When she was a kid, holidays for Connie Matisse—the founder of East Fork Pottery—were an all-family affair. She remembers anywhere from 45 to 65 people sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with three different turkeys: one roasted, one deep fried, and one smoked. “It was an all-out brawl,” she says, recalling the sometimes 15 or more desserts that would end up on the table.
This year, the holidays will be different—smaller groups, less travel, more home time. Connie shares a few of her favorite ways to make gatherings feel special this year, whether it’s just you at home or a slightly larger group. “I still go all out,” she says, even if it’s just her family. There’s no reason not to treat yourself this time of year.
We teamed up with East Fork on a limited edition East Fork x Momofuku pottery collection. There are two one-time-only glazes: Peachy Keen and Orchard, available in 4 bowl sizes. Explore the collection and read Connie’s tips below.
Stay simple—if you can’t entertain a crowd, at least treat yourself.
Everyone needs to get really good at a perfect steak—like a steakhouse steak. Add a really simple salad with a vinaigrette, and you can have an elegant, celebratory meal in your own home in not that much time.
For steak, I actually love the new Momofuku Savory Seasoned Salt—but you could also use salt or another seasoning mix you love, and I prefer a ribeye. When you’re ready, get a lot of butter in a pan, get it super hot, and rest the steak in your seasoning—really pile it on there, don’t be scared of using too much. I feel like so many people under-season at home. Let it rest and get to room temperature, then fry it in the hot pan.
The key to making it special: whether it’s just you or you have a small crowd—after the steak has rested, slice it and serve it on a nice serving plate pre-sliced. All of a sudden, it feels more elevated. It’s really just three ingredients—steak, butter, and seasoning, and it feels like a really elegant meal.
For the salad, my go-to vinaigrette is a ton of garlic, a ton of Maldon sea salt, sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, and olive oil. I make it in huge batches. The longer it sits in the fridge, the better. Then, I go crazy with throwing in as many herbs as possible, like dill, cilantro, and parsley—half herbs and half lettuce. Add a good bottle of Champagne, and you have yourself an elegant and beautiful meal for a small crowd, or just yourself.
If you do welcome guests, allow them to be comfortable.
There’s an incredible cookbook from the 80s called The Silver Palate. (I think a lot of our moms grew up reading it.) It was the first cookbook I know of to write just as much about ambiance and how you treat your guests as it did the food. There are some basic things I think about from growing up with that book. For example, it’s lovely to have candles in every single room with the lights turned down.
My house is very lived-in—nothing is off limits, nothing feels precious. I also have children, so It’s all about being cozy. I want people to be comfortable. They should wear sweatpants if they want to wear sweatpants. When I have people over for dinner these days, sometimes I’ll stay in my sweatpants but still go for a very festive feeling.
I don’t have a go-to playlist. It definitely changes based on what I’m serving and who’s coming over. Sometimes my best trick is to let guests put on their own playlist. If people are in a new space, letting them have that comfort of putting on music that they already love is nice.
Let drinks guide you through the evening—alcoholic or not.
Offer beverages at every turn. I always have a cocktail immediately when people come over, then there’s wine and plenty of water available, then some kind of tea or digestif at the end.
For my cocktails, I always keep a bottle of gin in the freezer and really good bitters to make martinis—they’re my favorite. And I love having nice glassware so when someone comes I can serve them a beautiful cocktail, even if it’s really simple. A martini is simple to make, but it’s hard to beat being served the perfect ice cold martini when you arrive somewhere.
I also like to let hangouts really drag on and never make people feel rushed or eat before they’re ready. Ask people as you hand them a drink, how are you doing? See if they are ready to make their way to dinner.
At my house, we always start downstairs in the basement kitchen, then go upstairs and finish our dessert and tea by the fire. It really draws things out. People have the opportunity to have a drink and relax and get acquainted before I start putting food in their faces.
When in doubt, start and end things with some easy snacks.
I know it’s excessive, but for holidays, I love caviar, and you can get that overnighted to your house. Caviar and potato chips make it feel like you’re throwing a party all of a sudden. You just need a tin of caviar and a bag of Lays or Ruffles.
Then, at the end of everything—I always have Doritos for the after-dinner snack.
Shop the East Fork x Momofuku limited edition pottery collection and learn more about the collaboration.