Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Nathalie Dupree shows us how to entertain comfortably

           Nathalie Dupree’s “Comfortable Entertaining: At Home with Ease and Grace” (University of Georgia Press), with photography by Tom Eckerle, won a James Beard award years ago for best cookbook. Now reissued in paperback, the cookbook that allowed people to be comfortable while entertaining will reach a whole new audience.
            “Entertaining is a mindset, an attitude as well as a practice — not quite an art form but more than a craft,” Dupree writes in the book’s introduction. “Like most artistic endeavors, it is a marriage of personal expression and technique learned through observation and experience.”
            Dupree insists that “comfortable entertaining” should be enjoyable as well as trouble free.
            “The key ingredient in entertaining is the desire to be hospitable,” she writes.
            The book offers plenty of suggestions. Her “golden rules,” for instance, include understanding your guests and their needs before planning a menu; serving something you’re familiar with; stay within your comfort zone; plan and work ahead; and make yourself and your guest comfortable.
            Dupree offers advice on developing master plans, working out a budget, preparing a menu, presentation, table settings and much more. Chapters includes menus for sit-down meals, barbecues, an all dessert buffet and tortilla party, to name a few. There’s also a section for the holidays.  
            Here’s a delightful recipe for an artichoke and potato salad that’s perfect for any time of the year but under Dupree’s category of “Special Barbecue.” Dupree suggests tasting the marinade if using bottled artichoke hearts and if you like, all of part may be substituted for the oil in the recipe. This salad will keep in the fridge for a week or more and makes a great snack as well. And like many of the book’s recipes, this one comes with extra information on choosing new potatoes, what defines a new potato and Dupree’s favorite brands.
            Other books by Dupree include last year’s “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking,” with Cynthia Graubart, and one of my favorites, “Shrimp and Grits,” published in 2006.

Baby Artichoke and New Potato Salad
From “Comfortable Entertaining: At Home with Ease and Grace”
2 pounds small new potatoes (1 to 2 inches in diameter)
2 pounds trimmed whole baby artichokes, cooked, fresh, or bottled
1 or 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed with 2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, thyme and/or oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
            Directions: Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook until done, about 15 minutes. Remove the potatoes to a colander and drain thoroughly. In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, artichokes, onions, garlic, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled.