To even things out I wanted to do a recap of the best Barefoot Contessa Episode – The Susan Stoman Throws a Party episode. Surprisingly, they were able to churn out a good episode in the post Back to Basics era. It helps that they are throwing a party for Broadway people who are delightful.
So we start with Ina saying how great it is to share the work when throwing a party. This time there is an even distribution of work (unlike her potluck one where someone brought dessert, someone brought wine, and someone brought a premade antipasto platter and Ina made the main course and two sides). She announces that her friend Susan Stroman (the awesome director of The Producers) will be throwing a party for the cast of the “hit” musical Young Frankenstein. Susan will be doing the settings and decoration and drinks. Ina will be cooking.
Then we see Ina tearing apart cooked lobsters to get all the meat for a lobster corn chowder. There are six of them and it take a bit of time. She then cuts the kernels off of a cob of corn. In an awesome move, Ina says she will use the shells and the corn cobs to flavor the stock. This is so different from today’s wasteful Ina who will use three whole chickens to make chicken stock. The base of the stock is onions sauteed in butter with cream sherry, paprika, milk, cream!, and white wine. In then adds all the lobster shells and corn cobs and lets all of that simmer for half an hour.
When Ina recommends that people should co-host events, we cut to “Stro” with Ina’s semi-useless outline of helpful party tips. Stro reads a word document about cooking for a crowd. The first of which is to rent as much as possible. This is clearly advice for the Hamptons set because that’s expensive. That being said, I’m helping my parents throw a rehearsal lunch for my sister’s upcoming wedding and we are renting everything. It does save a ton of work in washing dishes and putting everything away. Advice #2 is to serve prosecco for a “party feel” since it’s cheaper than champagne. Advice #3 is to have dramatic flowers (and looking at the examples, we are talking $80 bouquets) and tea lights (or what Stro calls night lights). And then Stro sum it all up by saying and writing “drama, lights, candles, sounds like one of my musicals.” There is a huge lighted sign behind Stro that says FUNNY BOY in her living room. I find that fascinating.
Back at Ina’s barn, Ina cooks some diced bacon. While the bacon cooks, Ina chops celery, onions, and potatoes as the vegetables for the chowder. She takes out the bacon and cooks all the vegetables (corn, potatoes, onions, celery) in the bacon fat. As the vegetable saute, Ina strains the stock, taking out all of the lobster shells and the corn cobs from the humongous pot. And then she pours the stock into the vegetables. Once that’s done Stro texts her as message saying “curtain is up at 7” which prompts Ina to say “we’re putting on quite a show.” In this episode, the metaphor is well earned.
Back from commercials. Ina makes fruitcake cookies which is essentially her basic shortbread recipe with candied fruit and nuts macerated in sherry. She starts by creaming butter, cloves, and brown and white sugar together. Ina takes out the fruit an nut mix that had been macerating for 8 hours. We get a flashback of Ina cutting dried figs, candied cherries, raisins, and dried apricots which she mixes with honey and dry sherry, lemon juice and pecans. Back in the current time, Ina adds an egg, flour and the fruit and nut mixture. She mixes the fruit and nut mixture with the stiff dough using a rubber spatula. This seems like a lot of work when you could just as easily have the mixer do it. Anyway, she forms the dough into two logs on parchment paper and lets it sit in the fridge for half an hour.
Meanwhile Stro is at the rental company. She announces to the salesperson that she’s having a big party and she needs everything and by everything she says “plates, napkins, tablecloths and napkins but all in white and flatware and glass but as simple as possible.” She then asks if they deliver and give the saleswoman her card and goes on her merry way. This is really mystifying since she never got to see what she’s renting. Afterwards she toodles off in her hot little Mini-Cooper.
Back at Ina’s she takes out the logs of cookie dough and cuts them into cookies. She places them on a cookie sheet really close to each other so I assume they don’t spread. She compared the glistening fruit in the dough to stained glass windows. She also likes that they aren’t perfect and don’t look like they came out of a factory. Which is to say, don’t worry about irregular cookies. When they come out of the oven, she puts them in the oven and eats one. They look a little dry to me but who knows?
After commercial, Ina takes a ginormous ham out of the fridge. Ina says she always makes one thing with a wow factor and in this case it’s not hard to make. It’s a 16 pound spiral glazed ham. Another flashback where Ina makes a glaze out of garlic, orange marmalade, dijon mustard, brown sugar, orange juice and zest, all of which is pureed in a food processor. She pours it over the ham (most of it just falls to the bottom of the pan) and bakes it at 350 degrees for an hour.
She packs everything up including condiments for the ham and the fixin’s for a cheese plate. Chez Stroman, Stro is setting the table and putting a crazy expensive floral arrangement in the middle. She then outside where she puts twinkly (aka Christmas) lights on a boxwood hedge. Continuing with the decorating, she lays out a vase of hydrangeas and puts about 50 bottles of prosecco in a huge wine fridge. Finally she puts the night lights in the holders.
When Ina brings the ham to Chez Stroman, Stro remarks on how fabulous the ham looks. Ina replies that Stro could make it herself and Stro pooh poohs that to the point where Ina relents and agrees to make her the ham any time she wants. Ina sets up the buffet with a few baguettes that she only cuts four slices off of. Bad form Ina, noone wants to be cutting at a buffet. And that holds true for the ham which is still whole. It makes me wonder how people are going to get slices off the ham. She does the same to a big block of cheddar where she only cuts a few slices off. Accompanying the cheddar are grapes and strawberries. She then puts the fruitcake cookies on a pedestal as waxes on about how great it is when people socialize over a buffet. After laying out the ham condiments, Ina advises us to make a variety of things for a buffet -big, like the ham, small, like the cookies, and fresh like the strawberries.
In the final segment, Ina finishes off the chowder by putting in the lobster, bacon, and snipped chives. And then comes the real fun – the party. Damn these guests are a whole lot of fun. Stro opens the prosecco with hte cork flying across the room. Everyone is cracking up and really having a good time and Ina toasts Stro. People line up for the chowder. First up is a woman who looks kind of like Patti Lupone being served soup who cracks a joke about this being a high class soup kitchen. Hilarious! Another guy accepts the soup in character (I assume he’s playing a Boris Karloff type). Ina serves cheddar, crackers and you can really hear the good time. As a group shot everyone reaches in towards the cookies and you hear someone yell good naturedly, “stop pushing!”
And then the true piece de resistance. Everyone gathers around a piano to seranade Ina. The scene is intercut with shots of the party and really everyone is having a blast. I’m having a blast watching it. Ina seems truly and utterly delighted. Ok, Stro needs to do another show so Ina can throw another party with these people.