Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook" - Pineapple Glazed Ham & Potatoes Au Gratin

Date I made these recipes: March 25, 2012 (Mad Men Season 5 premier)

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin
Published by: Smart Pop
ISBN: 978-193666141-1
Recipes: Pineapple-Glazed Ham in honor of Season 4, Episode 1 “Public Relations” and Julie Child’s Potatoes Au Gratin in honor of Season 1, Episode 2 “Ladies’ Room”

Finally, after 17 months off, Mad Men is back. It’s back! Oh how I have missed it. I mean, weren’t we all on the edge of our seats wondering about Joan’s baby and Don and Megan’s engagement and all kinds of various and sundry revolving stories? I know I was. Aside from a TV show here and there, I can’t think of any other show I have wanted to watch more than Mad Men.

This hero worship is probably due to the fact that I grew up in the 60’s. I was in Kindergarten when President Kennedy was shot (I called him President “Keninney”) and held on for the ride in 1968 when everything seemed to be going to hell in a handbasket. In between, I managed to somehow survive Catholic grade school and Vatican II, secondhand smoke, loud cocktail parties thrown by my parents (where I got to sip from my dad’s martini and please, spare me the lecture) and the gamut of 60’s fashion. In fact, one of the more hilarious scenes from Mad Men has Betty chastising Sally for running around with a dry-cleaning bag on her head because Betty didn’t want the clothing in them wrinkled. While I’m pretty sure my mother would have been more concerned than Betty about my potential death by asphyxiation, I also know my mom’s desire for smartly pressed clothes and so who’s to say I, too, wouldn’t have heard “Ann Marie Verme, you’re ruining the clothes!”

The thing I, and others, love about this show is the attention to detail. When I watch this production, I feel as if I was right back in the 60’s, girdles and all! Many women were horrified that pregnant women smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol but as my friend, Mary, said on many occasions “Oh my God, my mother smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish with all of us kids!” And that was absolutely true; the fact that you were pregnant was immaterial.

Smoking was allowed everywhere, and I mean everywhere, even hospitals (can you imagine?!) In fact, my favorite “toy” growing up was the huge ashtray in our local bank. It was filled with sand and my brother and I used to move the cigarette butts through the sand like we were driving a truck—at least until my mother said “Stop that!” Spoilsport.

For many women of the 60’s, the “available” positions were teachers, nurses, secretaries or stay-at-home housewives. My mother stayed at home (because my dad wanted her to) and hosted coffee klatches with her female friends, grocery shopped, cleaned the house, took care of me and my brother and countless other things and was still expected to have dinner ready and on the table by 6. And it wasn’t that my dad was a hard-ass, far from it. It’s just that more women stayed home because it was expected of them and that was that. Dinner was, of course, preceded with my dad’s wind-down-from-a-tough-day martini.

So speaking of cocktails, this cookbook has a ton of popular 60’s cocktail recipes, many of which I have sampled in bars and restaurants over the past few decades, but I decided to pay homage by making a couple of food recipes instead. Besides, at precisely 8 bells Central Standard Time, I had my own cocktail of choice, a martini, at hand, ready for the start of our two-hour adventure. (By the way, the authors suggest adding 1/8 ounce of vermouth to the gin. Nonsense! That’s overkill.)

As to the food, the recipes all sounded delicious but I just had to make the ham recipe in honor of the hilarious episode from last season, Season 4, where Pete and Peggy have to come up with an advertisement for the fictitious Sugarberry canned ham. (That said the recipe for “Trudy’s Flying Roast Chicken with Stuffing” recipe came in a close second—talk about another hilarious moment in Mad Men history when Peter sent his wife Trudy’s roast chicken over the balcony in a fit of pique!)

Okay, back to the ham, in this episode, Pete and Peggy struggle to make their ham client happy. After much consideration, they come up with a “sure-fired” way to get their female grocery-buying public’s attention and that is to stage an in-store fight where two women argue over who is going home with a Sugarberry ham. The idea was, of course, to make Sugarberry ham the only ham that women would want to make. But naturally, the two “housewives” hired for the promotion get into a major fight, all hell breaks loose and that pretty much put the kibosh on that! Tell you what though I can’t look at a canned ham anymore without cracking up laughing. (And for the record, of course the ham I made today is a canned ham. If Matthew Weiner can pay attention to details, so can I!).

As to the potatoes, well, ham and potatoes just go together, right, so I broke my own little rule of only making one recipe per cookbook and made the au gratin potatoes as well. This was the first time I’ve ever seen them made with Swiss cheese but then again, this is an adaptation of a Julie Child recipe so that made sense. The texture of this is more like an omelet due to the addition of eggs, but I found myself really liking it. Still, Julia Child aside, I’m really more of a cheddar cheese gal myself when it comes to au gratin potatoes.

So there we were – martinis in hand, ham on the plate, potatoes nearby, and Mad Men commenced. Ah, life is good!

Pineapple-Glazed Ham (adapted from The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook (Hearst 1963)) – Yield: 1 ham
1 ham (in keeping with the episode, canned ham is best!)
1 cup pineapple juice, or reserved juice from pineapple can
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 15-ounce can pineapple slices
Maraschino cherries, optional

Cook ham according to instructions on the package. Remove ham from oven 45 minutes before it is done cooking and remove rind. Score ham, if you wish, by cutting it in long diagonal slashes in one direction and then crossing those cuts with diagonal slashes in the opposite direction to create a diamond pattern. Increase oven temperature to 400F.

Combine pineapple juice, brown sugar, and mustard in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened and clear. Spread on ham. Use toothpicks to fasten pineapple slices to ham and place maraschino cherries inside the pineapple rings. Return to oven for 20 minutes or until pineapple is glazed.

Place fully cooked ham on a serving platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving into thin slices.

Ann’s Notes: My canned ham only took an hour to cook but I was still in a burning hurry to get done in time for Mad Men’s 8:00 (CST) start so….I didn’t wait until the pineapple juice, brown sugar and mustard became a paste but instead just poured it over the ham and shoved it in the oven. But I did take a moment to arrange the pineapple slices on top of my perfectly flat canned ham! Needless to say, I didn’t bother to score the ham since there was nothing to score—no rind, no fuss, no muss, no bother!

Potatoes au Gratin (adapted from Gratin De Pommes De Terre Aux Anchois – Gratin of Potatoes, Onions and Anchovies), Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (Knopf, 1961))

2 tablespoons butter; plus 1 tablespoon for top
1 cup minced onions
½ pound raw potatoes (about 2-3 large potatoes) (Ann’s note: today’s baking potatoes are HUGE so weigh them in the grocery store if at all possible lest you end up with more potatoes than needed like I did.). Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes
3 eggs
1 ½ cups whipping cream, half-and-half, cream or milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup grated Swiss cheese

Place butter in a skillet and melt over low heat. Cook onions slowly in butter for 5 minutes or so, until tender but not browned.

Preheat oven to 375F. Drop potatoes in boiling salted water and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until barely cooked. Drain thoroughly.

Butter a 3-4 cup baking dish. Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom and then the cooked onion and, finally, the remaining potatoes.

Beat eggs with whipping cream, and add salt and pepper. Stir. Pour eggs and cream over the potatoes and shake the dish to send the liquid to the bottom.

*May be cook in individual serving crocks if desired.

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