so when Maggie came over, I just needed to cook the beef, assemble tacos and pour the wine. (Took about 5 minutes tops). This is a quick, do-ahead meal that you can easily prepare without being a slave to your stove.
Here’s the meat in marination mode:
A culinary school tip: marinade should be POTENT. It should be more powerful than a normal sauce because you want each flavor to really penetrate the meat. So for this marinade, I went heavy on the garlic and ginger. The resulting mix should be salty, spicy, sweet—basically a magnified version of how you want your meat to taste.
- Soy sauce: ⅓ cup
- Honey: 2 tbs
- Sesame oil: no more than 1 tbs
- Garlic-chili sauce: 2 tbs
- Rice wine vinegar: ¼ cup
- Garlic: 3 cloves, minced
- Ginger: one thumb-sized chunk, minced
- Chinese chives: ¼ cup, thinly sliced
- Whisk together these ingredients. Like I said, this is an approximation. It really depends on the cut of meat you're using, how thick it's sliced and what you like!
- The resulting marinade should be salty and vinegary (enough to make your eyes water a little bit). At the end, you should feel heat from the ginger, garlic and the chili sauce.
- Add the meat and marinate overnight.
Next for the tacos, I made the Asian slaw. I love Asian slaw because you get a spicy, crunchy bite. This slaw is also mayo-less, which means it’s actually edible.
For the cabbage, you can really play with the recipe. I used one small head of purple cabbage and added about 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar, a little soy sauce and a hefty squeeze of Sriracha. THAT’S IT. i let it sit overnight so the cabbage could really soak in all those flavors. (This also maximized fun-time with Maggie).
Once the meat and cabbage are done, you’re pretty much in the clear. When your guest comes over the next day, simply cook the meat (if it’s thinly sliced, it should saute in a pan in about three minutes).
Heat up your soft taco shell, shmere it with a mixture of Sriracha and hoisin sauce, heap it with cabbage slaw and then top with three or four thin slices of meat. Top with some chives (why not!). And serve your very impressed guest.