Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mad Men Party Food

Amy: So, at some point in December, my friend Laura mentioned that a friend of a friend of a friend was hosting a Mad Men-styled Christmas party, so we decided to copy the idea. Only ours was held this February and involved vintage snacks in addition to vintage frocks. Obviously, the party also involved very strong vintage drinks including Manhattans, Dirty Martinis, Gimlets, and an Old Fashioned or two.

Because I love procrastinating through internet research, I researched the heck out of 50s and 60s cocktail party food. I learned the following helpful factoids: people in the 60s liked salty meats, cream cheese, mayonnaise, olives, jello, and canned food stuffs. Of these items, I really only like olives. I'll take cream cheese and mayo as condiments, but I don't really think they belong in the principal foodstuff category. In addition to rippled chips, pretzels, goldfish, mixed nuts, I went retro with some twists (photos by Laura):

Grandma Helen's Clam Dip

(This is my husband's step-mom's actual retro recipe)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (smashed and coarsely chopped)
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can minced clams
  • Beau Monde seasoning
  • salt
  • pepper

Into a food processor, toss garlic, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the juice from one can of minced clams. Season with a little salt, a lot of pepper, and a couple of shakes of Beau Monde seasoning. Puree until smooth. Stir in the minced clams.

From Scratch French Onion Dip
(Adapted from Alton Brown - my version uses more onions and light mayo/sour cream)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups diced onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups light sour cream
  • 3/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • salt to taste

In a saute pan over medium heat add oil, heat and add onions and salt. Cook the onions until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add a tsp or two of water to further melt down the onions. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and then add the cooled onions. Refrigerate and stir again before serving.

Baked Cheddar Olives

(I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently they were very popular in the 60s. This recipe is all over the internet and served as the basis for my olive balls.)

  • 2 cups finely shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter sliced into pats
  • 1/4 -1/2 tsp cayenne
  • water
  • 20-30 large pimento-filled green Spanish olives

Mix the cayenne and flour together. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the butter into the flour. Add ice cold water as necessary to bind pastry. Knead the pastry and roll it into a log. Refrigerate for a few hours. Roll out the pastry so that is about 1/4 '' thick. Using your fingers, wrap the pastry around each olive closing any seams. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
(I was recently exposed to really good pimento cheese spread on the Black Sheep's Bridge Club and wanted to recreate it in mini form. I googled away until I found this great thread on pimento cheese on Chowhound. The version I settled on (and am now obsessed with) is basically Tom P's with a few tweaks.)
  • 8 oz Tillamook cheddar
  • 8 oz sharp white Vermont cheddar
  • 8 oz chopped pimentos mostly drained
  • 2/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cayenne
  • salt

Put the grating blade in your food processor. Grate all the cheese. Remove about half of the cheese to another bowl. Change to your mixing blade and dump in the mayo, a couple of cracks of pepper, a pinch of salt, and a few shakes of cayenne. Process for a minute or two and add the remaining cheese and pimentos. Process until mostly smooth, but a little chunky. Scrape down sides, stir, test for seasoning. Scrape into a container with a sturdy lid. Refrigerate.

For the party, I did triple-layered rye and pimento cheese sandwiches on cocktail bread, cut into triangles with cocktail toothpicks.

I won't bore you with the additional recipes, but I also made Ina Garten's shrimp scampi, stuffed mushrooms, smoked salmon canapes (mix light cream cheese with horseradish, spread on cocktail bread, apply salmon, dust with dill), and Moosewood's curried deviled eggs. I learned that I hate making deviled eggs and that peeling boiled eggs might be my Waterloo. Luckily, Brad was able to pick up the pieces and peel for me. I also stuck Dubliner cheese and pineapple cubes into a pineapple "hedgehog." It looked gross, but was pretty tasty.

My party guests upped the ante with tons of booze, Swedish meatballs, mini-pineapple upside down cakes (OUTRAGEOUS), and banana and chocolate creme pies.

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