Re: What is your "go-to meal" to make an impression?
It depends on the person I'm impressing. I have done things like bacon wrapped meatloaf and spinach roulade and Pork Wellington and risotto for women who wanted something "fancy". For potluck dinners I've brought things like the crack dip I mentioned in another thread as well as a smoky cheddar and bacon cheeseball. If dessert is what is expected, nobody who likes cheesecake will be disappointed by my version which is a very dense NY style. My wife's family goes nuts over my mashed potatoes, but her grandfather says he could probably live off of my collard greens.
I have a very delicious meatball recipe that my wife's German grandmother showed me, and everyone really enjoys that. I also make one very tasty and very popular copycat of Olive Garden's zuppa toscana. Generally a 4 gallon pot of that will only last a few days after the friends and family are done fighting over the leftovers.
Really I just cook whatever flows with the people and the setting. I know ahead of time that most yankees will scoff at my bourbon-flambé shrimp and cheese grits while the southerners will devour it. The good thing is I can cook or bake just about anything anyone wants, so it works out well when I'm trying to impress with food. Just don't ask me to fry chicken for you, because I don't think I do it very well.