I have slight addiction to cookbooks, so it is terribly difficult for me to say pass when a publishing house wishes to send me a review copy. I try to be conservative; I say no outright to any cookbooks that cater to speciality diets (gluten-whaaaaat?) or whose primary patron are mothers. I’d rather review kids cookbooks outright rather than a cookbook for “mommy’s.” When Confessions of a Serial Entertainer by Steven Stolman was pitched to me, however, I welcomed the newest addition to my ever-growing collection with open arms.
“If you saw me in the kitchen, you’d be horrified,” Steven Stolman, author of Confessions of a Serial Entertainer, admitted about his cooking prep skills.
Speaking a someone who has been cooking and hosting her own parties since the age of twenty, I can more than empathize. When I first began a public food blog, people asked if my end goal is a career in the culinary arts. “Hell no,” I’d answer vehemently. Have you seen me in the kitchen? I’m a cyclone of every professional chef’s nightmare. Nobody wants to see my culinary chaos; there is a magic to the mystery curtain I hide behind, and I suspect Mr. Stolman and I might be cut from the same cloth in this respect.
Formerly known as the “Prince of Preppy” for his lighthearted use of decorative fabrics in his previous incarnation as a fashion designer, Steven Stolman also served as the president of Scalamandre, the legendary fabric house before announcing his departure in May of last year. Confessions of a Serial Entertainer spans everything a host needs to entertain with style including: dips and cheese spreads for crackers, delicious entrees, breakfast casseroles, and scrumptious desserts.
Mr. Stolman was kind of enough to answer a few questions I sent him on entertaining:
Me: Potlucks: Love ‘em or hate ‘em? What is your go-to dish to bring, and do you have any host or guest tips?
Steven: I’m not a big fan of potlucks. Every cook has a different hand when it comes to seasoning, and I think you end up with a very dissonant meal.
What to bring? No one has ever balked at a small tin of caviar and a some simple toast points, that way, there’s never the issue of bringing home an icky dirty dish or never getting it back.
Me: When did you first begin to host your own cocktail/dinner parties? Are they very different now from then in terms of food/drinks prepared, or essentially the same?
Steven: I was a very precocious child. I used to play host at my parents’ parties, so probably around eight or nine. No, they are exactly the same. LOL
Me: Any potentially kitchen catastrophe’s that you rescued at the eleventh hour? I’m always looking for new ways to put out (figurative and literal) fires.
Steven: I have no patience in the kitchen. So I do have a tendency to screw things up by being careless and imprecise. The worst thing is a curdled bearnaise sauce – just looking at it all oily and gross makes me nauseous. But it can always be brought back to emulsion with an added egg yolk or two. I should probably always keep an extra dozen on hand.
Me: If you could suddenly master any one dish – just poof! you know how to make it without ever having attempted to tackle it before – which dish would you suddenly have in your repertoire?
Steven: I’m really a fearless cook, so there really isn’t anything that I don’t think I could do pretty okay the first time. I mean, I’ve made my own pate de campagne, for godsakes. My mother insists that under no circumstances should I ever tackle homemade gefilte fish, but it remains on my bucket list.
Me: Living or deceased, pick four famous/known people to play host to at a marvelously intimate dinner or cocktail party (husband Rich is, of course, there already). What would you serve your distinguished guests?
Steven: I’m obsessed with all of the swells who were a part of the fabulous, oh, so social court created by Babe and Bill Paley in response to being excluded from the WASP world. So I suppose I’d love to host Babe and Bill, Slim Keith, and Truman Capote. I would serve chicken hash, tomato pudding and beautiful bright green peas with pearl onions, on my mother’s Rosenthal “Dignity” china… the classic stuff with the wide cobalt blue rim and gold wheat in the center. And lots of ice cold Pouilly-Fuisse.
Thank you, Steven!
Now, onto the main course:
Basic French Salad
Ease: Stupid easy. You could train a monkey to prepare this salad.
Tasting: I love butter lettuce, and Steven’s quick ‘n’ easy dressing makes that butter lettuce the belle of the ball. My taste-testers also agree on this and the Cesar Salad dressing (not pictured); which is so good that my friend Annie absconded it!
Recipe: Scalloped Scallops
Ease: Deceptively easy. People will look and eat this dish thinking it’s advanced when it really took you all of 10 minutes of hands-on cooking time.
Tasting: To be honest, I almost do not want to tell you just how delicious this recipe is, because I will invariably confess that I ate the entire dish by myself.
RECIPES I HAVE MY EYE ON:
|Dr. Nagy’s Pate
||Nana’s Matzo Balls
||Hurry-Up Coq au Vin
Steven is the prime highlight of this book. I have never met Mr. Stolman personally, but his narrative makes me feel like I am reading the journal of a new friend. There is a reason why I was able to read 80% of this cookbook in one sitting: Steven’s personality.
Accessibility. Steven is not shy to state this is no bouji escapade in the land of the 1%; while some recipes are inherently pricey (prime rib), you’re going to find most include ingredients that are not only common staples, but do not break the bank in case they are not in your pantry.
Americana Throwback. If you were raised in the 1960s/1970s or were raised by people from this era, as I was, many of these recipes will have a generous pinch of nostalgia thrown in for good measure.
Confessions of a Serial Entertainer harkens back to a golden age of entertaining in America, particularly when the middle class suburbia took cocktail and dinner parties into their own hands. Were my grandmother still alive, she would not only adore this cookbook, she would proudly tackle a handful of Mr. Stolman’s recipes for the gourmet cooking club she co-founded back in the late 1950s. It had always been a dream of hers to see me take up the ladle and skillet, so to speak. I’d like to think Grandma and I would have bonded tremendously over Confessions of a Serial Entertainer, and we would have tackled many of Stolman’s recipes, one fabulous dinner party at a time.
PURCHASE: Amazon | Book Depository
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