I love cookbooks. If I didn't, I wouldn't bother reviewing them. When I read them, I try to imagine who the book might appeal to, if not me, and I try to be as fair as I can. If I don't think a book is worthwhile, I generally don't bother to review it. I'd rather focus on the ones I'm excited about.
I am particularly wary of self-published cookbooks. They usually lack editing and sometimes lack focus. The authors don't necessarily have much credibility or authority either. But there was something about Throw a Great Party. I was intrigued by the premise of the book "Inspired by evenings in Paris with Jim Haynes." The book offers recipes and tips for throwing and catering parties for 25 to 100 people. It's written by three friends who have been throwing legendary Sunday night dinner parties in Paris for 30 years. One of the authors has been a restaurant chef, a cooking instructor and also a food blogger.
Could the book have used some editing? Absolutely. There is plenty of shorthand, some details are skipped, there are some odd choices in the index, and not every recipe feels like it has been independently tested, but in some ways that's part of its charm. Each recipe comes with a story about who created it and tips on how to make it work for a big group.
I'm sure if you are one of the estimated 100,000 people who have eaten dinner at Jim's and perhaps dined with people like Yoko Ono or R. Crumb or Chloe Sevigny, this book would be a memento of sorts. But it's a practical guide for another audience. If you are in the position to throw a big dinner party, this is a very unique book written by those who have done it again and again and again. Recipes range from Gazpacho to Sabz Ghost (lamb in coconut milk) to Cassoulet. Each are home cooking recipes, not restaurant recipes and generally inexpensive and fairly easy to prepare. And if you'd like to dine in Paris with Jim, by all means, head to the Jim Hanes website and request an invite!
Note: Each recipe comes with amounts for 25 or 100, but we're only posting the 25 person version.
Beet Salad with Walnuts, Shallots and Parsley
5 lb (2 1/2 kg) beets, cooked and peeled (see method below)
1 lb (500 g) walnuts, toasted briefly
12 oz (375 g) shallots, minced
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1. Chop beets in to bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
2. Chop the walnuts coarsely.
3. Make the vinaigrette. (see recipe below)
4. If the salad is to be served later, store all the ingredients in separate closed containers in the refrigerator.
To serve: Beat the vinaigrette to emulsify and add the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss lightly, but thoroughly. Serve in small bowls or plates.
To cook raw beets in quantity:
1. Thoroughly scrub beets, having first cut off the greens but leaving about an inch of stalk at the top.
2. Place the beets in 1 or 2 baking or roasting pans, packing them in one layer.
3. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. With your hands, roll the beets in the oil and seasoning so all sides are covered.
5. Cover the pans tightly with foil and bake in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees) for 1 hour.
6. Check for tenderness by piercing with a knife. Beets cook slowly and may need more time.
7. Cool and peel, using rubber gloves to keep our hands from staining.
1 Tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
Place the vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream. Store in a closed container until ready to serve.
Recipe reprinted from Throw A Great Party copyright © 2007 by Mary S. Bartlett