Sunday, December 20, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Dinner Party Chic of the 1960's Establishment Elite

When faced with a variety of ideas to present to the generous minds at Foodbuzz for December's 24-24-24, T, J and I pondered about a dozen themes. We finally landed upon the idea of cooking the dinner party food our parents cooked during our childhoods, recreating a 1960's holiday evening of epic proportions in food & drink, company & celebration.  24-24-24 gives Foodbuzz, the sponsor of my left hand sidebar, the opportunity to showcase posts from 24 Foodbuzz featured publisher bloggers.  Each month, 24 bloggers from around the world create 24 approved meals during a 24 hour period, document them and post the results the very next day. Foodbuzz sponsors the meal and shares the 24 posts on its website. You can see the results of past meals here.

Verbiage from my proposal:

We will be cooking and serving the dinner party food our parents were enjoying when they were our ages.  All three of us, Tracy, Janet and myself, are 1960's babies. We are all born during this momentous and revolutionary decade to parents of the establishment, and all remember the lavish hours long dinner parties executed and enjoyed in the middle class California suburbs while war protests and the feminist revolution raged in urban centers.

Menu:  Oysters Rockefeller  Deviled Eggs with Crab & Caviar  Salad with Green Goddess Dressing  Beef Wellington  Baked Alaska Cocktails & German Reisling    

This meal is unique because while these dishes have been out of vogue in the last couple of decades, the three of us remember them fondly as part of our parents' link to a sophistication more often experienced in the 1960's outside the suburbs where we were raised.  I remember sneaking into the kitchen, tasting from pots and pans dishes not yet served and remnants from plates already cleared, morning after leftovers of exotic foods not seen at the family table Monday through Friday during regular meal time.  So much of what cultural production represents as memorable of the 1960's and early 1970's was the zeitgeist of cultural and social upheaval. But our own experiences of that era bore little resemblance to those events; think "Mrs. Robinson", "The Ice Storm". This is the food we would be serving at our own dinner parties were we in our 40's in 1969 if we lived in Palo Alto, San Jose, or Land Park.

Approval for my proposal rolled in on December 7th, planning, plotting, and scheming in all our houses began in conjunction with the planning, plotting and scheming that regularly takes place during the plan, plot, and scheme heavy month of December.

My responsibilities landed at the appetizer end of the menu. Crab & caviar deviled eggs and oysters Rockefeller.

I have been known to take short cuts when cooking, and the low road I take tonight involves hard boiled eggs.  The last time I tried to make crab deviled eggs, I undercooked the eggs without enough time to re-cook. So I bought already hard boiled eggs from the deli section in the downtown Ralph's. Every egg is perfect.

My recipe calls for mayonnaise (and although I am doubling the recipe I do not add extra mayo, I prefer a filling that is more yolk & crab heavy), cayenne (I substitute ancho chile powder), tarragon, shallots, salt, pepper and hot sauce if desired (I toss in some Sriracha).

What could be more wonderful than strolling outside to your urban lemon tree for the necessary citrus?

The eggs are stuffed at home and lightly covered in cling film for transportation to J's West Hollywood bungalow.

On arrival to J's, I break out the tiny jar of Romanoff black lumpfish caviar.

Just a taste on each egg half. Caviar felt incredibly chic to me as a child, albeit totally unappetizing. In the recipe below, my changes are in bold.

Crab-Stuffed Deviled EggsBon Appétit | April 2002

8 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled (12)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (ancho chile powder)
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (sriracha)
8 ounces crabmeat

Fresh tarragon sprigs (optional)
Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Scoop out yolks. Place yolks from 4 eggs in medium bowl (reserve remaining yolks for another use). Mash yolks with fork.
Mix in mayonnaise, chopped tarragon, minced shallot, lemon juice, cayenne, and hot pepper sauce. Mix in crab. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mound crab mixture in cavity of each egg-white half (about 1 heaping tablespoon for each). (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Place crab-stuffed deviled eggs on platter. Garnish each with small tarragon sprig, if desired, and serve.

Starting the oysters.  When researching oysters Rockefeller for the menu, I had in mind an oyster dish similar to one served at the Half Shell, the SoMa restaurant I worked at in San Francisco for years. Ron's Rockefeller was heavy with cheese and shot through with bacon.  Although I found a likely looking recipe incorporating bacon here, and an interesting sounding "deconstructed" oysters Rockefeller here, T J and I decided mutually via that great conferencing tool that is "reply all" that I should use the recipe from House & Garden from 1959 for authenticity sake.  Into my archaic Braun food processor went spinach, anise liqueur and cheese.

At J's bungalow many hands pitch in to shuck Blonde oysters from Carlsbad purchased at Franky & Johnny's down the hill from my house on Riverside.

Spoon into the shell the spinach mixture.

Sour cream, breadcrumbs and last top with Parmesan cheese.

Pop them under the broiler. I suggest you broil on a low setting, a high setting will brown the cheese & breadcrumbs too quickly and not allow for full warming/cooking of the oyster.

The oysters Rockefeller looked gorgeous. Sadly, they tasted awful. There's a reason chefs and home cooks have added bacon, deconstructed, toyed with the original recipe. It's really very licoricey, and just doesn't taste good. Collectively, we decided that although it was fun to have a time specific menu item, we are glad cuisine has evolved.

Oysters RockefellerHouse & Garden | March 1959
by Dione Lucas
Yield: Serves 3-6 as an hors d'oeuvre

6 oysters on the half shell
1/2 cup heavy sour cream
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
Salt, black pepper

1 bag raw spinach
2 tablespoons Pernod or Kirschwasser
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Browned bread crumbs
Remove oysters from shell and put in each shell 1 teaspoon of the sour cream which has been mixed with the garlic, salt and pepper. Put oyster on top and completely fill the shells with raw spinach which has been put through the meat chopper and mixed with the Pernod and cheese. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and a little more grated Parmesan cheese. Dot with butter, put oyster shells on a bed of rock salt in the broiling pan and brown the oysters under the broiler. Serve piping hot.

While final construction of the oysters and eggs are taking place, J has two beautiful beef filets in the oven, par-cooking under large pieces of lard in preparation for the Wellington.

Gorgeously browned, with chitlins.

At least one of these crunchy pieces of lard made someone's dog very happy.

Attempting to stay in theme, Bill the wine guy from downtown Ralph's told me kir royale was very in vogue in the late 1960's/early 1970's, and that was all the encouragement I needed. T made everyone else Tom Collins, which despite my perceived hatred of gin I thought were delicious. Must have been the homemade sweet & sour. Please see the video below.

After the par-cooking of the filets, J covers them in a thick layer of a beautiful goose pate de foie gras from Bristol Farms. Even without the beef, that pate was wonderful quality. Below, watch J spread the pate covering the filets entirely.


The duxelles adhere nicely to the thick layer of pate.

And J rolls the loaves of meat into long rectangles of puff pastry.

And into the pre-heated oven the entire mass goes.

Waiting for the Wellington to cook, we all settle into the living room to nibble and catch up.

T has brought Chex Mix, which A, the youngest among us by far at 25, had no prior knowledge.  Chex Mix. A stand by at all cocktail parties and some kid parties when I was growing up.  This can now be bought pre-made in a bag, but T did it old school and made it from scratch.

THE original Chex Mix recipe from the early 1960's (No date, but from an old recipe cut out of a magazine from that decade.)

1 stick (1/2 C) butter or margarine
1 1/4 teaspoons seasoned salt
4 1/2 teaspoons Worchershire sauce
2 1/3 cups Corn Chex
2 1/3 cups Rice Chex
2 1/3 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup small pretzels
1 cup salted mixed nuts

Heat oven to 250. Melt butter in 15x10x2 pan; remove pan from oven. 
Stir in seasoned salt and worchestire sauce. 
Gradually add cereal, pretzels, and nuts, stirring to coat evenly.
Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Spread on paper towels to soak up excess oil.
Makes 9 cups.

We laughed about the production and failure of the oysters, but the eggs were a smashing success.

And we made our way to J's gorgeous dining table.


Both T and I vividly remember our mothers making Green Goddess dressing, and to this day it is one of my favorite salad dressings.  It is having quite the resurgence on menus recently, having been seen at Suzanne Goins' Lucques, at Selland's Gourmet Market in Sacramento, on Ina Garten's section of the Food Network web site, at Eva, Tavern and A.O.C., all in Los Angeles.

T tosses her beautiful baby romaine leaves with her own Green Goddess dressing.

At the table, she and C serve the salad with crab hand cracked by C himself, our resident culinary expert. The rest of us in the kitchen just dabble, when C is behind the stove he dazzles like a vampire in sunlight. Satisfying crunch of romaine, bright flavors of tarragon and parsley, the savory anchovy and onion, the sweet sweet crab.
Gourmet | March 2002

The William Archer play The Green Goddess had a run in San Francisco in the 1920s. Star George Arliss, dining at the Palace Hotel, was served a specially created salad with this green-hued dressing.

Yield: Makes about 1 1/4 cups
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

1 cup mayonnaise
3 anchovy fillets, minced
1 chopped scallion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

Salt and pepper.

Purée all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Nicolas Feuillatte.

Beef Wellington. What and why? Wikipedia tells us that though a definitive origin is unclear, one theory about Wellington is that Beef Wellington is named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.   Some say the dish was created because of his love for beef, mushroom, Madeira wine, truffles and pate cooked in pastry. Others hold that a patriotic English chef wanted to give the popular French dish filet du boeuf en croute a British sounding moniker during a period in which England was frequently at odds with France. Still a third theory holds that the dish is named after the shiny boots the Duke of Wellington wore that mimic the shiny baked puff pastry, these boots also being called Wellingtons. Whatever the case may be, our culinary research for this festive project tells us that Beef Wellington enjoyed a surge in popularity in the U.S. during the late 60's and early 70's.  In our current climate, so reverent of bacon, offal, and foie gras, I can see this delicious dish making a comeback. I can envision a lot of ways to tastily spin and tweak the ingredients.

G carved the Wellington for us, as we waited with dropped jaws and watering mouths.

Cooked to medium rare perfection.  This is one of the most wonderfully decadent and exquisitely flavored beef dishes I have ever had. Layering the beef in the pate helped it retain so much moisture, and the flavors of the duxelles, pate and beef together were just a little hedonistic. The puff pastry was both crispy on the outside and more moistly bread like on the inside.

Fillet of Beef WellingtonGourmet | January 1991

Some say it was his favorite meal, and others claim it resembled the boots that he wore. Whatever the case may be, the Duke of Wellington has a grand dish named after him, which became the entertaining extravaganza of the 1960s.
Yield: Serves 8

a 3 1/2-pound fillet of beef tied with thin sheets of larding fat at room temperature
3/4 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound pâté de foie gras (available at specialty foods shops) at room temperature
1 pound puff paste (page 196) or thawed frozen puff pastry plus additional for garnish if desired

1 large egg white beaten
an egg wash made by beating 1 large egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water
1/2 cup Sercial Madeira
2 teaspoons arrowroot dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water

1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons finely chopped black truffles (available at specialty food shops) if desired
watercress for garnish if desired

In a roasting pan roast the beef in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the thermometer registers 120°F. Let the fillet cool completely and discard the larding fat and the strings. Skim the fat from the pan juices and reserve the pan juices.
In a heavy skillet cook the mushrooms in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until all the liquid they give off is evaporated and the mixture is dry, season them with salt and pepper, and let them cool completely. Spread the fillet evenly with the pâté de foie gras, covering the top and sides, and spread the mushrooms evenly over the pâté de foie gras. On a floured surface roll 1 pound of the puff paste into a rectangle about 20- by 12- inches, or large enough to enclose the fillet completely, invert the coated fillet carefully under the middle of the dough, and fold up the long sides of the dough to enclose the fillet brushing the edges of the dough with some of the egg white to seal them. Fold ends of the dough over the fillet and seal them with the remaining egg white. Transfer the fillet, seam side down to a jelly-roll pan or shallow roasting pan and brush the dough with some of the egg wash. Roll out the additional dough and cut the shapes with decorative cutters. Arrange the cutouts on the dough decoratively, brush them with the remaining egg wash, and chill the fillet for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Bake the fillet in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°, and bake the fillet for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the meat thermometer registers 130°F. for medium-rare meat and the pastry is cooked through. Let the fillet stand for 15 minutes.
In a saucepan boil the reserved pan juices and the Madeira until the mixture is reduced by one fourth. Add the arrowroot mixture, the broth, the truffles, and salt and pepper to taste and cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring, being careful not to let it boil, for 5 minutes, or until it is thickened. Loosen the fillet from the jelly-roll pan, transfer it with two spatulas to a heated platter, and garnish it with watercress. Serve the fillet, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices, with the sauce.

Place settings for dessert.

Both dishes J took on were architectural culinary wonders. Beef Wellington, and for dessert she chose to make Baked Alaska. With such a daunting task she did three trial runs prior to the party.  I think G might have been just a little tiny bit tired of Baked Alaska.  Here at the meringue stage I had to convince J to keep beating the whites.  The job of the whites is to insulate the ice cream during baking so it really really needs to stand up stiffly and stick to the ice cream.

The Alaska stands on a simple cake base, J used Betty Crocker yellow cake from a box. Effective and time efficient.

The ice cream needs to take on a shape that is easy to layer the meringue on top of, for easy moving back and forth, J put a layer of cling film in between the strawberry ice cream and the simple bowl. Below, J lifts the ice cream from its mold and onto the cake base.

After undoming the ice cream, she pipes the meringue onto the outside of the very frozen ice cream just before sticking into the oven.

J tried to use a pastry tip to pipe the meringue around the ice cream decoratively, but the meringue wasn't really having it. We ended up just splooging the meringue all over the ice cream as thickly as we could. In the oven, albeit briefly, our Alaskan volcanic mountain forms a side vent and strawberry lava starts to flow, imaginary villagers run for their lives.

Honestly, even the little leakage did almost no damage to the structure.


And how beautiful does it look when sliced into? Pink, white and yellow heaven.

Despite the structural challenges we were rewarded with simply sweet flavor profiles, creamy sugary cakey deliciousness.

Baked AlaskaGourmet | June 2001

The key to this dessert is keeping the cake and the ice cream as cold as possible, so be sure not to thaw the cake or soften the ice cream before assembling. We recommend using ice cream that comes in paper pints, so that they're easy to remove.
Active time: 20 min Start to finish: 45 min

1 (10 3/4-oz) frozen pound cake, not thawed
2 pints superpremium strawberry ice cream (not 1 quart)
6 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
Cut frozen cake crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with cake slices, some halved or cut into pieces to fill in gaps. Halve remaining cake slices lengthwise and place around edge of plate. Patch up any holes with pieces of remaining cake slices. (You may have a couple of slices left over.)
Cut paper containers from ice cream and slice each pint into 3 rounds. Arrange 3 rounds in 1 layer on top of cake in pie plate and cut each remaining round into 6 wedges. Fill holes in ice cream layer with some of ice cream wedges and mound remainder in center of pie plate. Freeze 25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450°F.
After ice cream and cake have been freezing 20 minutes, beat egg whites and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until foamy, then add lemon juice and continue to beat until whites hold soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, beating, and continue beating until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks.
Remove ice-cream base from freezer and mound meringue over it, spreading to edge of plate to cover ice cream completely. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

Many thanks to for providing us a clearing house of recipes to inspire and execute, FoodBuzz for sponsoring the revelry, and to C, D, G and A for their patience before, during and after our efforts, making cocktails and dutifully cleaning as many dishes as necessary.

Happy Holidays and beautiful meals to all my readers.


Kristine said...

I really appreciate the video clips. What a beautiful theme! I love these little waves of childhood nostalgia flowing to the present day, from time to time.

It's With A K said...

WOW, the food looks so elegant. I can only imagine how decadent and delicious the deviled eggs and the Beef Wellington tasted. My mouth is watering right this second.

And then the videos...lmaorotf! So many sound bites, it's hard to choose my favorite. Lake Titicaca on Uranus. Oh, favorite was when you handed off the camera to D and had then Gobi did something that created a bloody hell mate, blimey marathon..LOLOL...I'm listening again and laughing. Double oh see!


This is one of my fav blogs ever. I need a vodka cocktail now. Some vodka and vodka.

katiemgibbs said...

Although my family was solidly middle class, I did grow up in the DC suburbs, and my dad did work for a clandestine arm of the government. So I guess I was pretty establishment when I grew up in the 1970s.

My mom made cherries jubilee (2 or 3 times that I remember), baked alaska (once), fondue (a lot), deviled everything, and so on. I feel so lucky to have grown up in a time where people still cooked.

Food, she thought. said...

K, TY! It was an incredibly nostalgic evening.

K, Honestly, we were having so much fun, and listening to the ambient conversations on the videos last night I laughed til I cried.

Katie, We were all very middle class as well, lots of fondue, crepes suzette (the ones you set on fire), etc, happening at dinner parties when I was a kid. I published a foodie interview of my mom here earlier this year, and she said she stated cooking fancy because she knew if she didn't do it herself she'd never get to taste that amazing food. Sounds like your mom was the same, smart and ambitious.

Chicken said...

What a fun concept! I love the menu (except for Baked Alaska but that's just me). Glad Foodbuzz went for it. :D


FOODalogue said...

Looks like a really fun evening...and you certainly chose and executed perfectly the best of the best of that era.

tgirl said...

I was there and let me tell you ... it was fun. And I've wanted Beef Wellington for breakfast every morning since said evening. Thanks L&J. It was the highlight of the holiday season.

Bianca @Hermosa Beach Restaurant Examiner said...

How elegant and lavish! Thanks for providing such a detailed post! I'm an 80's child so I never experienced this firsthand! Thanks for sharing!

Diana said...

What a great idea! I can see why Food Buzz picked you for one of the 24-24-24 this month! Everything looks great -- I wish there were more deviled eggs in 2009. I only recently discovered just how good they can be!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

wow, the deviled eggs with caviar was decadent enough but the beef wellington with goose pate is just over the top awesome. Great job!

Congrats on the 24!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

How elegant everything looks. My dinners are pretty haphazard. I'm usually still in the kitchen and make my guests help me finish cooking before we can sit down and eat. I've always wanted to do the whole tablecloth and place setting route, but just can't get my act together in time.

Curt McAdams said...

I love the retro meal! I did Wellington in 2008 for Christmas, and I loved it; yours looks great, as does everything. I'm half surprised you didn't have Cold Duck to drink!

I hope you played Rat Pack Christmas music during the meal. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! It looks so good that I wouldn't want to eat it