What happens when professional foodies have a bonus day off? They eat! Alison Cayne, of Haven’s Kitchen, a cooking school and café in New York City, demos how to toast the day after Thanksgiving with a casual meal and great company.
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cayne black Friday gathering
Photography by Melanie Acevedo
| Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

For Alison Cayne, the best meals start with a simple approach and what's in season. That's the idea behind Haven's Kitchen, the cooking-school-meets-café and event space that she founded in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood in 2012. 

It's also the mind-set that this busy mom of five embraces when entertaining friends. "I used to make a million dishes," says Alison. "Now I know people want choices without being overwhelmed." 

Today's menu is a no-brainer: a small, buffet-style brunch adapted from Alison's first book, The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School, her modern manual for aspiring home cooks that mixes recipes with how-to tips. Baked eggs make a perfect main since you can cook a bunch in the oven at once, and root vegetables are fall farmers'-market staples that don't need much dressing up beyond browned butter. "Cooking for a group isn't like cracking a secret code. You just need some basic skills—and fresh ingredients—to feel confident in the kitchen," says Alison.

alison cayne serving table
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

The tabletop decor is just as laid-back. Instead of flower arrangements, Alison favors a long, low-lying leafy garland adorned with fruit, so guests can chat easily—and grab a pear or an apple for the road. 

No matter what's being served, togetherness is at the heart of everything Alison does. "The day after the big feast should be easy and fun," she says. "My friends and I are happy just to hang out, talk shop, and, of course, eat!"

Alison Cayne's Black Friday Brunch Menu:

Latkes with Smoked Salmon & Chimichurri

latkes with smoked salmon
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Eggs en Cocotte (Baked Eggs)

eggs en cocotte
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Try Alison Cayne's Eggs en Cocotte (Baked Eggs)

Romesco Sauce

romesco sauce
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Try Alison Cayne's Romesco Sauce

Butter Lettuce Salad with Blue Cheese, Dried Cherries & Candied Walnuts

butter lettuce salad
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Roasted Root Vegetables & Freekeh with Brown Butter

roasted root vegetables and freekah with brown butter
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Cherry Clafouti

cherry clafouti
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Try Alison Cayne's Cherry Clafouti

All Set

Don't go overboard with fancy-pants linens or china. Elevate your everyday white with high-contrast napkins in dark colors, so guests won't worry about stains.

Cayne latkes and gathering
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Seasonal Greetings

Rule No. 1: Always welcome partygoers with a bite, a drink, and a smile. Today Alison Cayne (above, middle) serves latkes, a favorite holiday dish that she sets out with an array of toppings, from smoked salmon to crème fraîche. Homa Dashtaki (above, left), of artisanal-food maker the White Moustache, helps with cocktails by bringing her ice pops, which Haven's Kitchen director of operations Matt Finkle (above, right) and Alison enjoy in mixed drinks.

cayne table setting
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Table Manners

A garland is a one-and-done centerpiece that can be reused on a mantel or a staircase after the party. Make it—or have a florist do it—by connecting bunches of stems to a length of twine with floral wire. Alison likes eucalyptus because its light fragrance doesn't overpower the food. Add extra branches, fruit, or artichokes to dress yours up a bit.

cayne food spread and guests
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Family-Style Feast

"Plating looks so formal," says Alison. "I want people to feel at home and eat what they want." Her help-yourself spread has something for everybody—roasted veggies, salad, eggs, and grilled bread with romesco sauce. Guests getting in on the food and fun include Umber Ahmad (near right), of Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery, and photographer Melanie Dunea (far right).

cayne serving wine and clafoutis
Credit: Photography by Melanie Acevedo

Host with the Most

The key to a good party: anticipating your guests' needs, like making sure their glasses are never empty. Alison tops off Marissa Lippert (above, left), of the Nourish Kitchen + Table café. For dessert, Alison dusts cherry clafoutis, baked during the meal, with confectioners' sugar.