The coziness and comfort of a Sunday at home is the perfect antidote to a stressful week. Being home is great, but sharing a casual lunch there with friends is even better. The key to keeping it relaxed is to choose a low-labor menu. Weekend cooking and entertaining is all about speediness and ease along with a huge dose of practicality.
I don’t mind spending precious weekend time over the stove, but only if it will make my life easier later in the week, meaning I can enjoy two meals from one cooking session. I often use leftovers of those grand Sunday lunches to last me a few days during the week. If I am cooking, I must as well make the best of it and double recipes that can freeze well or last for a few days in the refrigerator.
Inviting friends for Sunday lunch forces me to cook (something I adore to do in any case) and makes me have a mental plan for that day and a few ideas of meals and recipes of the following ones.
Setting the table in the kitchen can be as sophisticated and elegant, as you like, or as casual as you want to be. I like to incorporate a bit of both: the buffet is arrayed on the kitchen table and guests sit in the living room by the fire with plates on their laps. The entertainment is the mesmerizing fire.
I adore winter lunches that can feed ten or twenty people. Especially on days like New Year’s, the day after Thanksgiving or Boxing Day when I never know how many people will trickle in for a warm meal. The comfort of sitting by the fire with a plate of delicious food on my lap, surrounded by family and friends is to me what the art of entertaining is meant to be.
Use large plates and large napkins when serving food buffet-style. This is not because you want to encouraging piling on the food but to avoid spillage, the larger the plate the less chance of a ruined rug. Large napkins cover your lap and part of your knees— always a good idea when sitting on a low chair or the floor. At home I do serve red wine though I know that most people don’t. My philosophy: its Sunday, a day to relax and indulge. Place decanters filled with white and red wine and pitchers with Bullshots or Bloody Marys on the buffet table or sideboard to make self-service easy on you and comfortable for your guests.
Make your life easier, especially on those spur-of-the-moment weekend extravaganzas, by enlisting the help of a single male friend. I know they are hard to come by but they are eternally grateful for a home cooked meal and will do almost anything to get invited back. Asking for their help in setting up the bar, lighting the fire and mixing drinks is a brilliant way to get it all done.
Old Fashioned Meatloaf
When I make this meatloaf, I separate the mixture into two or three loafs, depending the number of people I am entertaining. I sometimes make it in loaf pans and other times just shape it free form. I do make this large quantity as it freezes beautifully. For extra flavor substitute 1 pound of any of the meats for ground sausage.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
6 slices bread, cubed
2 ½ cups tomato sauce
1 cup milk
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 lb. ground beef chuck or round
1 lb. ground veal
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground turkey
Salt and fresh ground pepper
½ lb. bacon
In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the onions, celery and garlic and sauté until soft. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine the bread, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and the milk. Stir to combine well. Add the parsley, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, meats, onion mixture and salt and pepper. Mix gently with your fingers to combine well. Shape the mixture to resemble a large loaf or two smaller ones and place on a baking tray. Arrange the bacon slices on a diagonal to cover the loaf or loaves. Tuck the ends of the bacon under the meat. Pour one cup of the tomato sauce on top. Bake for one hour. Drain some of the fat from the pan and bake 30 minutes more. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice into 1 1/2 inch thick slices and serve hot. ■