“Later, I bought half the restaurant, then we sold it to Canoe. But my education was the Patio by the River, Peter Kump’s Cooking School in New York City, and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. So that’s about as Southern and French as it gets.”
In the introduction to “Occasions to Celebrate,” Hitz digs through old family photos, and savors magic moments, dining and traveling with his mother, Caroline Bryans Sauls, and his stepfather, Robert Shaw.
“I went deep into my family in the second and third books, and there seems to be an appetite for that,” he said. “People like them. I liked them. Had they not been my family, they still would be really interesting people. It was an exciting time, and an unusual time.”
Fast-forward to March 2020, and Hitz was in Atlanta, again, for “five days on business.” But he writes that he “ended up staying solidly in a hotel for most of the global pandemic, the longest period of time I had ever spent anywhere in my entire life.”
“My first book took 32 years,” Hitz noted. “My second book took six years, and this one took me a year-and-a-half. I was there. I had nothing to do, so I went to work every day, and wrote this book living at the St. Regis.”
Asked for the secret to cooking and entertaining, he didn’t hesitate.
“The biggest secret to entertaining, and being a successful host is to do everything ahead of time, make a huge effort, and then when the guests come, never stop smiling,” Hitz said. “That’s the formula. Oh, and turn the lights down, light some candles, and never run out of wine.”
Altogether, these recipes selected from Alex Hitz’s new cookbook “Occasions to Celebrate” make for an easy way to entertain during the holidays. You can double or triple the ingredients for bigger gatherings. Just add your favorite beer, wine or batched cocktails to ring in the season.
Artichoke Heart Skewers
“Any easier and they would make themselves,” Hitz remarked about this artichoke appetizer. There will be leftover dill vinaigrette and Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Use them on salads or to marinate other vegetables. “Put it on a Reebok and it will be delicious,” joked Hitz.
Remove the artichoke hearts from the heat, let them cool slightly, thread each one on a skewer, arrange the skewers on a platter, and serve.
Recipes from “Occasions to Celebrate: Cooking and Entertaining With Style” by Alex Hitz (Rizzoli, $45).
Essential Dill Vinaigrette
Per tablespoon: 92 calories (percent of calories from fat, 99), trace protein, trace carbohydrates, trace fiber, 10 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 109 milligrams sodium.
Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette
Mary Louise’s Country Pate
Serve this easy, savory pate on toasted baguette rounds topped with cornichons and sliced mission figs.
“I mean, come on,” Hitz proclaimed. “They are just so addictive.”
Super-Decadent Butterscotch Bourbon Blondies
Hitz recommends Maker’s Mark or Wild Turkey for this bourbon-based recipe.
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