Even if you're the most laid-back home cook on the planet, you'd probably put some thought into the menu if you were cooking for your partner's mom. Because while you certainly don't want to show off, you'd also like to show that you're fully capable of putting a delicious, made-from-scratch meal on the table.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, here's our advice: roast chicken. The humble, familiar and comforting supper is among the dishes that famous chefs say they'd want for their last meal. It's also known as the go-to dinner for getting engaged. And Julia Child cited it as a dish any great chef should know how to make. Now, we'd like to add the classic to another list: what to cook for your significant other's parents.

The thousands of articles and discussions out there on how to make the "perfect" roast chicken—brine it; stuff a lemon inside it (or don't?); rub butter all over it—could have you believe a bird cooked in the oven is one of the most complicated dishes a person can attempt. The truth is, though, it's hard to screw up a roast chicken. For one, it's way more forgiving than, say, pork tenderloin, which can easily overcook and turn dry. As long as it's cooked through (which an instant-read thermometer can tell you), it's done—and that's more than we can say for steak, since everyone has a different definition of "done." Another reason we love roast chicken: You can fall short of perfection, and it'll still taste excellent. Plus, pulling a whole bird out of the oven sure does look fantastic.

This lemon-scented version is our pick; it's wonderfully juicy thanks to the addition of two cups of milk to the pan, which help tenderize the meat and keep it moist. Garlic, cinnamon, sage and rosemary add subtle flavor.

The sides can be as basic or as complicated as you like; though for this occasion, when you want to focus more on conversation than cooking, we'd go with a simple green salad, bread and maybe in-season vegetables, such as roasted sweet potatoes and carrots or sautéed asparagus.

For dessert, we'd go with anything you can make ahead of time, whether that's pie, a cake or a platter of cookies. Whatever you choose, make sure it's something you like, too (even if that means Nutella banana bread!)—because as much as this meal may be about your future mother-in-law, it's also a reflection of the person who made it.


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