Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On March 25th, We Can All Have a Drink with This Guy

How to plan a Mad Men dinner party 

We’re all (well, aren’t we?) addicted to a certain T.V. show, and for many of us that’s Mad Men, which returns to AMC on March 25th. Friends of mine have either set the DVR for the 2-hour Season 5 premiere, or plan on catching it Sunday night. Per usual, I’ve got my antennae trained in the direction of party talk, and its picking up a big buzz for sixties themed cocktails and appetizers.

What are my friends doing? April got herself revved up for the series by reading Mad Women by Jane Maas. It’s a day in the life of a female copywriter in 1960s Manhattan. April’s Mad Men menu is a healthy affair that makes up for all the chain smoke surrounding the Camelot era. She’s having classic roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans with dinner rolls. She’s not sure about the dessert yet, but it’ll probably a cobbler, and most certainly what April describes as “straight up” Tanqueray martinis! We’ll have to visit her blog in a few weeks and see what’s on tap!

Ahhh….a girl after my own heart. I love a nice, stiff drink.

My little Mad Men gathering features The Perfect Martini. You’ll just have to click the link if you want its secrets (i.e. how many ice cubes; how much vermouth). In my 60s research I learned that servings sizes—especially when it came to drinking glasses in bars—were much smaller in the old days; about 5 ounces, compared to today’s 8! Is that why they were able to drink at work? In addition to martinis, I think Mint Juleps would be nice. I’m growing fresh mint in my backyard.

While the cocktails are reserved for show time, there’s the perfect 7 o’clock dinner to consider, one that pays homage to a time when there was more time. That’s right. It’s a dinner just like Mama (or in this case, Betty Draper used to make.) Some of us have held onto our TV trays, right? Well, get them out again for a reprisal of the Swanson TV dinner.

Got any rosemary growing alongside that mint? Fabulous. Use it—and fresh thyme—in my Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy.  You’ll be amazed at how moist it is—you’ve just got to make sure you buy high quality ground beef and equally fresh breadcrumbs. Stylize your own salad and/or vegetable sides for this All American supper—and don’t forget Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Raspberry Sauce for dessert; it’ll pick you up by your Fedora hat and take you straight to heaven.

If you’re looking for more great ammunition in your chilled glasses and shaker, please click on my 10 Kicked Up Cocktails post; though originally intended for Labor Day weekend, these elixirs could win over the toughest client…I mean party guest. You may also want to read my Mad Men inspired tiki party post for more retro ideas. I’d also like to suggest a nice book club party menu, since interpreting this show appeals to the art and literature geek in all of us.

Don’t hesitate to post your reviews the day after Mad Men premieres. It’s sure to leave a welcome after-taste when we’re all battling a case of the Mondays the morning after. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a 3 martini lunch to me.

Bottoms up, folks : )

The Perfect Martini

2 ounces Vodka
¼ ounce dry vermouth
3 to 4 ice cubes
Twist of lemon peel, olive or cocktail onion

Combine the vodka, dry vermouth and ice in a cocktail shaker and shake to chill.
Strain the martini into a well chilled glass and garnish with either  a lemon peel, olive or cocktail onion.

Makes 1 cocktail each

Preparation time: about 5 minutes

Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Raspberry Sauce

1 cup cake flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cocoa
10 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pint fresh raspberries, about 1 ½ cups
1/3 cup raspberry preserves
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1.  Sift the cake flour with ½ cup confectioner’s sugar and the salt.  Set aside.

2. Sift the granulated sugar with the cocoa powder.  Set aside.

3. Use an electric mixer to whip the egg whites until foamy.

4. Add the cream of tartar.  Continue beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Fold in the vanilla.

5. Fold in ¼ of the flour/confectioners’ sugar mixture.

6. Fold in ¼ of the sugar/cocoa mixture. Continue until all of the flour and sugar mixtures have been incorporated into the batter.

7. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10 x 3-inch tube pan.  Bake in the lower third of the oven for 45 minutes.

8. Remove the cake from the oven.  Invert the pan onto a funnel or bottle.  Let cool completely.  Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a knife.  Turn out the cake onto a platter.

9. Place the raspberries, raspberry preserves, water and granulated sugar into a pan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook for 1 minute.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the fruit.  (Alternatively, you may puree the sauce with an immersion blender or a food mill.)  The sauce will be thick and syrupy.  Cook for 1 minute.  Cool.

10. Place a swirl of raspberry sauce on a plate.  Slide a slice of cake on top.  Garnish with a shake of confectioners’ sugar and fresh mint sprigs.  

Servings: 8 to 12
Preparation Time: 25 minutes plus baking

Meat Loaf with Mushroom Gravy

Serves 6 to 8
Preparation Time: About 30 minutes, plus baking

1 medium onion, diced, about ½ cup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground veal
1 to 11/2 cups bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ to ½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ pound button mushrooms, sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup red wine
1 ½ cups beef stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour mixed with ½ to 1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1.  In a skillet cook the diced onion in the olive oil until the pieces begin to brown.

2.  In a large bowl combine the ground beef, ground veal, sautéed onion, fresh bread crumbs, minced garlic, chili powder, fresh herbs, beaten egg and tomato paste.

3.  Add just enough cream to the mixture so that it comes together. Season the ingredients with salt and freshly ground pepper .

4.  Form the mixture into a loaf and place into a 9X5X3 inch loaf pan coated in vegetable oil spray.

5.  Bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

6.  In a small skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for several minutes.

7.  Pour the red wine into the pan and reduce until most of the liquid is  evaporated.

8.  Whisk together the flour and water to form a smooth liquid.

9. Stir the flour mixture into the gravy. It will thicken as it cooks. You may add more water until you reach the desired consistency for gravy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

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