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WND – Oscars 2009

February 25, 2009

This all started a couple of years ago when I was watching the first season of “Feasting on Asphalt”.  In the course of their voyage across the United States Alton Brown and his crew ate a wide and weird variety of things, including koolicles at one stop somewhere in the deep deep South.  Koolicles are dill pickles that have been removed from their brine and then marinated in Kool-Aid for several weeks to give them a nice unnatural fluorescent glow and a sweet sour flavor.

kool-icles1

I was intrigued.  Then I ran across an article about Koolicles in the New York Times and I moved from intrigued to fascinated.  I wanted to try one – not really more than one, but I definitely wanted to see what it tasted like (this is similar to my desire to find out what deep fried bacon tastes like – also courtesy of “Feasting on Asphalt” I think).  However, I wasn’t planning a trip to the deep South and it seemed unlikely that Koolicles were going to make their way to Boston anytime soon, so I seemed doomed to disappointment.

Then came an idle discussion at Dinner earlier this year about whether we should have a theme for this year’s annual Oscar party, and the words koolicles and spam sushi and Dune Cake were all mentioned and we decided that clearly this year’s theme should be trashy food.  Since our usual caveat that you have to be willing to eat what you bring applied this ended up being more a representation of ‘food our mothers never made’ than anything really trashy.  Clearly this means that we all think our mothers are very classy women, and having met 90% of the mother’s involved I’d have to say this was true.  It’s also probably an indicator of our regional and socio-economic background, but that’s an analysis for another day.

The koolicles were honestly a little disappointing.  They tasted exactly like dill pickles marinated in Kool-Aid.  Not bad per se, but there was no culinary alchemy that had transformed them into more than the sum of their component parts.  This is a lot like deep-fried Mars Bars – that particular specialty of Edinburgh chip shops, most often consumed very late at night on your way home from a pub.  You hear about them and you wonder what on earth they could possibly taste like, and then you have one and it tastes exactly like you think a battered deep fried Mars Bar would.  Not bad, but mysteriously wonderful either.

Fortunately the rest of the food more than made up for them.

full-table-spread

Jello Shots
Champagne Punch
Chicken & Biscuits
Sloppy Joes
Sweet Potatoes with Optional Marshmallows
Iceberg Lettuce Salad with Ranch Dressing & Bacon Bits
Cream Cheese Pizza
Pigs-in-Blankets
Cheese Straws
Dune Cake (aka Spice Cake with Buttercream Frosting)

Jello Shots (recipes courtesy of Jen G.)

We relived the college experience we never had.  Well, apparently some of us had a college experience that included jello shots, but not most of us.

jello-shots

Cherry Amaretto Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package cherry Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling water
2 oz. cold water
6 oz. amaretto

Dissolve Jello-O in boiling water and stir to combine.  Add cold water and amaretto.  Spray Dixie cups lightly with a cooking spray and then pour in Jell-O and allow to set in fridge (at least 4 hours).

Strawberry Daiquiri Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package wild strawberry Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) Boiling water
6 oz. white rum
1 oz. sweet and sour or Margarita mix

Dissolve Jello-O in boiling water and stir to combine.  Add rum and Margarita mix.  Spray Dixie cups lightly with a cooking spray and then pour in Jell-O and allow to set in fridge (at least 4 hours).

Fuzzy Navel Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package orange Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling water
2 oz. vodka
6 oz. peach schnapps

Dissolve Jello-O in boiling water and stir to combine.  Add vodka and peach schapps.  Spray Dixie cups lightly with a cooking spray and then pour in Jell-O and allow to set in fridge (at least 4 hours).

Champagne Punch
This is one of the few times that I have keenly felt the lack of a punch bowl.  I wanted to do this punch up right, complete with the frozen ring of juice studded with artistically placed mint leaves and citrus rounds, but I lack a punch bowl and punch cups (although not, oddly enough, a punch ladle), so I had to make do with a large pitcher.  It looked – and tasted – lovely, but it did miss a certain element of punch glory.

champagne-punch-champagne1

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 cup grapefruit juice
1 cup white grape juice
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup cognac
1 cup white wine
½ cup mint leaves
1 lemon, cut into thin slices
1 lime, cut into thin slices
1 orange, cut into quarters and then thin slices
1 bottle champagne, chilled

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Mix the juices, wine, cognac, mint and fruit together in a punch bowl or large pitcher.  Add the cooled syrup and stir to combine.

Just before serving add cold champagne and stir lightly to combine.

Note:  If you’re like me and you don’t particularly like grape juice and don’t want an entire 64 oz bottle slowly going bad in your fridge, juice boxes are an excellent alternative.  If I decide to make this again sometime in the next 6 months, I won’t have to go buy more grape juice because the juice boxes will still be good and will only be taking up space on the top of my dryer, and not precious space in my fridge.

Chicken & Biscuits
(serves 6-8 )
This is really just a chicken pot pie turned inside out.
chicken-biscuits-composite1

2-3 leeks (or 1 large onion), chopped fine
2 small carrots, chopped fine
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
3-4 bone-in chicken breasts (or 4 cups leftover chicken)
½ tsp fresh thyme
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup white wine
¾ cup heavy cream

Coat the chicken breasts lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and thyme.  Roast in a 425 oven for 30-40 minutes until done (170 degrees).  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and then pull the meat off the bone and chop into bit sized pieces.

Clean and chop the leeks, carrots and celery.  Melt the butter and sauté the vegetables until tender.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme.  Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir to combine.  Add the chicken stock and wine and cook until thickened.  Add the chicken and heavy cream and cook to heat the chicken through.

Serve over Buttermilk Biscuits (recipe previously given: Farewell to Summer Dinner)

Sloppy Joes
(serves 6-8 )

sloppy-joe-composite
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb ground beef
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3-4 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp molasses
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Tabasco sauce (to taste)
1-2 Tbsp chili powder (to taste)
Salt/pepper/cloves (to taste)

Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion, bell pepper and garlic until tender.  Season with red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper.  Add the ground beef and cook until browned.  Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and molasses.  Stir to combine, and then cook uncovered until much of the juice has evaporated and mixture has thickened (20-30 minutes).  If you have a spatter guard I recommend covering the pan with it, or you’ll have tomato sauce all over your stove.  Season to taste with chili powder, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper and ground cloves.

Serve on rolls.

Sweet Potatoes with Optional Marshmallows (recipe courtesy of Jen W.)
(serves 8 or so)

4 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into a few small pieces
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp table salt
pepper
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

Peel sweet potatoes and cut in quarters lengthwise. Slice quarters into 1/4 inch slices (basically, cut them up small!).

Place potato slices and all other ingredients in an oven-safe pot with a lid and add water until the liquid reaches about halfway up the potatoes. Cover and cook on medium low heat until potatoes are soft.

Mash with a potato masher until the desired smoothness is achieved, adding more water if the mixture is dry (do not use a mixer or food processor to mash; results will be gluey).

If topping with marshmallows, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Smooth the mixture in the pot and place desired number of marshmallows on top. Bake uncovered until marshmallows are lightly browned.

Iceberg Wedges with Ranch Dressing & Bacon Bits
We nodded in the direction of a vegetable, but really just to be polite.

Pigs-n-Blankets

pigs-in-blankets

Cream Cheese Pizza

cream-cheese-pizza

Cheese Straws (recipe courtesy of Jen P.)
Or, butter and cheese held together with a little bit of flour.

cheese-straws

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces sharp cheese, cut into chunks (I used Cabot extra sharp)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (I used 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350.

In the bowl of a food processor combine butter and cheese.  Add the flour, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.  Process until the mixture comes together; then press the dough together, wrap it in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece out between 2 sheets of wax paper to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut 6 x 1/2-inch strips.  Twist, if desired, or form into other shapes.  Arrange the pieces on 1 or 2 ungreased cookie sheets.

Or, if desired, use a cookie press outfitted with a houndstooth or star dispenser.  Push the dough out onto and ungreased cookie sheet to make individual “straws.”

Bake until crisp and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  For a darker color, cook a bit longer.  Remove the sheet to a rack and let cool completely before serving.

Spice Cake (recipe courtesy of Robin B.)
This was the piece-de-resistance.  Many years ago we promised a friend a Dune cake for her birthday – possibly because we’d just seen the miniseries, possibly because we’re just geeks, I don’t really remember – but somehow it never seemed to happen.  Until now . . . . . all I can say is:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

fremen-rider

For anyone who doesn’t recognize the Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear on sight, I’m talking about Frank Herbert’s Dune, where the spice is life and expands consciousness and allows for the possibility of space travel, and apparently tastes like cinnamon.  I have to admit to only having read about two-thirds of the first book.  But, I’ve seen David Lynch’s strange and wonderful version where Sting wears a red leather bikini and Patrick Stewart goes into battle with pug dogs under his arm, and the more comprehensible although less colorful Sci Fi Channel miniseries (and it’s sequel Children of Dune) more than once.

We are enormous geeks and proud of it.  Also, the cake was very tasty, and this is the about the only buttercream frosting that I actually like.  That being said, I had nothing to do with the baking or construction of this cake, this is all my roommate who is secretly – or perhaps not so secretly – a frustrated cake decorator.

cake-composite
Spice Cake
(what other kind of cake could you possibly make for a Dune cake?)
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.

Sift first 7 ingredients into small bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in egg yolks. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with sour cream in 2 additions.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in medium bowl until stiff but not dry; fold into batter in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides; release pan sides. Cool cake completely on rack.

Note:  The original recipe calls for a blackberry filling and a cream cheese frosting, and can be found here: Spice Cake with Blackberry Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting.

Buttercream Icing
½ cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter.  Add the powdered sugar and milk in three stages, beat until well combined.  Add the salt and vanilla.  Add more powdered sugar or milk to thicken or thin the icing as necessary.

If you’d like to see about a million more pictures of the cake in various stages of completion click here.

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One comment

  1. […] Recipe previously given:  Oscars 2009 […]



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