So, I hear that there is a new trend in entertaining. It’s called scruffy hospitality. It seems that it is becoming quite popular with families with young children. Here’s how it works. You come home from work or skiing or skating or with your freshly cut tree ready to decorate. You know that the stew or chili you’ve already made for dinner is big enough for an army. But (there’s always a but) the house is not spotless and you’re not having the best of hair days.
So, what do you do? Why, in a scruffy, no judgement world, you invite your nearest and dearest or soon-to-be nearest and dearest to join you. Okay, you might throw a few wayward shoes into the bucket by the back door but you don’t run around the house with the vacuum cleaner and dust cloth. You don’t spend an hour fussing with your hair and finding the perfect outfit. You call your guests, throw dinner in the oven, set the table and light the fire. If it’s tree night, you get out the decorations.
And guess what? Everyone is happy. I never met anyone who didn’t love a last-minute invitation. Even if they can’t come, people love it that you thought of them and wanted to spend time with them. If you’re a decent cook, they are even happier. Whether it’s Meme and Gramps, the cousins, your oldest friends or your newest neighbors, they will be delighted to join you.
Now, scruffy entertaining is nothing new. Years ago, an old boyfriend told me about a party he and his roommates threw. Just out of college, their party was beyond scruffy. Perhaps you remember the early days of supermarket brands. Instead of fancy names like Natures Promise, Wellesley Farms or Great Value, store brands version 1.0 were called generics. They came in simple black and white packaging. Anyway, the boyfriend and his roomies threw a generics party. They bought a boatload of generic beer and chips and invited all their friends. They even bought white T-shirts and had HOST in black letters printed on the front. It was nothing fancy and everyone had a wonderful time.
Now, I not suggesting that you entertain like a bunch of recent college grads. However, you can turn down the stress level with a more casual approach. Scruffy hospitality is about connecting around the table. It is about friendship and love. It recognizes that time spent together is more important than a spotlessly clean, picture perfect home. Besides, even with a few pine needles scattered about, your home’s imperfections are what make it perfect.
If you’ve been planning to freeze half of tonight’s dinner, why not invite friends to share it instead? They can help you decorate the tree. Or invite family and share old holiday memories. Next time spaghetti is on the menu, pull an extra quart of sauce from the freezer and turn dinner into a small party. Feel free to ask your guests if they have any salad in the refrigerator or a few extra Christmas cookies that they can bring along.
Opening your home and sharing a meal is a joyful expression love and kindness. Hosts and guests, old and young, everyone benefits. By embracing a bit more scruffy attitude, you might just entertain more, share the love more and stress a whole lot less.
Wishing you a holiday season filled with love and joy. Bon appétit!
Braised Lamb with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Here is a not-too-scruffy dish to serve over the holidays or anytime this winter. The lamb can bubble in the oven while you relax and catch up with family and friends. Enjoy!
- About 4 pounds boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, trimmed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
- 2 large carrots, finely chopped
- 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2-2 pounds mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
- 1 pound fresh or frozen pearl onions, peeled and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove and reserve.
Add a little more olive oil to the pot if necessary; add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add the red wine, tomatoes, chicken stock and herbs and bring to a simmer.
Return the lamb to the pot, bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook, turning the lamb 2 or 3 times, for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and pearl onions to the lamb. Add more chicken stock or wine if necessary. Continue cooking, uncovered, until the lamb is very tender; an additional 30-45 minutes.
Remove the lamb from the casserole and cut across the grain in thick slices. Serve the lamb with a generous spoonful or two or three of sauce and vegetables.
The lamb can be made a few days ahead. Cook for 1 hour, add the mushrooms and onions and cook for 10 minutes more. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. To reheat, bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Transfer to a 350-degree oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until bubbling and piping hot.
Quick tip: use your food processor to finely chop carrots, celery and onions. Cut the veggies into large chunks and, a handful at a time, pulse until finely chopped. Don’t overdo it or overload the processor; you’ll end up with purée instead of finely chopped.
- One Year Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce
- Two Years Ago – Gingerbread Decorations
- Three Years Ago – Sticky Buns
- Four Years Ago – Cranberry Coffee Cake
- Five Years Ago –Fish Stew Provençal
- Six Years Ago –Twice-Baked Potatoes
- Seven Years Ago – Baked French Toast
- Eight Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
- Nine Years Ago – Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
- Ten Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
- Eleven Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Do you have a favorite entertaining style or tip? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019