March is here, which means we're officially on the countdown for the return of "Mad Men" on AMC (9 p.m. ET on March 25). So if you're planning a big "Mad Men" party to celebrate the show's 5th season -- after a painful 525 day absence -- we've found something you might want to pick up.
"The Unoffical Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men" is a terrific look at food and drink in Manhattan during the "Mad Men" era.
It has nearly 250 pages of excellent content, including more than 70 recipes with commentary on the food and drinks served on "Mad Men," plus general tips on stocking your bar.
But it's so much more than that.
The book is divided into categories like traditional cookbooks (cocktails, appetizers, salads, main courses, desserts) but within those chapters, individual dishes are examined in the context of their episode and in relation to the social mores of the 1960s.
For example, for the recipe for "Trudy's Rib Eye in the Pan" from Season 1, Episode 3 ("Marriage of Figaro"), we not only get detailed instructions on how to cook the steak, we get a recap of the scene in which Pete calls his new wife and requests steak for dinner, and also learn the social implications of Pete asking Trudy to cook a steak for him in the first place. It seems that even during that time -- when women (or their help) did all the cooking and cleaning -- cooking a steak was considered strictly a man's job.
What does that say about Pete's manliness? Discuss at your party.
Or, remember Sal's Spaghetti and Meatballs with Marinara, as prepared for Ken Cosgrove in Season 2, Episode 7 ("The Gold Violin")? The awkwardness of the dinner still makes me cringe, but the memory of watching them eat the spaghetti and meatballs makes my mouth water.
The recipes are adapted from cookbooks that would have been popular at the time or from Manhattan restaurants. The recipe for Sal's spaghetti dinner is from the 1967 cookbook by Gene Leone, the son of famed Mama Leone of the eponymous New York City restaurant. "Mad Men" connection: Betty Draper's obstetrician was unavailable to deliver her third child because he was dining at Mama Leone's at the time (Season 3, Episode 5: "The Fog").
Of course, there are plenty of cocktail recipes, too, from Don's Old-Fashioned and Roger's Martini to the Tom Collins little Sally Draper mixes up in Season 2, Episode 2 ("Flight 1").
"The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook" is a fascinating read even if you never make a single recipe.
It's put together by veteran cookbook authors Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin and published by Smart Pop, an imprint of BenBella Books. The U.S. retail for the softcover is $16.95.
For more information visit unofficialmadmencookbook.com
The publisher has generously granted permission to reprint two recipes below.
Betty's Around the World Dinner Gazpacho (Season 2, Ep 8: "A Night to Remember")
1 cup finely chopped peeled tomato
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons snipped parsley
1 teaspoon snipped chives
1 small clove garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato juice
1. Combine all ingredients in stainless steel or glass bowl. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 4 hours.
2. Serve in chilled cups. Top with croutons
Yield: 6 servings
Kitty's Pineapple Upside-down Cake (Season 2, Ep 1: "For Those Who Think Young")
Note: reciped adapted for a cast-iron skillet
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
7-8 canned pineapple slices (reserve syrup)
Pecan halves, for decorating
Maraschino cherries, for decorating
10 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup syrup from pineapple can
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Line a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with aluminum foil, completely covering the bottom and sides and extending extra foil over edges of the pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Make the topping: Place butter in skillet, place skillet in oven and melt butter. As soon as butter is melted, remove and stir in brown sugar, carefully mixing well with a rubber spatula so as not to tear foil. Arrange pineapple slices over butter/sugar spread. Place cherries in center of pineapple rings and pecans between the slices.
3. Make the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, adding sugar gradually, and then add eggs and beat well. Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Combine buttermilk, syrup and vanilla in a small measuring cup. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk/syrup mixture, beating well after each addition. Spread batter evenly across mixture in skillet.
4. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Place a large cake plate over pan and invert to remove. Peel off aluminum foil, pressing back any pineapple that may be stuck to foil.
Yield: 10-12 servings
Photos by Nina Gallant