For the first time yesterday, I bought pineapple rings canned in heavy syrup. In any other situation, I’d be reaching for the juice-packed fruit, but my pineapple upside-down cake recipe calls for heavy syrup. I’m not going to begin cutting corners now.
Pictured above are just a few of the ingredients I’ll be using in the dishes for the Mad Men premiere party I’m throwing on Saturday. A few highlights before I get into the menu:
Utz potato chips are primarily sold in the Northeast; the company is based in Hanover, Penn. Fortunately, their products are also available online. Not wanting to run out, I bought five bags of traditional chips. That should be enough, right?
My main source while creating the menu for this party is the fantastic Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook. I’ve already described how the cookbook provides context to every recipe featured. Here’s another example: I learned that the dip I’m going to be making has been featured on every box of Lipton onion soup mix since 1958. I flipped over my box of mix and there was the recipe.
Here were my objectives when designing the menu: I wanted to include signature drinks and dishes from the show, with a mixture of appetizers, entrees and desserts. I wanted to keep the food on the lighter side, so my guests wouldn’t fill up too fast (but don’t worry, I’m not using lite sour cream in the California dip). I wanted to focus on finger foods, or dishes that could be plated ahead of time. This is what I’ll be serving.
Don Draper’s old fashioned: When Don makes old fashionds for Conrad Hilton (watch this clip and be mesmerized), he muddles the maraschino cherries and makes a 50/50 mixture of rye and soda water. To many cocktail enthusiasts, this method ruins the drink two times over. The muddled cherry makes the drink too sweet, and the soda water dilutes it. Sorry, but cocktail snobs will have to drink elsewhere. This party is for Mad Men snobs only.
Roger Sterling’s martini: Unlike Don, Roger prefers clear spirits, and he keeps Stolichnaya vodka in his office. In the 60s martinis were traditionally served with gin, but in order to include Roger’s favorite brand, I’m making these martinis with Stoli.
Canadian Clubhouse Punch: I wanted a drink that would appeal to everyone at the party. Plus, what’s more old-school than a punch bowl? (I’ve got my ice ring freezing right now!) A punch like this one was served at the Sterling Cooper Draper Price Christmas party. Canadian Clubhouse Punch was featured in a Canadian Club advertisement in 1961.
Heineken: There’s only going to be one beer served at the party – the same beer Betty Draper served for her around-the-world dinner party.
Classic Shrimp Cocktail: This is great finger food, and presents well. Trudy Campbell was picking at a shrimp cocktail when out to dinner with her parents and husband.
California Dip and Utz Potato Chips: This dip is super easy to prepare. No wonder it has been a favorite for over 50 years. Pete Campbell goes crazy for the “sour cream with these little brown onions in it.”
Oysters Rockefeller: This dish might be a bit of a stretch to make and execute, but I think any Mad Men party has to serve oysters. I won’t make my guests climb 23 flights of stairs after eating them.
Mushroom Canapes: I wanted another appetizer that would be easy to make and prepare ahead of time. Betty Draper served these when hosting a fundraiser for New York governor Nelson Rockefeller.
Waldorf Salad: When Don Draper meets Connie Hilton at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to discuss business, Connie asks if Don wants anything to eat. “Best kitchen in the world,” he says. “Got a salad named after it.” I’m going to plate this salad before the party begins and serve it in shallow glasses. The lemon juice in the dressing should keep the apples from turning too brown.
Pineapple-Glazed Ham: For this main course I wanted to make something that wasn’t too much trouble. I considered beef wellington, but decided it needed more attention than I was ready to give it. Pineapple-glazed hams are sprinkled throughout Mad Men (Joan bakes one for a New Year’s Eve dinner) and Sterling Cooper Draper Price has the Sugarberry Ham account.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: More pineapple! My grandmother makes a version of this cake. I was looking for an iconic old-fashioned dessert. Plus, I can make it a day ahead of time. Sal Romano and his wife Kitty enjoy this cake on Valentine’s Day.
Popcorn Balls: Here’s another dessert that’s good party finger food. Popcorn balls are available at the Sterling Cooper Draper Price Christmas party. My wife’s grandmother makes popcorn balls with M&Ms, which I’ll be sure to include.