Entertaining: Open Door Family Dinners


There is great joy in setting a table, and seeing who walks through the door to eat.

Last week, we gave you a tips on hosting a pretty little cocktail party, and making sure you had the right amount of elegant bites to feed your guests. But not every party needs to be that formal, or that planned.

Some of our greatest entertaining memories are built upon the idea of an open door - stop by if you can, bring a friend if you want, don't worry, there'll be food. It's enough to drive the type-A hostess batty, but it feels like home. We call them "family dinners."

This tradition started a few years ago, when we realized that thanks to the never-ending NY lifestyle of rush-rush-rush, it had been weeks since we'd seen some of our closest friends. At the last-minute, we invited them all to drop by for dinner on Sunday evening.

The resulting casual evening was so comfortable, and so comforting. The swirl of friends, family, and neighbors meeting each other, catching up, felt like a storybook family dinner, gathered around a big farmhouse table. It instantly became a regular monthly thing.

We never quite know how many people are going to come - there have been as many as 25, and as few as 4. We put together food that can be stretched if necessary, or is useful as leftovers for the week. People adapt easily, finding somewhere to sit, bringing along a bottle of wine, and laughing, no matter what.

A sample menu might be: a couple of roast chickens with potatoes and onions, a big pot of vegetarian leek soup, a bowl of sauteed greens, and a chocolate cake for dessert. If too many people come, there are greens in the fridge to pull together a salad, some fruit that can be sliced and arranged on a plate, and perhaps some canned beans that can make a fast dip. If all else fails, there is pizza delivered. Some extra food usually goes home with the guests.

While the food is ahem excellent, it's not really the point. It's the hospitality that matters, It's the coming together, and the feeling of family and community at the start of a new week.

We encourage you to try this tradition in your home. Have Sunday nights be "neighbor nights" where local friends can drop by. Or tell your kids that they can always invite a friend home for dinner on Fridays, without having to ask you first. Through these dinners, make it generally known that your house is a warm, welcoming and open place, and we promise, it will come back to you ten fold.

Image: Nina Callaway for The Kitchn