Here's a radical idea: Get home from work on Friday and host a dinner party.
That's right. Friday, not Saturday.
The idea was born out of necessity. Saturdays are more likely to get booked with other events, leaving Fridays often free for dinner. And the more I do this, the more I want to host on Fridays.
With less time to cook, there is also less pressure. A dinner party on Friday is instantly more casual, and the short window from quitting time on Friday to dinner party mode forces me to get organized with a menu and a game plan for executing it. If I have all Saturday to get to the farmers market and spend the day cooking, I probably will. I'm likely to get more ambitious with what I'm cooking. But for a Friday, almost everything is made ahead. My menu has to be more relaxed, and as a result so am I.
There's another bonus benefit: We tidy the house on the weekdays leading up to the dinner, so it's a task that's done by dinnertime. My house is cleaner and happier and filled with friends more frequently. Friday night dinner parties change lives!
Recently, I served Shepherd's Pie and Chocolate Guinness Cake for four. (Why, yes, it was St. Patrick's Day.)
On Wednesday, I braised the lamb stew after dinner. After cooling, it went into the fridge in the same Dutch oven in which it was cooked. On Thursday, I made a simple chocolate cake enhanced with Guinness stout. As the cake baked, I mashed potatoes and spread them over the lamb stew, which I had transferred to a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. By Friday, all that was left to make was an easy frosting that I spread across the cake when I got home from work.
With a Friday night dinner party, I'm also more inclined to take up someone's offer to bring something. Our friends showed up with a so-called Irish pub salad that made the night's menu even more exciting; it was a surprise for me, the cook, and my friend was clearly proud of his contribution. If your friends want to bring more than just a bottle of wine, let them.
When we celebrate on Friday nights, it also feels like we're squeezing more out of the weekend. You know how everyone loves Fridays more than Sundays even though most people actually work on Friday and Sunday is a full day off? It's about anticipation — of the possibilities of a couple of days off versus a looming Monday morning and commitments. By getting right to the good food and good company as soon as the weekend begins, you can maximize the weekend and set a better tone for the next couple of days. So tell your friends: Dinner's on Friday at your house.
Ileana Morales Valentine can be reached at [email protected] Follow @alittlesaffron.