What started quite harmlessly with a breakfast scooping on the weekend (yes, I look at you, brunch) was fully realized in the information age when a meal that was once enjoyed as a sociable lunch began, secretly alone in the cold flicker of e-mail – and don’t even ask what COVID-19 did with it. But I say it is time to fight back against the lunch breakdown, and the surest way to do it is to grow up with what I call a “long lunch” – an extended hearty meal with friends or family providing inspired conversation and drinking during the day is both exalted and de rigueur.
You might argue, “Isn’t that just dinner that’s served eight hours early?” On the surface, maybe, but there are worlds between the two meals. I mean, which sounds more appealing: long lunches or long dinners? The mention of the former evokes bubbling anticipation. The latter? Emptying the fear. Dinner pulls the curtains on a busy, busy day. Long lunch is the day. You bring your best, relaxed and energetic self into a light-flooded room and a table full of friends, superlative food and wine. Over a long dinner, you yawn and struggle to keep your head up, and then your stomach falls into bed swollen and drunk.
So how should a long lunch be measured – in hours or courses or bottles of wine? All of the above. Make sure it is your only calendar entry, because nothing is worse than having to apologize prematurely over a sad obligation. That said, if you’re new to long lunch, here are a few guidelines.
First, a hamburger doesn’t make a long lunch. A real long lunch should be large, never heavy, with plenty of air to breathe between meals. You have all afternoon so distribute and eat at a leisurely pace. The best lunch dishes are lighter – salads and oysters, followed by poultry or fish. If red meat or pork is on the menu, keep the portions small.
In addition, the critical part of alcohol is: a long lunch is a drinker’s meal. A healthy drink in the afternoon energizes and promotes humor and creativity. Relying on the classic (and deadly) three-martini affair, a long lunch should include at least two, if not three, categories of alcohol. Wine is required.
Lunch wine used to be the polite term for a wine that lacked depth to be served with dinner, but for long lunches it is the highest compliment – tasty wine, light and crisp like a spring afternoon, the panache on the whole table brings. The wine selection should arouse interest and joy; They don’t have to be trophies.
Like a conductor of an orchestra, drinks should guide the meal and set dynamics, tone and tempo. For example, you can stimulate your palate with a crunchy aperitif before moving on to a bottle of white and then a bottle of red wine. After dessert, maybe clean up with a sip of Calvados or Armagnac. And if the conversation refuses to let up, move on to a savory pilsner before going home. (I recommend Uber.)
One can easily imagine this progress in a restaurant with a well-stocked bar. However, the following recipes celebrate the idea of a long lunch at home, a tradition in Europe for centuries. While the homemade long lunch is less of an American practice, it should become one. So for
I offer you an ideal long lunch as inspiration. It’s easy to do at home and only requires some planning so that you as the host don’t miss a minute. In other words, prepare for success by arranging simple, tasty dishes that require little active cooking time.
In the end, you will feel energized, not heavy. Filled with a sense of satisfaction, you may want to take a short walk and eventually go to bed early. This is the genius of long lunches – a meal that can redeem our stolen afternoons.
Canned mussels are a staple of the Iberian Coast and an ideal starter. It is usually sold in cans, but it tastes even better from the ground up. The buttery-salty sweetness of the molluscs is excellently cut with lemon and vinegar and spooned on toasted bread or lettuce leaves, it is a perfect finger food. It’s also easy and convenient to prepare not just a day in advance but days in advance – it only gets better the longer the flavors blend together. A grassy olive oil is too pervasive, so use a milder one, like Ligurian. And keep the leftover liquid for dipping bread, for a ready-made pasta sauce or even for risotto broth. A Conserva like this will hold loads of dry white wines, but I love champagnes like Vouette et Sorbée, from the Aube region, a stone’s throw from Chablis. Both areas have soils derived from decomposed seabeds that magically create harmony between wine and shellfish.
Next, start the transition to red with a light, refreshing Langhe Nebbiolo; I especially like the one from Fratelli Alessandria from Piedmont, which stands in front of an earthy mushroom pasta. The Italians got pasta right when they decided to use it as a primo rather than a secondo. Bitter green – if you can’t find a dandelion, try mustard, beetroot or, if necessary, spinach – provide a spring-like panache, while mushrooms create a cozy atmosphere; Use a combination of dried and fresh mushrooms for depth and complexity. Tarragon and mustard reflect the floral notes of the Nebbiolo, whose earthy undertones make it a classic mushroom wine in the Italian Piedmont. Serve the wine at a cool cellar temperature, around 55 degrees. The rag is perfect for entertaining as it can be prepared up to three days in advance. Simply heat up and mix with wilted greens and al dente bucatini.
A grilled chicken is a perfect main course. It’s not difficult, it cooks forgivingly and it is fantastically versatile with wine. I love the contrast to Piedrasassi’s graceful but substantial Santa Barbara County Syrah. Most of these dishes can be prepared well before serving. The chicken is seasoned days in advance, so all you have to do is grill it – which, thanks to natural convection, doesn’t take long. Make sure you position the grill openings so that smoke is drawn over the chicken as it is this smoke kiss that connects with Syrah’s ferocity. The potatoes can be cooked in advance; A classic shallot vinaigrette can also be prepared a day or two in advance. It’s the devious heroic line that merges with the juices on the cutting board, contrasts with the smoky chicken, perks up the potatoes and makes the salad sing.
A selection of cheeses with 2018 Lingua Franca Avni Chardonnay
After the chicken bones are removed, leave the lettuce on the table and bring out a few simple pieces of large cheese. Cheese after eating is a win-win situation. It moves on to dessert and prolongs the wine drinking and conversation. If the bottle is still red, keep pouring. But cheese offers a good excuse to go back to white wine for a fresh twist. It may seem awkward to go back to the white wine after the red wine, but at home we do that all the time. It’s a refreshing U-turn, and white just goes better with most cheeses; There’s no better time to have a Chardonnay. I love the Oregon Lingua Franca Avni, made by my friend and sommelier legend Larry Stone; his irresistibly classy, mineral style connects the Willamette Valley with Burgundy. Keep this course simple: three large pieces of cheese, a bowl of good butter, and some toasted sourdough. My wife Christie and I like to mix it up – hard and soft; Sheep, cow and goat – but Comté, Chardonnay’s best friend, has a permanent place at the top of our cheese platter.
Linger, linger, linger …
This epic fig and nut cake was really designed to showcase the world’s most underrated but delicious wine, Madeira. This ancient wine from a subtropical island in the Atlantic combines everything wonderful – salty caramel, roasted nuts, dried figs and brown butter – with strong acidity and just enough sweetness. The Verdelho from The Rare Wine Co. meets the seductive taste profile. And this cake brilliantly pays tribute to every element of the wine. By toasting the nuts and cooking the caramel to the brim without burning, you prevent the cake from becoming too sweet for the wine. With many guests at the table, you’ll likely finish this bottle easily, so have a sip of brandy or calvados ready if people want to keep drinking. Coffee is delicious here too. After all, it’s still afternoon!
Start early for a leisurely long lunch. Make the conserva, rag, and tart 3 to 5 days in advance; they keep in the fridge. Season the chicken two days before eating. Whisk the vinaigrette the day before, boil the potatoes and chill the white wines. In the morning, open the still wines and bring the cheese to room temperature. Take out the conserva an hour before you eat, fill a saucepan with water for the pasta and grill the chicken as you like. Then enjoy your lunch and step away after each course to put the next one together.
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