Every now and then, I get the itch to throw a party. Like a pull-out-all-the-stops kind of party. Something with linen cocktail napkins, mood music, fancy drinks and eats, elegant dress code. So that's what I've been wrapped up with this past weekend, hosting about a dozen friends for a "Fabulous Fifties" cocktail party--an evening of costumes, cocktails, and canapés galore. It was such a blast seeing everyone decked out in their 50's glam, sampling some amazing canapés (each guest brought a platter to enter into the evening's canapé competition), sipping fancy cocktails straight out of Gourmet magazine's 1950's issues, and spending an evening together with good friends.
I think I have just as much fun planning a party as I do the night of the party itself. This time, I got hours of entertainment reading about the 50's, organizing trivia quizzes, researching authentic recipes of the era, and dreaming about all the little details.
What many people probably already know is that the 50's were a time of convenience foods, mayonnaise- and sour cream-laden concoctions, aspics, and other culinary marvels. (Okay, I held back from saying "horrors" just there...I guess not all of it was terrible-tasting, and some aspics can be down-right beautiful!) One recipe that struck me as absolutely fascinating was a recipe for ham -or- chicken mousse. Wow, a mousse made out of meat? I then realized that this could actually be quite delicious, spritzed into tomato cups, for example, for a tasty little cracker-free canapé.
And indeed it was delicious. The soft and creamy chicken filling plus juicy and refreshing tomato is such a good combination, and the swirled mousse and contrasting colors of parsley and tomato make them a delightful sight for the eyes. Serve these as an hors d'oeuvre or as one of many dishes for a Smorgasbord buffet supper.
So, from my "1950's" kitchen, here's a little something to enjoy! What are your favorite flavors of the nineteen-fifties?
Chicken Mousse in Pearl Tomato Cups
Makes 30 tomato cups
1 (12.5 oz.) can chicken, drained, with broth reserved
2 tsp. gelatin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
150 ml heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
15 pearl tomatoes (1-2 inches in diameter)
Italian flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Place powdered gelatin in a small bowl and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the reserved chicken broth over. Let sit 5-10 minutes to soften.
Place drained canned chicken in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground and begins to form a paste. Add softened gelatin and cayenne pepper and pulse food processor until well incorporated.
Transfer chicken to a medium mixing bowl. Add half of the whipped cream to the chicken and mix together. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then place in the refrigerator and chill to allow mousse to stiffen (at least 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half along the equator. Using a melon baller, scoop out and discard (or save for another use) the flesh and seeds. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel, then lightly sprinkle with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Fit a pastry bag with an open star tip and fill bag with mousse, then fill each tomato cup with a plump, decorative swirl of mousse. Garnish each tomato with a whole parsley leaf or a sprinkling of finely minced parsley. Serve chilled (can be made several hours ahead, keep refrigerated).