(Warning: This post contains spoilers from the premiere of “Mad Men,” so skip down to the food if you don’t want to read it.)
In Sunday night’s 19 1/2 hour season premiere of Mad Men, a lot of stuff happened. Well, kind of. It was long, and there were many scenes, but I’m not really sure what happened. I think the last season ended around the same time Bush was leaving office, and they didn’t give a “previously on” recap at the beginning of the episode, so I spent the first half hour doing a lot of “wait, who is that dude again?” and trying to readjust to the size of Megan’s teeth. Ugh– Megan. Don’t get me started.
I’ll start by saying that I really do love this show, but it is sort of exhausting to keep up with. The internet isn’t helping either- every recap article I have come across reads like a literary analysis of The Old Man and the Sea for Mrs. Wilson’s 11th grade English class. Is Don incapable of true love and happiness? Has Peggy morphed into Don? What does the lighter symbolize? What’s with Roger’s rant about doors and windows? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN AND HOW CAN THIS TELEVISION SHOW GIVE ME ANSWERS TO LIFE’S GRANDEST QUESTIONS?!
Look, I don’t know. I was no fan of wordy analyses in high school and I’m still not interested today. Call me an anti-intellectual; I don’t care. I love entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Make me fall in love with the characters; get me emotionally invested; leave me wanting more each week. Mad Men has been such a massive success because it has been able to do all of this in such an understated way. It’s not a Lost, ”what the hell is happening is life real am I real” type of cliffhanger show. It has given us some of the most intriguing characters in television history and raised the bar for the level of artistic detail that goes into a show, and has done it all with such simplicity.
This is why I leave the Season 6 premiere feeling slightly disheartened. I feel myself becoming disconnected to the characters. When we find out at the end of the episode that Don has been cheating on Megan with Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks, that was the closest I came to feeling anything toward his character. And I think that feeling was more nostalgia above all else- nostalgia for the old Don. Like in the early seasons, when he cheated on Betty, he really meant it, ya know? Now he just feels bored and exhausted from all of it, and I do too.
What is happening? Is it me? Have I changed? Am I incapable of true love and happiness? I don’t know– like I said, I’m not interested in going too in depth into the meaning of it all. Maybe I was too tired when I watched the show. Maybe next week will be different.
All in all, there were some highlights:
- Peggy. Everything Peggy. Who would’ve thought she would become my far and away favorite character? I was delighted by every scene she was in, and not because she’s the “female Don Draper” now, but because she is funny, confident, and, at the risk of sounding trite, truly coming into her own.
- Betty teaching the squatters how to make goulash. Why? I don’t know. It’s probably just the foodie in me, but it was fun to watch (albeit slightly uncomfortable, but when is Betty not?).
- The last three seconds of Erin Brockovich that my DVR caught.
And glaring lowlights:
- Megan has achieved some degree of acting fame now? Yeah, okay.
- Where the fuck was Joan?
And finally, a seriously WTF is happening moment:
- Whackjob Betty joking (?) about raping that teenage girl with her husband. Like, seriously, WTF?
So now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get to what we’re all really here for.
I thought a lot about what I wanted to make to coincide with this big time television event. At first I thought goulash as a nod to the awkwardly enjoyable scene with Betty and the squatters, but that didn’t really tickle my fancy. I’ve actually never made goulash and didn’t really feel like going through that process and coming up with something I liked in one day.
Then I remembered the only other food related scene in the episode, where Megan and Don have a fondue party. Boom- decided. I love fondue. One time I took a party bus to the Melting Pot for my 17th birthday and we all got kicked out because one of my friends snuck in a mini bottle of vodka. Regardless, I love fondue. It’s fun, it’s retro, it’s sexy, it’s delicious, and if you think otherwise get out of my life.
One slight problem- I don’t have a fondue pot, and I’m not gonna go out and buy one just for this occasion (especially since fondue season is essentially over). But what I do have is a small cast iron skillet, and a delicious recipe for Baked Fontina courtesy of Ina Garten that I have made frequently when I am craving cheesy, carb-y, delightfulness. It is so good, and so easy. I know I tend to say that a lot, but I promise I am preaching truths right now. It takes 15 minutes tops and requires pretty much no effort or skill.
I tweak the recipe a bit- mix in gruyere with the fontina, substitute chives for thyme (personal preference), and cut down on the oil (the first time I made this I found the recipe called for way too much and there was a big puddle of grease on top.) And, instead of french baguette, I used slices of an asiago sourdough loaf and threw them on the grill. Thick cut grilled bread is my everything. So here we go…
First, grill some bread (you can use a grill pan if you don’t have access to an outdoor grill.)
Rub some garlic goodness on it…
For the fondue- it takes ten minutes. Seriously. Five to prepare, and five to cook. All you do is dice up the cheese, toss in in the skillet with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, chives, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook under the BROILER in your oven for 5 – 7 minutes, until brown and bubbly.
The rest is pretty self explanatory…
Garlic and Herb Skillet Fondue with Grilled Bread
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Recipe
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb fontina cheese, cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 lb gruyere cheese, cut into 1-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, 2 minced and 1 cut in half (for rubbing bread)
1/2 tbsp fresh chives, minced
1/2 tsbp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 loaf sourdough (or any bread you like), thickly sliced
Start by grilling the bread. On an outdoor grill or grill pan over medium-high heat, places the slices directly on the grill until they have nice dark grill marks, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Immediately after taking them off the grill, rub each slice with a clove of garlic you have cut in half.
For fondue, all of the other ingredients into a small cast iron skillet (or any small oven safe dish) and toss everything together until everything is evenly distributed. Position a rack about 5 inches away from the top of your oven and turn on the BROILER. Place the skillet under the broiler for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is brown and bubbly on top.
Serve immediately with grilled bread.