6 Elegant Recipes Everyone Should Know How to Make

Nearly everyone knows how to scramble eggs and grill a burger. While these dishes are delicious, it might be time to turn up the sophistication dial. Anyone who values good food needs to know how to make some of it. Never fear, because upgrading your recipe box is a lot easier than you might think. We’ve picked six classy dishes that will make you feel like you’re eating in a fine-dining restaurant without tons of time or exotic ingredients. Whether it’s date night or a table for one, these recipes make any day feel a little more special.

1. Simple Steak au Poivre

steak au poivre

Simple steak au poivre | iStock.com

Some of the fanciest sounding dishes are actually the easiest, and this steak and sauce combination from The New York Times is a great example. Just sizzle the pepper-coated beef in a heavy pan until it’s crusty on the outside, take it out of the pan, then cook some shallots right in the same skillet. Add some broth and a splash of Cognac, reduce to intensify the flavor, then finish with a bit of crème fraîche. So easy, but so good.

Since there’s not a whole lot to steak au poivre, you want to get good quality ingredients. Prepackaged beef that’s browning around the edges just won’t do, so head to your butcher. Better yet, get him or her to cut the steaks specifically for you.

Ingredients:

  • 4 (6-ounce, 1-inch-thick) beef tenderloin steaks
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely crushed black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely crushed Sichaun pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 1½ cups beef or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or bourbon
  • ¼ cup crème fraíche
  • 1 bunch watercress

Directions: Put steaks in a shallow dish and season both sides with salt. Sprinkle both kinds of pepper evenly over top, and press into meat. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Once nearly smoking, add 1 tablespoon butter then steaks. Adjust heat to keep steaks sizzling briskly. Cook 2 minutes on first side, or until nicely browned. Flip and cook 2 minutes longer. Transfer steaks a to a platter.

Add 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Add shallots and cook for a minute or so, stirring, until beginning to brown. Add broth and simmer. Add Cognac, and simmer until reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add crème fraîche, and cook until lightly thickened.

Return steaks to pan, turning to coat in sauce. Arrange steaks on plates, and top with more sauce. Garnish with watercress, and serve.

2. Risotto Milanese

risotto milanese, saffron

Risotto milanese | iStock.com

While risotto does require you to babysit the simmering rice, it’s just stirring. Mario Batali’s recipe, featured on Food Network, gets a golden hue and wonderful flavor from a bit of saffron. The spice is made from the hand-picked stamens of crocus flowers, and it usually takes 150 of those little threads to amount to just 1 gram. This means it’s also the most expensive jar you’ll find in the spice aisle. But don’t despair, because a little goes a very long way.

To make the risotto, sweat some onions in olive oil while you bloom the saffron in some warm stock. Add the rice to the onions, and cook just until the grains get a little bit toasty. Add some wine, then stir until it’s absorbed. Repeat the process of stirring and adding liquid with the saffron stock, and you’ll end with a perfectly creamy bowl of rice.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3½ cups chicken stock, hot
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more

Directions: In a 12- to 14-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, but not brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add saffron to stock, stirring to infuse. Once onions are soft, add rice and stir until coated and toasted, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add wine to rice, then 4 to 6 ounces of saffron stock. Cook, stirring, until absorbed. Continue adding stock, stirring, and absorbing until rice is creamy, but still a bit firm in the center, about 15 minutes. Add butter and cheese. Stir to combine. Portion into bowls, and serve with additional cheese.

3. Seared Scallops with Tarragon Butter Sauce

scallops

Scallops | iStock.com

Beautifully browned scallops are something most leave to professional cooks. Truthfully, they’re a complete cinch. The secrets are patting the scallops dry and waiting for the pan to get really hot before cooking. Epicurious’ tasty recipe takes the guesswork out of searing the shellfish with a simple method.

Once the first side is seared, flip the scallops, and let them sizzle just until they’re cooked through. Don’t worry about browning the second side too much or you’ll risk overcooking the delicate shellfish. Finish with a quick sauce made with wine, tarragon, and butter, then it’s time to eat.

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ pounds large sea scallops, tough ligament from side removed
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon

Directions: Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until butter no longer foams. Add scallops and sear until golden brown and just cooked through, flipping once, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

Add shallot, wine, and vinegar to a skillet. Boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits, until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Add any accumulated juices form platter, and continue to reduce until liquid is about ¼ cup. Reduce heat to low and add 3 tablespoons butter, stirring, until almost melted. Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter and swirl until incorporated and sauce is creamy. Add tarragon and season with salt, to taste. Pour sauce over scallops, and serve.

4. Salad Niçoise

salad nicoise

Salad niçoise | iStock.com

If your salads typically involve a pile of greens and a drizzle of vinaigrette, it’s time to upgrade to France’s hearty take. Saveur’s salad niçoise takes canned tuna to new heights by pairing it with tons of delicious vegetables and a mustard-laced dressing. Lay it all out on a platter and you have a salad capable of entertaining.

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 pound small new potatos, boiled until tender
  • 6 ounces baby yellow beets, boiled until tender, and peeled
  • 6 ounces baby red beets, boiled until tender, and peeled
  • 8 ounces haricot verts, blanched
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup black Niçoise olives
  • 8 small radishes, trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 8 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed, and drained
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 3 (4-ounce) cans high-quality, oil-packed tuna, drained
  • ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions

Directions: Mince garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Using a knife, mash garlic and salt into a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl, and whisk in oil, lemon juice, mustard, shallot, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Arrange all salad ingredients in rows on a platter. Drizzle with dressing, season with salt and pepper, garnish with basil and scallions, then serve.

5. Roast Chicken with Peppers and Feta

roast chicken, vegetables

Roast chicken with peppers | iStock.com

Roast chicken is a classic that works any time of year. Prepare BBC Good Food’s version, which pairs the poultry with peppers, zucchini, and mint. Best of all, you only need one pan to make the whole meal.

Don’t feel limited by the ingredients, because this recipe will work with tons of different vegetables. Use whatever’s available and looking good. Green beans, snap peas, and eggplant are all good options. You can also add some fresh tomatoes right at the end.

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves, 3 crushed, remaining left whole
  • 2 tablespoons chopped oregano
  • 2 lemons, 1 juiced, one cut into wedges
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 (3½-pound) chicken
  • 3 large red bell peppers, seeded, and cut into large chunks
  • 3 small red onions, cut into wedges
  • 4 large zucchini, cut into thick wedges
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint, plus more
  • 7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • Crusty bread

Directions: Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix crushed garlic and oregano with lemon juice and 3 tablespoons oil to make a dressing. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Make a few slashes in each chicken leg, then put chicken in a large roasting pan. Rub with 2 tablespoons of dressing. Stuff squeezed lemon halves inside the cavity, and roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss peppers, onions, whole garlic cloves, and zucchini with remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pile veggies around chicken, and drizzle with half of remaining dressing. Roast 1 hour.

Remove chicken foro oven, lift onto a platter, and cover with foil. Pour off any rendered chicken fat from pan, then stir in lemon wedges, mint, feta, chickpeas, and remaining dressing. Return vegetables to oven for 10 minutes to heat through. Serve chicken with vegetables, additional mint, and bread.

6. Easy Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

panna cotta, berries

Vanilla bean panna cotta | iStock.com

Dessert is usually where recipes become complicated, especially when it comes to custard. Panna cotta is a different story, though. Italian for “cooked cream,” the name is a pretty accurate description as recipes involve little more than heating some cream, sugar, and gelatin. That’s right, no eggs, tempering, or baking required. Though you’ll find recipes for nearly any flavor you can image, we think a classic vanilla is pretty hard to beat. Chef E. Michael Reidt’s recipe, which he shared with Food & Wine is a perfect example. A few berries are all you need to make it sing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, split, and seeds scraped out
  • 2¼ teaspoons unflavored, powdered gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Mixed berries

Directions: In a medium saucepan, combine cream, sugar, vanilla pod, and seeds. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until moistened, about 5 minutes. Uncover cream, and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Remove vanilla pod. Pour panna cotta into eight 4-ounce ramekins. Let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours. Serve with berries.

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