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Host Your Own Mad Men-Style Dinner Party With These Classic Recipes! [Featured]


Photo courtesy of Judy Gelman

The final season of popular AMC drama Mad Men has arrived, and with it fans must say goodbye to the stylish and retro atmosphere of the 1960s the show brought into their living rooms.

One element that helps bring that nostalgia to our screens is the food and drink highlighted in the series. The drinks Don Draper and his co-workers often have in hand come to everyone’s minds when they think of the series, but food also plays a central role.

“Food is as important as the drink. There are dishes that we don’t see any more such as cheese topped Apple Pie or Turkey Tetrazzini. They’re used in historical ways to help establish the period. It’s one of the details that helps establish the feeling of authenticity about the era,” Judy Gelman, co-author of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men, told That’s Nerdalicious.

The cookbook features more than 70 recipes that can help you enjoy some retro dining with your fellow Mad Men fans as you watch season seven over the next few months. Get tips for throwing your own Mad Men-era dinner party and find four delicious recipes you can try after the break!

Gelman and co-author Peter Zheutlin wanted to create a cookbook that was authentic to the times and have every recipe connect to a specific scene from the show.

“We watched every episode and made notes of each food and drink mentioned or served. From there, we determined which recipes would be most interesting and important to include,” Gelman said. “We worked with the restaurants, bars and hotels referenced in Mad Men for the recipes. The rest came from 1960s cookbooks and advertisements of the period. We tested and tweaked when necessary.”

The duo tested the recipes over four months and if any of the restaurants still operating today had changed their recipes over the years, the authors tried to find the versions served in the ‘60s. They also wanted to provide historical context so that viewers could understand why these foods and drinks were included on the show by the creators.

Some of the recipes may even sound familiar, like the Old Fashioned, but the ones found in this cookbook are authentic to the time period.

“There are many variations on the Old Fashioned. In general, today’s cocktails are sweeter versions of the originals, so most who taste Don’s Old Fashioned in our book, from the New York’s Grand Central Oyster Bar, find it a bit strong,” Gelman explained. “In the Oyster Bar’s original recipe, the orange slice, cherry, sugar, bitters and soda water are muddled to extract the flavor. Many modern recipes don’t call for the muddling, but this was how Don liked it. This recipe also calls for soda water, which some of the newer recipes don’t include.”

If you want to give some of these ’60s recipes a try and host your own Mad Men party, Gelman and Zheutlin have a few basic tips. Here are five in particular you might find helpful:

  1. If you’re making a new dish or cocktail, give it a test run before serving it to your guests.
  2. When serving cocktails, chill the glasses before guests arrive to cool drinks quickly and add a bit of class.
  3. Limit your cocktail hour to one hour if you’re serving dinner.
  4. If serving hors d’oeuvres, pass them around twice and then let your guests help themselves by setting trays wherever they will be easily accessible.
  5. Make hors d’oeuvres with dinner in mind. Keep hors d’oeuvres light if dinner will be rich or if dinner will be light, go with richer and more plentiful versions. Either way, avoid serving foods featured in your main course as hors d’oeuvres.

Feel ready to cook your Mad Men-themed dinner? Here are four recipes from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook:


Photo by Nina Gallant

Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad

From Curtain Up At Sardi’s by Vincent Sardi, Jr. (Random House, 1957)

  • 6 lettuce leaves
  • 6 whole pieces canned hearts of palm, drained (about 21 ounces)
  • 6 thin slices pimiento
  • 6 sprigs watercress
  • 4 tablespoons Vinaigrette Dressing (see recipe below)

Place lettuce flat on dish. Arrange hearts of palm in a row. Ar­range pimiento slices across lettuce and decorate at side with watercress. Serve with Vinaigrette Dressing.

Yield: 2 servings

Vinaigrette Dressing

  • ¹⁄₂ dill pickle, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pimiento
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped hard-boiled egg white
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¹⁄₄ cup olive oil
  • ¹⁄₄ cup white vinegar

Place the finely chopped ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add olive oil. Stir thoroughly while adding vin­egar. Keep in refrigerator. Always stir before using.

Yield: 3/4 cup


Photo by Nina Gallant

Don’s Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned courtesy of The Grand Central Oyster Bar, New York, New York

*Note: Bourbon or rye may be used in the Old Fashioned. Rye was originally used, and The Grand Central Oyster Bar is starting to use rye again in these drinks; they use Michters’, but Don would likely choose Canadian Club, the brand we often see in his office and home. Seagrams V.O. and Crown Royal were also popular in the 1960s, says Jonathan Rogers of The Grand Central Oyster Bar.

  • 1 orange slice
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Few drops of Angostura bitters
  • A splash of soda water to muddle ingredients
  • 2 ½ ounces rye or bourbon

1. In a mixing glass, muddle orange slice, cherry, sugar, bitters and a little soda water: using a muddler, push around and break up cherry and orange until flavor is released.

2. Add soda water so cherry is wet and sugar is melted. Add bourbon or rye and serve over rocks, if desired.

Yield:  1 drink


Photo by Nina Gallant

Trudy’s Rib Eye in the Pan with Butter

Adapted from The Madison Avenue Cookbook (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962)

  • Steak (Rib eye, Porter house or sirloin at least 1 1/4 inches thick, approximately ¾ pound) at room temperature
  • Canola oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 2 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Place cast iron skillet in oven. Coat steak lightly with oil.

2. Spread ground pepper on a plate. Press the steak onto the pepper, and then lift it up and put it down again several times, until the steak is covered with all the pepper it will hold. Turn steak and press pepper firmly into meat with the heel of your hand. Apply pepper the same way on the other side.

3. Heat burner on stove to high heat. Remove skillet from oven and transfer to stove. Place steak in middle of pan and cook for 30 second without moving. Turn and cook another 30 seconds, and then place skillet in the oven for two minutes. Flip steak and cook another 2 minutes (3 minutes per side for medium rare).

4. Remove steak from pan. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 2 minutes.

5. While steak is resting, pour cognac into pan. Stir into the juices in pan. Add butter and stir. Pour sauce over steak and serve.

Yield: 1 to 2 servings


Photo by Nina Gallant

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Adapted from The Complete Electric Skillet Frypan Cookbook by Roberta Ames (Heartside Press, 1960)

*Note: We have adapted this recipe for a cast-iron skillet.

For the topping

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • ³⁄₄ cup brown sugar
  • 7–8 canned pineapple slices (reserve syrup)
  • Pecan halves, for decorating
  • Maraschino cherries, for decorating

For the cake

  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1¹⁄₂ 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°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 overbutter/sugar spread. Place cherries in center of pineapple 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 the foil.

All recipes from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin (Smart Pop, 2011).


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