The New Standbys

Great cooks share recipes for foolproof entertaining.

Every cook needs a fail-safe recipe, something reliable yet fabulous, simple yet impressive--the food equivalent of a little black dress. We asked five experts to come up with dinner-party standbys that can either be accessorized with all kinds of flourishes or presented with minimal embellishment. Bruce Aidells, the owner of the Aidells Sausage Company and the coauthor of The Complete Meat Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin), suggests a flank steak, which he dresses up with a stuffing of basil and prosciutto; to dress it down, he serves it cold on a baguette. Pastry chef Gale Gand, the co-owner of Tru, in Chicago, proposes a humble Banana-Split Strudel, served (or not) with a raspberry salsa. The pan-seared salmon fillets from Pam Anderson, the author of How to Cook Without a Book (Broadway Books), are a study in versatility, equally appealing with a Pernod pan sauce, a curried-chutney pan sauce or a lemon-herb butter. Prepare one of these dishes when guests are coming over and all you'll have to worry about is what to wear.

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