Entertaining in a jar

Victoria Amory debuted her eponymous line of all-natural gourmet condiments and sauces in January at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, where she earned best-in-show in the condiment category for her Fine Herb Mayonnaise. She also gained the attention of more than 150 specialty gourmet markets that now carry her products, including Zabar’s, Tarry Market, DeCicco, Palmer’s Super Market, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, Walter Stewart’s Market and the Lobster Bin. Last month, chef Rui Correia of Douro and Amory co-hosted a lunch of tapas and sangria at the Greenwich Avenue restaurant to introduce her delicious new sauces.

The Madrid-raised Amory, who now calls Greenwich home, first garnered a name for herself as a Palm Beach hostess. As an award-winning author, cook and television personality, she’s made sharing her secrets for Spanish hospitality in an elegant but casual way her life’s work. In her latest venture, the arbiter of good taste brings Mediterranean and Spanish ingredients into her product line of nine artisanal condiments, including a Catalan-inspired almond and garlic romesco sauce, an aged sherry vinegar, a roasted garlic-infused sherry ketchup and a red chili piri-piri sauce made with Chile de árbol peppers, each crafted to transform everyday dishes into a fun feast.

Because, she says, entertaining is not supposed to be stressful.

“What drives my brand is … You really don’t need to cook the chicken from scratch. Go to Whole Foods or Zabar’s or any store to get an already cooked, roasted chicken that’s amazing. You chop it up and put some really delicious sauce on it. You garnish it with some basil leaves and chopped tomatoes and you’ve got the most amazing chicken salad that you can imagine.

“That’s what I think it’s all about. And that’s what my recipes are like. They’re really easy. It’s not complicated,” she adds in a light accent that reveals her British-boarding school upbringing.

The passionate cook learned the art of gracious entertaining from her parents, the Count and Countess de la Maza, who entertained often at Arenales, the 6,000-acre working farm just outside of Seville that’s been in her family for generations. (In addition to growing olives and other crops and raising livestock, her family breeds horses and bulls for bullfighting.)

“So I think a lot of this casual but refined entertaining comes from my Spanish background. My parents entertained a lot. We always had people over and we were always included,” she says about her childhood.

That’s why when she entertains now she finds it much more fun to include people of all ages, like her three sons – Minot, Henry and William – and their friends.

“I’m totally all-inclusive. I think it’s more fun and much more entertaining,” Amory says.

It’s the experience of eating together that creates special memories.

“For me it’s not the technical aspect of it. It’s not about how many onions do I have to chop to make the chicken taste delicious. It’s really about a delicious chicken that happens on a beautiful table, that happens on a beautiful day, that happens with your friends. And it’s more the whole picture rather than the technical: How do you frappé a soufflé? It’s the whole experience and I think that those memories are sort of ambience memories in a way.”

Four years ago, Amory moved to Greenwich with her husband, Minot, and their three boys to be closer to her sons’ schools. The first year was spent settling into a new town and new schools, and so it wasn’t until the following year when one of the schools asked her to bring something for its market fair, that the idea for the sauces was hatched.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God! If I have to bring 100 brownies, I’ll have to commit suicide. It’s just not happening. It’s absolutely not happening,’” she recalls thinking.

After pondering what would be fun to make, she decided on sauces, because she says they are the basis for delicious meals.

“So I got all my pots out and I don’t know how many recipes, and cooked eight savory sauces based on old Spanish-Portuguese recipes that I knew. I put them in jars, put labels on them, took them to the school and they sold out in 10 minutes. I thought, light bulb, you know.”

Inspired by entrepreneurs like Ralph Lauren, who started his empire with a line of ties, and Tory Burch with her tunics, she knew she needed to come up with something that was basic and good.

“What is it that we eat every single day?” she remembers asking herself. “And that’s condiments.”

Amory plans to expand her gourmet product line with things that will continue to help make entertaining easy and elevate everyday cooking into an effortless feast.

For more, visit victoriaamory.com. 

Recipes:

Fine Herb egg hors d’oeuvre

(Yields 24).

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

24 whole-wheat round melba toasts

1 cup Fine Herb Mayonnaise

Parsley for garnish

Slice the eggs into four or five rounds, wiping the knife clean between each slice. Place on top of the round melba toast, dab 1/2 teaspoon of Fine Herb Mayonnaise and garnish with parsley. Transfer to a decorative platter.

 

Roasted artichokes with Romesco

(Serves 6 to 8).

2 pounds artichoke hearts, may be canned

2 pounds mini Brussels sprouts, may be frozen

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 jar Almond & Garlic Romesco Sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a baking sheet, arrange the vegetables in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until crispy and golden brown on the edges. Transfer to a decorative dish and serve with Almond & Garlic Romesco Sauce.

 

Smokey BBQ hamburger

1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck

1 cupSmokey BBQ Ketchup, more for serving

Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

8 hamburger buns or large English muffins, toasted and buttered

Pre-heat the grill. In a large bowl, mix very lightly the two meats with the Smokey BBQ Ketchup. Season with salt and pepper. Wet your hands, and divide the meat into eight patties. Arrange the hamburgers on the grill and cook to taste, about four to five minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to the toasted buns and serve immediately.

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