In the short time that I’ve been living at the cottage I’ve done more entertaining than in the entire previous year. The main reason for this is that I simply decided Ito make it a priority to open my home to family and friends. I’ve always felt that way, but entertaining didn’t actually happen very often. So, what’s the difference now? In large part it’s that I’ve changed my focus from entertaining to hospitality.
Think about it: don’t you find the word entertaining charged with expectation? It brings to mind Martha-Stewartesque perfectionism, complicated menus and a sense of trying to impress. Hospitality, on the other hand, conveys a sense of ease, simplicity and a focus on your guests.
So yes, I still entertain, but I think of it differently. Like many things in life, mindset is so important. When I was much younger, my friends and I didn’t entertain; we simply had people over, and there was much less fussing about. As often as not, an evening’s nibbles consisted of chips and dip and maybe a tray of cheese and crackers. Personally, I don’t want to go back to those days because my style has evolved over the years as my interest in cooking and skill level increased. I do like to cook and make things special in a non-intimidating way for my guests, but I don’t want to get myself in a knot about it either. Remember, it’s never all about the food. Feed your guests well, but always make them feel that they’re more important than the menu.
Today my focus is on good food that I can prepare to a large extent in advance. Yes, maybe I’ll still make that killer dessert once in a while, but it’s because I like doing it, not because I feel I have to. For the most part, today’s meals are simple. The fact that I now have a completely open concept kitchen also means I’m doing a lot more in advance. I don’t want my guests to see the chaos that otherwise ensues!
Recently I had friends over for brunch. The menu was very simple:
- sectioned red grapefruit and oranges with fresh mint
- sausage and potato frittata with a side of oven-roasted bacon
- a blackberry and apple kuchen as the final touch (that was my special-effort dish, but it was entirely ready before the guests arrived)
I had coffee and a purchased pomegranate and blueberry juice as beverages. My friends surprised me with a bottle of bubbly, and that juice was quickly transformed into mimosas, adding a festive touch to a Friday-morning gathering.
Everything on the menu was familiar to me, and I was relaxed when my guests arrived. I got up earlier than usual to make sure I had time to set the table nicely, something I’ve often been caught doing at the last minute in a state of some frazzlement. All the food was put on the table at the same time, and I was able to sit and enjoy my friends’ company. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Sausage & Potato Frittata
I prefer making frittata over quiche for company because I don’t need to make a crust. If it happens to stick to the pan, you can always scoop sections onto the plates or serve casserole style.
Pre-heat oven to 350 ℉.
- 2 Italian sausages, about 6 inches long (mild, spicy or a combination to suit your taste)
- 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 1 medium firm potato such as Yukon Gold, pre-cooked until tender and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- leaves of a half dozen sprigs of thyme
- 3 slices provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch squares
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste
Squeeze the sausage from the casings into a 9- or 10-inch skillet, and cook over medium high heat, breaking up with a spatula. Depending on how much fat the sausage releases, you may need to either drain it off or add some olive oil. Add the diced onion and continue cooking until the sausage is cooked through and the onion is translucent.
Turn heat to medium and add the cubed potatoes and thyme leaves. Season with some of the salt and pepper and stir well. If things are sticking you can add a bit more olive oil. Scatter the pieces of provolone on top of the mixture.
Season the beaten eggs with remaining salt and pepper, and pour over the good things in the skillet. Cook for a few minutes, pulling away the edges as they start setting to allow the raw egg to run underneath. Place the skillet in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the egg is set on top and cooked through, but not dry.
Run a spatula around the side of the pan, and loosen the bottom of the frittata if necessary and then slide it onto a serving plate. Cut it into portions before placing on the brunch table for your guests to serve themselves.
Make Ahead Notes: If you want to get a leg up on your brunch preparations, you can cook the sausage and onion the night before, as well as the potato, and refrigerate in covered containers once cooled. I wouldn’t cut the potato into cubes until the morning. Just oil the skillet before you begin assembling the dish.