My favorite mid century decorating
tomes were authored by Dorothy
Rodgers. Better half to composer
Richard Rodgers (Rodgers & Hart -
Rodgers & Hammerstein) she was a
hobby interior decorator and at least
in her circle, an arbiter of taste. Her
initial tome "A Few of My Favorite
Things" advised one on how to live
in good taste. Her next, "The House
In My Head" recounted the building
of her dream home. Both prove that
Dorothy was quite the elegant lady.
Ever the devoted spouse, Dorothy did
everything perfectly and tried to make
her husband happy even as he erred out
of sight. Yet it isn't her classic approach
to modernity that still appeals. Rather
it's her recipes buried in the back of her
books. During the Second World War
servant shortage, Dorothy took cooking
lessons from the famous Dione Lucas.
From then on she herself cooked up a
storm which explains why her menus
often include dishes easily served out
of a chafing dish from off a sideboard.
Easy does it
Even today her entertaining advice
makes sense. Days before, she (or
her staff) carefully prepared dishes
that could be reheated and served
sans any last minute fuss. Whereas
today it's fashionable to watch one's
host toil over an open kitchen hot
stove. Depending on who you are,
I don't mind sitting at your kitchen
island and nibbling upon your nuts.
However I prefer to not watch that
stack of dirty dishes grow as dinner
progresses. Is there an easier way?
In my opinion much of the graciousness
in life has all but disappeared. Divas like
Dorothy knew how to entertain subtly
and graciously. Even glamor girls such
as the Duchess of Windsor cooked for
their guests. A native of Baltimore, her
signature dish "Chicken Maryland" -
fried chicken drowned in white skillet
gravy with giblets. All of which happily
sat in a warming pan until dinner was
served. When the time came, a relaxed
Wallis regally sat and watched as you
ravenously nibbled upon her thighs.
While most of us certainly don't want
to return to days of yore, we can make
our lives a bit easier. Inspired by such
ladies of leisure, why shouldn't we all
steal some of those old tricks they kept
up their Balenciaga swathed sleeves?
Entertaining properly always requires
more than a bit of extra effort. But the
secret to a spectacular dinner party is
making it all seem like pampering one's
guests requires absolutely NO effort at
all. So the next time your guests arrive,
be prepared, sit back, and ENJOY!
1 young chicken (about 3 pounds)
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons fat (preferably rendered chicken fat)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup broth (from giblets)
Salt & pepper to taste
Have the chicken disjointed at the market, with wings,
breast (cut in half), back, thighs, and drumsticks separated.
Rub salt generously into raw meat; roll pieces in flour.
Put chicken pieces in iron skillet in hot fat. Add butter.
Cover and cook on hour, turning to brown slow on all sides.
Once browned, add 2 tablespoons water. Place covered skillet in oven.
Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.
pour off all but 2 tablespoons of drippings.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour.
Add cream, broth, salt and pepper to taste.
Stir constantly over low heat until thickened.
Add chopped giblets if desired.
Place chicken in silver chafing dish or casserole.
Generously cover with gravy.
Garnish with red pimento or light sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Makes 4 servings.
Dorothy Rodgers Hungarian Beef Stew
5 medium onions, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 pounds beef chuck,
cut in 1/2 inch squares
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
3 shallots finely chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 pound sliced bacon
2 cups sour cream
Brown onions in butter.
Add chuck, spices, and shallots. Stir in wine and cover.
Simmer low for 45 minutes.
In separate pan cook bacon. Drain, break into pieces.
Add bacon and sour cream to meat.
Cover and simmer 30 more minutes.
Place in chafing dish. The longer it sits, the better it gets.
Serve atop al dente fettuccine.
Makes 6-8 servings