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TND Extra – Oscars 2014

March 11, 2014

prep work

We had our annual Oscars extravaganza this past Sunday (err, two Sundays ago).  We’ve realized we don’t watch the Oscars because we care about the winners or losers.  For one thing if any of us have seen more than two of the nominated movies we’re doing well.  That said, the Oscars are tradition at this point.  We’ve been hosting an Oscars party since college, and any excuse to eat far too much, perhaps drink a little too much, and mock the stylistic choices of people we don’t know is worth taking, particularly in the doldrums of winter when we all need a little cheering.

In the beginning I did all the Oscar party food (well, okay in the very beginning I think Oscar party food involved calling Dominos, bags of Hershey’s kisses, and a bottle of wine – we were in college).  But, that got exhausting, so I started outsourcing some of the Oscars menu to the whims of potluck.  Gradually we settled into a tradition of theming the Oscars food on the nominated movies, and then last year I had the genius idea (well, I think it’s genius) of playing Russian Roulette with the nominated movies and the type of food you bring to the Oscars party.  

The way this works is that once the Oscar nominations are announced I assign random numbers to all the movies up for one of the top 6 awards – best picture, best director, best actress & actor, best supporting actress & actor – and a random letter to a range of courses.  When people RVSP they picked a letter and a number and that determines what they bring to the potluck.

Some years theming food to movies is easier than other years, and this year’s roster of movies were deeply unhelpful in terms of thematic food.

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
Wolf of Wall Street

Nobody eats anything in half these movies because they’re either in space (Gravity), in virtual space (Her), being kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Africa (Captain Phillips) . . . The only person who spun the roulette wheel and got a combination that made any kind of sense was the pairing of a signature drink with Wolf of Wall Street.

Strangely nobody ended up picking any of the letters that corresponded to desserts, so for a novel change I got to do all the desserts which really meant that I got to indulge in all the recipes on my ‘to be made’ list and then I found a movie to fit them (kind of).  I ended up making far too many desserts because we have one friend who is gluten free and I wanted there to be more than one dessert she could eat, but was unwilling to give up on the slutty brownies or the Guinness gingerbread.

There was so much food y’all, and all of it was amazing.  It was the kind of food (and the interminable length of the Oscars) where every time you got up to get another glass of wine, or go to the ladies room, you’d also stop to grab another bite of cheesy cauliflower, or another caramelized Brussels sprouts, or just another sip of pumpkin hot chocolate, or Guinness punch, or just another corner of gingerbread, and well as long as you’re there perhaps just another small brownie.  It was about 7pm on Monday night before I was even remotely hungry again.

Complete 2014 Oscars menu is below (combinations in italics were the courses/movies that didn’t get selected and I filled in).  Recipes for all the italicized dishes can be found in a separate post – here.

I tried to get pictures of all the food, but I missed some of it – apologies to everyone who doesn’t get a visual memorialization of their amazing contribution. It’s not commentary, just an indication of how involved I was in doing something else (pulling chicken out of the oven, peering critically at someone’s dress, finding serving spoons . . .) when you arrived.  Everything everyone brought was delicious (and filled with cheese – this was the Oscars of all the cheese), and I ate far too much of all of it.

savories

Signature Drink – Wolf of Wall Street
= Pumpkin Hot Chocolate – made with powdered sugar as a stand in for cocaine
= Mojito Popsicles – there was another drug reference with this but I’m blanking on what it was

Signature Drink – Philomena
= Guinness Punch – I wasn’t sure what was in it, but it was tasty and creamy
They picked Guinness Punch because Philomena is set in Ireland and Guinness = Ireland (I made the same association with a dessert further down).  This makes sense.  However, apparently where Guinness Punch is really popular is in the Caribbean, so Philomena got to a take a sunny vacation.  I’m not envious at all.

Signature Drink – 12 Years a Slave
= Cold Spiced Cider
Admittedly I thought of making cold spiced cider as a non-alcoholic drink option and then found a movie that it would more or less correspond to it.  Hard cider, and hot cider (probably with a healthy shot of rum or whiskey) were staples of 19th C American life.  I just made it cold.

Verdict?  This was actually really nice and refreshing, which is good because I have another ½ gallon of it in my fridge because we’re all lushes and drank wine and Guinness Punch all night instead.
Link to recipe.

Appetizer – 12 Years a Slave
= Endive with some kind of cheese spread – the slave owner in the movie is very Francophile.

Appetizer – Her
= Berry Smoothie – because what is more Californian than a smoothie?

Appetizer – Dallas Buyers Club
= White Queso Dip
I have wanted to make this recipe since it turned up on my blog feed during the lead up to the Superbowl.  Since I associate queso with Tex-Mex, and we have one friend who refers to our Oscars party as the lady-Superbowl (vaguely demeaning, but also mostly true), this seemed perfectly apt, and like a perfect excuse.

Verdict?  You need to make this immediately, if not sooner.  This was amazing – insanely rich, and decadent, and we all wanted to kind of drink it with a straw.

Link to recipe.

Main Course: Vegetarian – Nebraska
= Cornhusker Casserole
My roommate spun this problematic combination of vegetarian entrée + Nebraska.  There are lots of tasty sounding dishes that spring from Nebraska’s Eastern European immigrant roots, but that’s not a cultural heritage that lends itself willingly to vegetarian fare.  However, we persevered and eventually discovered a recipe for something Nebraskan called a Cornhusker’s Casserole, which is essentially a corn quiche with a lot of cheese and eggs.  How could that possibly be bad?

Verdict?  As anticipated, cheese + custard + hominy & corn is an excellent combination.

Link to recipe.

Main Course: Vegetarian – Wolf of Wall Street
= Cauliflower Gratin – they cleverly googled restaurants on Wall Street to see what was on their menus and went with one of those dishes.

Main Course: Meat – Captain Phillips
= Digaag Duban – a spiced Somali roasted chicken dish
I confess to having had a wild temptation to just serve a large plastic jug of water for Captain Phillips, it would have been the closest to anything that actually ingested in the movie.  However, I did a little research into Somali cuisine (apparently very influenced by Ethiopian and Indian food) and found this baked spiced chicken dish.

Verdict?  I thought they needed more oomph – more salt, more spice, more lemon flavor, more something at any rate.  However, when I took leftovers into my office everyone loved them and wanted the recipe, so your mileage may vary.

Link to recipe.

Vegetable Side – Her
= Kale Salad with Pomegranate & Citrus – apparently we all think Californians only eat salad and fruit . . . not sure we’re wrong about that.

Vegetable Side – Wolf of Wall Street
= Roasted Brussels Sprouts – because Brussels sprouts look like balls, and come in different sizes . . . no really, that is almost verbatim the explanation, it’s awesome and totally embraces the in your face ‘whose is bigger’ spirit of the movie.

Vegetable Side – Blue Jasmine
= Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
This was one of the dishes I introduced purely in the interests of our arteries and general health.  I put all the toppings in bowls, and let people assemble their salads to suit their tastes.  See above comment about Californians and our assumptions about their predilection for rabbit food.

Link to recipe.

sweets

Dessert – Philomena
= Guinness Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Frosting
Gingerbread made with Guinness (or a stout, but I used Guinness for Philomena), how does this not sound like an excellent idea?  And is anything ever not made better with the addition of cream cheese frosting?

Verdict?  It was excellent, spicy and with a faint hint of a bitter note (in a good way) from the Guinness.  This definitely gets better as it sits overnight, so plan to make it at least one day ahead (two is even better).

Link to recipe.

Dessert – August: Osage County
= Strawberry Brown Bettys
Did you know Oklahoma has a state meal?  No, nor did I until I started doing some research to come up with a thematically appropriate dessert for August: Osage County.  The Oklahoma state meal involves fried okra, squash, barbeque pork, biscuits, pecan pie (really?), strawberries, chicken fried steak, and black eyed peas.

I was looking for a dessert I could make gluten free, and have been eyeing Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for strawberry brown bettys for years.  Conveniently I have a gluten free bakery down the street from me that make bread so good I actually feel no need to qualify it with the caveat ‘for gluten free bread’; it’s honestly just good bread.

I planned to use their standard (gluten-free) sandwich bread to make the cups for the brown bettys.  However, I had to get my loaf frozen and when it defrosted it just fell apart into crumbs when I tried to roll it flat.  So, I backtracked and used a gluten-free pie dough mix (Glutino if anyone’s curious) that we’ve made in the past and is buttery and flakey and tasty to make mini-tarts.  I used the bread to make lots of gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Verdict?  They were tasty, but I’m not sure they were any tastier than any other strawberry pie, and other strawberry pies don’t require the extra step of browning butter.

Link to recipe.

Dessert – Blue Jasmine
= Fruit Sushi
I read once that the reason American-style sushi relies so heavily on avocado is because when sushi chefs first started to enter the American market they didn’t have access to the high quality fish they were used to in Japan, but because they were in California they did have access to lots of ripe avocados which approximated the rich fatty mouth feel of something like tuna.  So, American-style sushi is one creative step removed from traditional Japanese sushi.

This dessert sushi is another step beyond that (and a little further down the road is candy sushi made with rice krispie treats instead of rice, gummy candies for the filling, and fruit roll ups as the nori wrapper stand in – tasty, and fun to make, but a sushi-simulacrum at best).  This dessert sushi involves making a slightly sweet sushi rice with coconut milk and honey, and then topping it with fresh fruit.  I split the work on this with my roommate – we both played to our strengths.  I made the rice, she did the fiddly making it look like sushi part which she enjoys and I find tedious.

Verdict?  It was good, and looked very pretty, but suffered in the grand scheme of things by not involving copious amounts of butter or chocolate.

Link to recipe.

Dessert – American Hustle
= Slutty Brownies
I confess, mostly I just wanted an excuse to make this recipe and then found reasons why it fit the movie.  Having not seen the movie this was both harder and easier.  My final conclusion was that it’s a little trashy – like New Jersey (sorry, New Jersey); it’s got a hidden Oreo which ties into the caper comedy part of the movie; and it seemed emblematic of the excess of the 70s.

Verdict?  These were more than a little obscene, and absolutely as decadent and amazing as they sound like they will be.  The pan, when you take it out of the oven, weighs a ton, and slicing them into pieces required more muscle than I usually associate with portioning out baked goods.  Not for the faint of heart, but when you want some chocolate with your chocolate, these are definitely the way to go.

I took leftovers into work with me, and people have been microwaving them for 15-20 seconds and tell me that this makes them even better.

Link to recipe.

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