Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"The Pyromaniac's Cookbook" & "The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook" - Welcome back, Mad Men!

Date I made these recipes:  Sunday, April 5, 2015 – Mad Men resumes...and it's Easter

The Pyromaniac's Cookbook – The Best in Flaming Food and Drink (For People Who Like to Play with Fire) by John J. Poister; Illustrated by Frank Perry
Published by:  Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1968
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks, NYC
Recipes:  Steak Diane – p. 71 and Cherries Jubilee – p. 7-8

The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook by Ted James and Rosalind Cole
Published by: Bramhall House
© 1969 (MCMLXIX)
Recipe:  Delmonico Potatoes – p. 176

I never thought I'd say that a major holiday like Easter was overshadowed by a TV show, but I speak the truth.  Mad Men, the wildly popular TV show about the life of advertising men and women in the 60's, returned last night for its final six episodes.  Much of the nation is bereft at this news.  And so as between observing Easter and making the requisite ham (we still have leftovers from last year) and getting our 60's/70's grove on with a Mad Men-themed dinner, Mad Men won out.  Easter will come around again next year but this is it for Mad Men.  Sniffle.

Since Mad Men is set in NYC, I just looked to my NYC cookbook shelf (and yes, I try to keep like books together), and pulled out a few options, some of which I'm saving for the finale, some of which I used today.  Like the Waldorf-Astoria (hotel) Cookbook.

The Waldorf-Astoria hotel is probably about the best known of New York hotels.  Located at 34th and Fifth Ave, it is an imposing structure, home and host to some of the world's most famous people.  Although I've walked by the place several times on various visits, I have not yet walked into the joint and that's because I'm not normally dressed appropriately for the place and by that I mean no shorts, tank tops or sandals which represents my usual summer in the city attire.  Even when I do go eventually, I feel this overwhelming urge to wear white gloves.  And maybe a hat.  So some planning is obviously in order.

By the way, although I have not yet gone into that hotel, I have been to the equally famous Algonquin for drinks (witty writer, Dorothy Parker, held court there) and the Carlyle HotelThe Cafe Carlyle, a jazz club, has been host to jazz greats for years, most notably pianist and singer Bobby Short.  Actor/director Woody Allen plays clarinet there every Tuesday night.  But the coolest thing about the Carlyle is Bemelman's Bar, where the artwork of Ludwig Bemelman - illustrator of the Madeline books – is on display.  Years ago, I was in a friend's wedding in NYC, and after the wedding reception, we all retired to Bemelman's Bar for a drink before heading back to the Upper West Side to stay with friends. 
As to the Waldorf, Mad Men fans might be tickled to learn that inside the front cover is a photo of Conrad Hilton. Conrad Hilton factored in mightily in the store lines for Season 3.  Conrad Hilton was also married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, one of three of the famous Gabor sisters (sister Eva played Lisa Douglas on Green Acres).  Actresses Paris and Nicky Hilton are Conrad's great-granddaughters.

Mad Men fans might also remember that Don Draper and company attended the Clio Awards at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel (Season 4) where they run into the obnoxious Ted Chaough who at that time was working for a competing ad agency.  Funny how those things work, right?  Ted is now part of Sterling Cooper & Partners (at least I think that's the name they have now settled on) which merged with McCann Erickson during the first half of Season 7.  It's. just. so. complicated!
Finally, Mad Men fans should take note that the cookbook was published in 1969.  The first half of Mad Men's final season takes place in 1969.  The last half starts in 1970.  And so the recipes that you read about here and the photos you see in this book are all right on point with the period. 

As expected, all the recipes in this book befit the grandeur and image of the Waldorf-Astoria and yet many, like the potato recipes, are geared for the average cook (and the average budget).  And if I wasn't so bent on making a main dish from The Pyromaniac's Cookbook, then I might have made more dishes than just the potatoes (like the "Consommé Hilton" on page 98), but I was on a mission and so Delmonico Potatoes it was.  They were delicious.

The second book I used – The Pyromaniac's Cookbook – is also on point for the Mad Men period.  This book was published in 1968, a period covered in Mad Men in Season 6.  At that time, setting your food on fire (i.e. flambé) was all the rage.  Honestly.  And having it set on fire tableside was the next best thing to going to the circus in that it was the attraction of many a fancy restaurant and hotel dining room including the Waldorf.  (Also of note:  The authors attribute this recipe to Le Manoir restaurant, a Manhattan French restaurant that operated in Manhattan at 56th and Park during the Mad Men period.)

Since I couldn't choose between the Cherries Jubilee and the Steak Diane, I made them both.  And people, if you watched last night's Mad Men second half premier, then how hilarious was it that I unwittingly chose to make Steak Diane?  (I won't spoil the story except to say that one of last night's character was named "Diane.")  I tell you what, I have a knack for this stuff!

I talked to my brother just before finishing up my dishes and he cracked up laughing that I actually had a book called The Pyromaniac's Cookbook (Well, duh...) and warned me to be careful with my flame throwing.  I told him that this was not my first rodeo making Cherries Jubilee. Years ago, a good friend of mine threw a Red and Green party around Christmas.  Not only did we have to wear red or green but we had to bring a dish to share.  I chose the cherries.  So when it came to the whole "Light your cognac on fire," I was all over it.
Neither of the recipes from The Pyromaniac's Cookbook was hard but I do urge caution when cooking the steak so that you don't overcook it.  Per the instructions, you brown each side of your thin steak slice (luckily, I bought mine already thinly sliced) and then you add the cognac, light it on fire and then serve.  If I were you, I would barely brown the meat and then barely keep it in the flame.  Well, unless you like your meat well done in which case, fire away!

All in all, we were very satisfied with our non-Easter meal and the return of Don Draper and company.  Oh—and my ice cold, straight-up very dry martini (with an olive), naturally.

Steak Diane – serves 4 (from The Pyromaniac's Cookbook)
4 prime sirloin steaks (12 ounces each) (Ann's Note:  This recipe calls for you to pound these steaks until thin like a crepe but you might be able to buy your meat already thinly sliced like I did.)
Clarified butter*
½ cup cognac
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ cup sherry (optional)

Steaks must be selected with care, and completely free of fat and gristle.  Pound each steak with mallet until it is as thin as a dessert crepe.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In flaming pan of chafing dish over high heat, add enough clarified butter to cover bottom of pan.  When butter reaches cooking temperature, very quickly brown steaks on both sides.  Pour in warmed Cognac, ignite and blaze.  Remove steaks to heated platter.  Add additional butter, shallots and parsley, sauté lightly and add a little sherry if you wish.  Mix well, then pour hot sauce over steaks.

*Ann's Note:  Clarified butter is butter that is melted and then skimmed so that you remove all the top foam, leaving butter/oil for cooking. 

Delmonico Potatoes – serves 6 (from The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup scalded milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 cups sliced cold boiled potatoes
3 pimientos, coarsely chopped (Ann's Note:  you can use chopped red peppers for this dish instead of jarred pimientos as they are basically the same thing).
½ cup grated Swiss or American cheese
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon melted butter

Heat butter in saucepan.  Stir in flour; when bubbly, slowly stir in milk.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat.

Place half the potatoes in a shallow baking dish.  Sprinkle with half the pimiento and grated cheese.  Cover with half the sauce.  Repeat with remaining potatoes, pimiento, cheese and sauce.

Mix bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over surface.  Bake in preheated 35) degree oven for 20 minutes or until surface is lightly browned.

Cherries Jubilee – serves 2 (from The Pyromaniac's Cookbook)
2 tablespoons red currant jam
1 ½ cups pitted black cherries
1/3 cup Cognac
1 pint vanilla ice cream

Melt red current jam in flaming pan of chafing dish over direct heat, add pitted black cherries and a very small amount of juice.  When thoroughly heated, pour in Cognac and blaze.  Serve over vanilla ice cream.

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