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Elizabeth Street


This Holiday Season, Take Your Entertaining Ideas From '50s Icons

Nov 04, 2013

This Holiday Season, Take Your Entertaining Ideas From '50s Icons

Some of us were graced with culinary chops, and others…less so. And now that the holiday and entertaining season is upon us, those of us without much prowess in the kitchen may be feeling a little performance anxiety. Sometimes it seems no matter how many food blogs we peruse or how precisely we follow every pie recipe, something just isn’t quite right. Never fear. Take a tip from some of the most (outwardly) confident and capable women in history—Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Russell. That is, it’s all about assembly, not cooking (and keeping the drinks flowing, of course).

As Laren Stover asserts in The Bombshell Manual of Style, “The most beloved of Bombshell party recipes involve not cooking, but assembly, which may take time. (Many bombshells have never used their own oven.) Someone always offers to run out and buy the eggs and other miscellaneous ingredients. The Bombshell keeps serving drinks until the small food is prepared. That is, until someone finally comes into the kitchen and helps. The Bombshell is not lazy. Being a sensitive person, she is generally more concerned with entertaining than cooking.” 

OK, perhaps we don’t have quite the…assets to get away with batting our eyelashes and wordlessly persuading our guests to do our grocery shopping. However, picking out a couple of finger foods with snappy titles and calling it a day is something we can get behind. Try your hand at the canapés below, and if worse comes to worse, order out. After all, at the end of the day, it is all about the show. And by the show, we mean the opening of a bottle of bubbly. “Champagne knows how to make an entrance. Heads turn when it’s opened and there’s always a little nervous tension. Will the cork break a crystal chandelier or bowl someone over? Will the cup  overflow?” (Will we drink it fast enough to dispel any awkwardness with the in-laws?)

Tomatoes Stuffed With Cream Cheese and Caviar (a favorite of Marilyn Monroe’s)

12 cherry tomatoes 
6 tablespoons caviar
1 small bar cream cheese

Slice off top and scoop out the center of the tomatoes. Place a dollop of cream cheese in each tomato and top with caviar. Garnish with chives. Chill before serving.

Shrimp Cocktail & Cuban Cocktail Sauce

Ingredients (Shrimp):
Shrimp (Use deveined, cooked shrimp.)

Chill thoroughly. To serve, arrange petite lettuce leave in individual seafood cocktail glasses or dessert dishes. Curve shrimp around edges. Garnish with lemon slices. The cocktail sauce goes in a separate bowl. 

Ingredients (Cocktail Sauce):
3 to 6 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoons horseradish
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 splash Worcestershire sauce
2 splashes Tabasco sauce 
1 splash Cognac (Champagne will do in a pinch.)

Mix well and chill.

Cheese Fondue
Makes 4 servings.

1 lb. Emmenthaler or ½ lb. Emmenthaler and ½ lb. Gruyère cheese
Clove of garlic
2 cups dry white wine
3 tbsp. Kirsch
1 tsp. cornstarch
Nutmeg, white pepper or paprika to taste
Fun cubed things to dip in fondue (i.e. baguette, rye, sourdough, or any other crusty bread; lightly steamed veggies; sautéed mushrooms; cherry tomatoes; cured meats; fresh, raw apple or pear…)

1. Grate the cheese.
2. Rub a heavy saucepan with a clove of garlic.
3. Put 2 cups dry white wine into the pan.
4. While this is heating uncovered, over moderately high heat, pour 3 tablespoons of Kirsch into a cup. (This is the classic flavoring, although one of the other dry liqueurs may be used. Whatever kind of wine, it must be a dry white wine. Although Kirsch is de rigueur, you may substitute a nonsweet liqueur like slivovitz, a cognac or applejack.)
5. Stir 1 teaspoon cornstarch into the Kirsch until well dissolved.
6. By this time the wine will begin to show small foamy bubbles over its surface. When it is almost covered with this fine foam but it is not yet boiling, add the coarsely shredded cheese gradually, stirring constantly. Keep the heat high but do not let fondue boil. Continue to add the cheese until you can feel a very slight resistance to the spoon as you stir. Then, stirring vigorously, add the Kirsch and cornstarch mixture. Continue to cook until the fondue begins to thicken. 
7. Add nutmeg, white pepper or paprika to taste.
8. Quickly transfer it to a heatproof heavy pan, which can be place over an alcohol lamp or chafing dish, or transfer it to an electronic skillet adjusted to low heat. After this transferal the cooking continues on low heat and the guests take over.

For some recipes for cocktails to go with your canapés, click through the slideshow above.

By Cordelia Tai 

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