05 January 2010

Twelve Company Dinners



I pick up cookbooks for different reasons. I tend to always add French and Southern cookbooks (though there is often little difference in them), I like books with a specific focus such as terrines or preserves, and I have all of Elizabeth David and M.F. K. Fisher, but I often buy editions I don’t have as a kind of culinary “overkill”, and I am often overly taken by cookbooks with spectacular photography, but Twelve Company Dinners was a first. I bought it because of the author photo!



Margo Rieman looked like she would make fine dinner company, in fact, twelve dinners. The jacket blurb said Rieman was born on a farm in Utah. She traveled the world on a tramp steamer, wrote for fashion magazines, managed a jazz band and wrote a mystery. She lives(d) in New York City with her husband and two dachshunds. She is shown with the dachshunds that are described as “remarkable” but her husband is nowhere in site. He seems to have not been remarkable! She is also photographed with a drink and a cigarette but no food.

The premise for this book is to provide twelve dinner party menus with as much of the guesswork removed as possible. Rieman provide foe each dinner, a menu, a shopping list, a detailed and timed progression of activities and the recipes.



Since it is the late Fifties, many of the ingredients come from cans, which might be one of the reasons Rieman is photographed sans food but fortified with drinks.

She recommends for gourmets a dinner of Lamb Shashlik.

The menu includes:

Brandied Pâté (made from canned pâté and canned mushrooms)
Hot Cheese Balls (made with jarred cheese and canned deviled ham)
Lamb Shashlik
Kasha
Hot Yeast Rolls (made from a boxed mix)
Green Salad (made from actual lettuce)
Chocolate Rum Roll (a recipe from Dione Lucas)


Shashlik

4 lbs. leg of lamb, cut in 2” X 2” squares
1/4 cup sherry
2 onions
2 tbs. oregano
1 large eggplant
6 tomatoes
charcoal powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic
24 tiny onions or 6 medium
6 green peppers

Make a marinade for the lamb by chopping fine 2 medium onions. In a bowl, crush onions with salt to extract a little juice. Then add garlic, olive oil, sherry and oregano. Stir well, then marinate lamb overnight in this mixture. Thread long skewers with lamb, eggplant squares, green pepper squares, tomato quarters and onions, either small onions or medium ones cut in quarters. Try to put four of each on the skewers. Sprinkle with charcoal powder and broil eight minutes on each side, sixteen minutes in all.


The instructions are very detailed, but here is the gist:

Day before
BEGIN SASHLIK

Morning or day before
MAKE PATÉ

Morning
MAKE CHEESE BALLS
MAKE CHOCOLATE RUM ROLL

Afternoon
PREPARE SALAD

5:30 PM
CONTINUE SASHLIK

6:00 PM
BEGIN HOT ROLLS

6:05 PM
PREPARE KASHA

6:30 PM
Get dressed for dinner

6:55 PM
Back to the kitchen as guests arrive at 7.
CONTINUE ROLLS

7:10 PM
If some of your guests have arrived
REMOVE PATÉ FROM REFRIGERATOR

7:15 PM
CONTINUE CHEESE BALLS

7:40 PM
CONTINUE SHASHLIK

7:45 PM
CONTINUE SALAD

7:48 PM
TURN SHASHLIK

8:00 PM
FINISH SHASHLIK

8:02 PM
CONTINUE ROLLS

8:15 PM
RETURN TO KITCHEN FOR ROLLS
START COFFEE

9:00 PM
Guests finish eating.
TAKE COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE ROLL TO TABLE

Wow, I’m not sure, but if I had to keep all those times together, I might just lose track of dinner all together.


And she seems so laid back in the picture!

6 comments:

  1. Wow! I'll take care of the pate, you work on the Lamb(did that ever come in cans?)G-

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  2. Canned lamb? There's a new product to take to market or a new Spam flavor.

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  3. I don't know if I 100% agree with how you've characterized Margo here. Yes, some of her recipes are dated (can you still even buy deviled meat?), but she also tells people to get Kasha, and even where to buy it. She includes a from-scratch pie crust recipe, and a great from-scratch cheesecake recipe. She also specifies that she's aiming her book at the novice cook. She recommends bibb lettuce at one point and endive at another, and her "french creamed chicken" recipe is absolutely delicious. Some of her "basic" spices would be additions to many kitchens even today. Food trends may have changed (she describes the divine cheesecake as a "light" dessert) but for her time, I think she was quite extraordinary.

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  4. Among the many wonderful recipes in this book is a black bean cassoulet. The beans have to be soaked overnight - and I guarantee that you've never ever tasted the extraordinary flavor of the labor-intensive finished product! Margo Reiman was ahead of her time. And by the way, her use of Sell's Liver Pate - still on the shelves in supermarkets- was significant. Combined with a good brandy and mushrooms and butter, it is pretty amazing. But the best recipe by far in that book is her Pickled Shrimp. I made it many times for big dinner parties. I've misplaced this great book after moving thru the years but you could truly use her recipes for all dinner parties forsaking all others!

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  5. My father bought me this book in 1964, when I was a new bride and 24 years old. I have cherished this cookbook for more than 40 years. Menu 5 is my favorite, and tonight I am making the crust for Lemon Meringue Pie, which I will make tomorrow for one of my dear friend's retirement party. She believes that I make the best Lemon Meringue pie in the world!

    This tiny cookbook (I have the 60¢ paperback version with a photo of the roast beef on the cover) has been a favorite of mine for more than 40 years! Now I have over 300 cookbooks, including "Gastronomique", "Joy", several of Julia Childs, and lots of other classics. This tiny cookbook is a joy and a treasure for me. It got me started on being the good cook I am today.

    Thanks for the review of it... I would love to get a hard copy!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Margo Rieman wrote another cookbook in 1971 called "Quick Gourmet Dinners". I have owned this book for about fifteen years after finding it laying in a pile of dust in a friend's garage. It is the best cookbook in the world, in my humble opinion. Margo's philosophy and attitude on food was truly amazing. She was far ahead of her time. Her recipes for Paella and Cioppino are absolutely outstanding and I have made them both more times than I could ever remember. My copy of this little book is spattered with food, worn, warped from water and scorched from being on the counter too close to a hot oven. If asked to choose just one cookbook and forced to cook only recipes from said book for the rest of my life, I would choose this one. The introduction and the finale of the book, written in story form, will actually bring a tear to a person's eye. I wish I could have met Margo back in the day, to thank her.

    ReplyDelete

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