Here Comes the Bridal Shower

Something old, something new,

Something borrowed, something blue,

And a lucky sixpence in her shoe….

— Anonymous

For years this adage has sent mothers of the bride, maids of honor — even well-meaning machatanim (in-laws) — scurrying about town to locate the perfect antique veil, virginal wedding dress, secondhand handkerchief and baby-blue garter to bestow upon the bride on her breathless walk down the aisle.

But the Jewish bride needs her embroidered challah cover, her art nouveau menorah, and her hand-painted porcelain Passover plate. That’s where the bridal shower comes in. And you were nice enough to host a luncheon. Oy gevalt!

Instead of spending upwards of $30 per person and having the whole family kvetch about “prosaic pasta” and “commonplace chicken,” or spending even more money hiring a caterer to tramp through your house and schmutz up your kitchen, how about making our delicious, do-able menu and toast the bride with a heartfelt “mazel tov!” and a glass of Champagne in your garden?

You’ll not only save your gelt, you’ll kvell about your cleverness. Hosting the perfect party for your favorite bride will not only bring her nachas and a ladleful of luck, she’ll get everything she registered for.

Since Los Angeles cooking teacher and party coordinator Jean Brady has catered over 500 wedding events, we asked the expert. We visited Brady in her gadget-filled kitchen in Rustic Canyon. She prepared some of her favorite recipes and offered us a sip of Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup, a bite of Rosemary Bread With Dried Cherries, a taste of Pot de Crème au Café. In between spoonfuls, she reveals tricks of her trade so we can host a shower that looks like she did it for us. Now, that’s a mitzvah.

Getting Started

Decide on a theme. Since showers are all about bestowing gifts for the bride’s new home, why not take your cue from her taste — whether it be Victorian, country or modern — and design the flowers, the decorations, even the music, accordingly.

Choose your menu, then make a timeline of what to do when, including shopping, preparing, cleaning the house and setting the tables. In Brady’s suggested menu, most items can be prepared in advance.

Make a list of dishes, flatware and glassware for each person, and platters, bowls and serving pieces for each dish. Be prepared to beg, borrow or shop.

Flower Arrangements

Because we love the idea of designing the shower according to the bride’s taste, we called Carlos Camara, head designer at Century City Flower Mart, for some advice. There are three basic styles:

  • Victorian — This is the most popular style. Arrangements are feminine, romantic and look best in baskets. Use pale colors such as light pink or lavender combined with white. Since roses and Victorian are synonymous, his favorite summer varieties are the lavender bluebird, which is gorgeous, gigantic and will last a long time; charming Cecil Bruners, which are pale pink and petit, and the silver rose, which is not only beautiful, it smells wonderful. Combine roses with lavender or white hydrangea, Casablancas (big white lilies) or pale pink, orange or white sweet peas. Victorian arrangements have more flowers than greens but some ivy flowing out of the baskets to compliment the roses looks lovely.
  • Country — This look is more casual. Arrangements look good in baskets, aluminum containers or terra- cotta pots. Colors are upbeat and bright, mainly orange, yellow and purple. Fruits such as lemons, apples and grapes (attached with wires or sticks) are often combined with the flowers. Lots of greens, such as rabbit tails, are used in these designs, also herbs with delightful aromas such as mint, rosemary and lavender. The most popular bouquets are of sunflowers, which are available in different varieties and colors, along with multicolored daisies and lavender statis.
  • Modern — Many brides love this fashion, which is high styled, sophisticated, and brightly colored. The form is geometric as are the ceramic, glass or metal vases. Use tropical flowers such as birds of paradise, ginger, antheriums, leacris (purple skinny branch) tiger lilies or stargazers. Complement them with modern looking, tropical leaves and branches such as tea leaves, gaylax or moss branch.

Jean Brady’s Helpful Hints

Tablecloths and napkins can be matching or contrasting. A pretty way of presenting napkins is shaking it down the middle, then tying it with a ribbon, variegated ivy, and a rose. Or fasten it with a ribbon and a sprig of herbs.

A wonderful party favor is a cruet or wine split of homemade blackberry vinegar tied with raffia. If you attach a name tag to each one, it serves a double purpose.

Serve butter in individual soufflé dishes with an herb sprig on top. Rosemary, basil or Italian parsley are pretty and smell wonderful.

Decorate a separate table, designate it for the gifts.

Have a table of simple appetizers available for guests when they arrive. We packed wide-mouthed vases with cherry tomatoes and black olives and filled dishes with pistachios, almonds and cashews.

Time Savers

  • Soup — Can be made up to three or four days in advance and refrigerated. Make sure chicken broth is very fresh and don’t add cream until the last minute.
  • Salad — Vegetables can be prepped several hours before the luncheon and placed in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel.
  • Avocado — Peel two to three hours in advance but don’t slice. Wrap in plastic until ready to use.
  • Asparagus — Blanch, cut and leave at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
  • Baby lettuce — Just before serving, submerge in ice water for a few minutes until cold and crisp, then either spin dry in salad spinner or blot with paper towel.
  • Mango — Remove skin with peeler, score lengthwise and crosswise, then cut as close to pit as possible to release. Place chunks in covered bowl in refrigerator several hours before serving.
  • Salmon — Grill right before serving and serve warm, or cook the day before, refrigerate, and serve cold.
  • Tarragon — Should be as fresh as possible. Wash well to loosen dirt.
  • Grapes –Wash well to get rid of pesticide residual. Keep in refrigerator until just before assembling salad.
  • Bread — Can be baked up to three weeks in advance, frozen, then defrosted at room temperature.
  • Pot de Crème — Can be made two to three days in advance, and set in coldest part of refrigerator. Let sit outside refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving.

Wedding Shower Recipes

The following recipes by Brady are for 20 people.

Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup

Since our soup is served at room temperature, it can be poured, placed on the tables, waiting for guests to arrive. Serve in individual soup bowls, preferably with handles, with matching or contrasting liners. The pale orange of the soup garnished with purple violas, violets or pansies looks like a painting. When eating flowers always make sure they are unsprayed.

15 roasted, peeled yellow peppers, sliced thin

8 carrots, scrubbed and diced

8 shallots, peeled and diced

4 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 stick unsalted butter for sautéing

11¼2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

8 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash ground chili powder

11¼2 to 2 cups cream

20 edible violets, violas or purple pansies for garnish

Sauté vegetables in butter until carrots are tender. Add stock, salt, pepper and chili powder. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes. Puree vegetables; add cream to achieve desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, place a flower in the center of each bowl. Makes 20 servings.

Rosemary Bread With Dried Cherries

Be careful when warming the bread; it dries out easily. To save your sanity serve at room temperature — it tastes fine. These proportions are for one loaf, which will serve 10 people. For 20 people either double the recipe or make two separate batches.

41¼3 cups all purpose unbleached flour and more to shape.

11¼2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1¼4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

2 teaspoons instant yeast

11¼3 cups warm water

1¼4 cup good quality olive oil

1¼2 cup dried cherries

Mix together 4 cups flour with salt, sugar, rosemary, and yeast. Add olive oil and water to make a sticky dough. Knead by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook for 3-4 minutes — the last 2 minutes add cherries and last 1¼3 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to double in size, about 1 to 11¼2 hours. Shape into large round or oval loaves; place on parchment-lined sheet, attractive side up. Preheat oven to 425. Allow dough to double once again, for about 45 minutes. Slash top of loaf with razor sharp knife or razor blade in 3-inch “X.” Place in oven. Bake 45 minutes; cool on rack for at least an hour. Makes one loaf.

Champagne Tarragon Salad

30 cups mixed baby greens

2 bunches fresh tarragon, stemmed and coarsely chopped

20 (4-ounce) grilled salmon filets

8 mangoes or papaya, peeled and diced

5 large, ripe Haas avocados, peeled, sliced

2 cups celery hearts, chopped

2 cups very fresh hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

11¼2 pounds small seedless grapes

60 baby asparagus spears, blanched and sliced into 2-inch pieces

For Salad:

One large platter heaped with salad at each table is gorgeous, or make up individual plates. Serve salad dressing in attractive cruets or sauce boats with a ladle. Don’t dress the salad in advance; your crisp greens will turn irrevocably soggy.

Champagne Tarragon Vinegar

1 pint champagne vinegar

1 cup champagne

3 sprigs of tarragon

6 sprigs Italian parsley

4 whole cloves garlic, peeled

8 whole peppercorns (white, red, and black)

Sterilize wide-mouthed or decorative jar. While jar is still warm, add vinegar and champagne, along with tarragon and parsley sprigs, garlic and peppercorns. Store in cool place for two or three weeks. Drain vinegar. Taste; if herb infusion isn’t strong enough, add new herbs and let sit until flavor pleases you.

Champagne Tarragon Vinaigrette

All ingredients for vinaigrette should be at room temperature.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons orange zest

1/ cup champagne tarragon vinegar

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

3 shallots, peeled and finely minced

11/2 cups light olive oil

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil

Mix together all ingredients except oil. Gradually drizzle oils into mixture and whisk together. Vinaigrette tastes best if made 1 day in advance and left at room temperature.

Pot de Crème au Cafe

7 1/2 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup ground espresso beans

3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar, to taste

18 egg yolks

20 chocolate covered espresso beans

Preheat oven to 300. Heat sugar, cream and espresso beans over low heat until sugar dissolves. Beat into yolks. Strain through fine strainer or cheesecloth. Divide into 20 individual china cups, pots de crème cups or ramekins (custard molds). Set containers into a bain-marie (large pan of boiling water) in bottom third of oven. The hot water should come halfway up outside of cups. Bake 25 to 40 minutes, until just set. To determine doneness insert a sharp, thin bladed knife or toothpick one inch from outside of container. If it comes out clean, remove from water and cool. Chill in refrigerator. Take out 1/2 hour before serving.

Baking this luscious dessert in antique porcelain cups or cups to match theme of luncheon adds to the decor. You can surprise the bride by baking hers in a cup from her china pattern. Remember the cups don’t have to match. Often it’s more interesting to see a variety of patterns on the table.