One-on-One with Patricia Heaton: All About Her New Series and Why Debra Barone Scared Her Away from Lemon Chicken

The TV sitcom mom you know and love, previews her brand-new Food Network show, Patricia Heaton Parties.

Photo by: Jessica Brooks ©2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Jessica Brooks, 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Patricia Heaton, the TV sitcom mom you know and love from Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, is known among her friends and family for throwing welcoming, enjoyable parties — and beginning this fall, you're invited to attend them. On her brand-new series,  Patricia Heaton Parties, premiering Saturday, Oct. 24 at 12|11c, Patricia is welcoming viewers into her kitchen for a look at how she serves up simple yet craveable bites ideal for entertaining, all while enjoying herself with guests, including several of her co-stars on The Middle.

Just in time for the premiere, FN Dish caught up with Patricia to find out more about her penchant for giving parties and her strategy for stress-free party planning. Read on below for an exclusive interview with Patricia to see what two must-haves are always on the menu at her house and learn how her former Everybody Loves Raymond character, Debra Barone, has influenced her in the kitchen.

What can fans expect from your brand-new series?

Patricia Heaton: I'm really excited to have my fans join me for casual get-togethers with my friends and family. I'll be sharing recipes that are easy and delicious.

What are you most excited about showing viewers and inspiring in them?

PH: I think it’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of cooking for guests. A great way to dip your toe into the water is inviting people over for cocktails and appetizers — casual and fun.

We hear that you're a party expert! How did you come to love throwing parties?

PH: I’m not a party expert. I just like having friends over! Some of my passion stems from working in restaurants and hotels in New York City when I was a struggling actress. I was introduced to great food and service, and all kinds of dishes I'd never heard of or tried, like sushi and sweetbreads. Once Dave and I got married, I loved playing housewife and trying out my hand at cooking.

Is the party just a few friends? Put on some mellow jazz or light classical. For bigger parties, dance music is always great — and Pandora and other satellite music services enable you to customize your tunes. '80s, anyone?

Please fill in the blanks: It wouldn't be a party at my house without _____ and _____.

PH: It wouldn't be a party at my house without bourbon and vodka.

What's your favorite big-batch or pitcher-friendly cocktail so you don't have to continuously mix drinks to order?

PH: My friends gave me a margarita machine that is great for big batches!

How do you go about planning a menu for your parties? What do you consider in terms of the guest list, the theme, the number of courses, etc.?

PH: If I'm doing all the cooking, I keep it intimate and simple. Either go small with lots of bites or big with bowls of pasta or trays of lasagna, a beef stew in the slow cooker, individual ramekins of chicken pot pie. I usually have some small offering of cheeses and meats with fruit when guests arrive, then serve the main dish with a salad or vegetable, plus some nice, fresh crusty bread.

Photo by: Jessica Brooks ©2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Jessica Brooks, 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

What's the best and worst craft-service meal you've had on The Middle or Everybody Loves Raymond?

PH: Well, fortunately, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, Phil Rosenthal, is quite the foodie, and he made sure that we always had great food on the set: deep-dish pizza flown in from Chicago, Krispy Kreme doughnuts when they first became available nationwide, the Pink’s hot dog truck on shoot night. Although I do remember one of the first meals we had the first season was undercooked chicken — the chef was mortified.

Our caterers on The Middle are fantastic, especially on burger day, when they know to make mine very rare — mooing!

On both Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, you've played characters that aren't quite kitchen masters — Debra's love-to-hate-it lemon chicken and Frankie's sandwich-and-chips dinners come to mind. Is it fun for you to play characters who are different from you in that regard?

PH: I’m not so different from Frankie and Debra. I’ve had failed recipes: gluey mashed potatoes, overdone meat. And when I'm working, takeout is a lifesaver! I have a drawer full of ketchup packets and plastic forks to prove it! But now that the kids are older and independent, I am thrilled to have a little more time to have friends over.

Do you have a recipe for lemon chicken that your family does enjoy?

PH: I must confess I've never made it. I think Debra Barone spooked me — or maybe it was Marie!

Tune in to the premiere of Patricia Heaton Parties on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 12|11c.

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