Wednesday, February 23, 2011

By The Movies: How to Throw an Oscar-Themed Party

One Recipe for Every Picture Nominated For Best Picture (Mostly)

I love the Oscar's. I've been watching them every year since I can remember. I love the fashion (Bjork's Swan Dress? Celine Dion's backward suit? Catherine Zeta Jones in anything?) I love when someone unexpected wins (remember young Gwyneth Paltrow winning for Shakespeare In Love?) And I love dreaming about what the life of a glamorous movie star is like.

Most years I watch the award's ceremony alone in my pajamas. If I can't be home, I tape them. But this year, I am having a party! We're going to dress up, eat fancy food, and drink fancy drinks. In honor of the movies nominated, I am going to try to have ten foods or drinks based off of the ten movi
es that are nominated for best picture. (Maybe I need a better hobby.....)

Anyways, here's a list of the nominees and the foods and drinks that represent them.

Cucumber tea sandwiches
The King's Speech: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
I chose cucumber tea sandwiches because they are so very dainty, and I imagine the King and Queen of England would enjoy it. Also, since I'm providing ten different items I thought that this would be an easy dish to bust out. These would go great with a cup of proper English Tea. Which may or may not be served at my party.
8 slices of white sandwich bread, crusts cut off
2-3 cucumbers, seeded thinly sliced
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp mint
Salt, to taste
1. Whisk butter and cream cheese together. Season with mint.
2. Spread about 2 tablespoons cream cheese mixture on 4 slices of the bread. Top with cucumbers and season with salt. Place other 4 slices of bread on top. Cut into quarters so each piece is triangular. Decorate with frilly toothpicks and place on your grandmother's fine china.
3. Enjoy at tea time.

Black Swan: Swan Shaped Profiteroles
This was an obvious choice. I learned how to make these bad boys in culinary school, and it is a neat technique to bring out for a party. I couldn't see any of the ballerinas in Black Swan, actually eating these sweet treats (re. this cake scene), but these cream puffs are in the image of the white swan (add cocoa powder to the filling and you've got the black swan too). This is the perfect dessert to eat after Natalie Portman wins the Oscar (Go Natalie!) This recipe comes from Professional Baking, by Wayne Gisslen.

Ingredients (you'll need a cooking scale):
For the pâte à choux:
1 pound water, milk, or half water, half milk
8 oz butter
1 tsp salt
12 oz flour
1 pound 4 oz eggs

Egg wash for brushing

1. Combine liquid, butter and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
2. Remove pan from heat and stir the flour in all at once.
3. Put pan back on the heat, and stir constantly until dough pulls away from the side of the pan.
Swan necks
4. Transfer dough to a stand mixer (or if you want, leave it in the pan to whisk by hand.) With the paddle attachment, start mixing on medium speed. Mix so that the steam leaves the dough and until the mixture has cooled slightly.
5. Beat the eggs in a little at a time. Wait until eggs have been fully incorporated into the dough before adding more. Add no more than a quarter of the eggs at a time. Once the last of the eggs have been absorbed, you're ready to pipe.
7. Preheat oven to 425.
6. Place dough in a pastry bag with a small tip. Pipe 3/4 dough on a parchment lined baking sheet into quarter sized pieces. On another baking sheet, pipe dough into "S" shapes (these will be the necks of the swan.
7. Brush with egg wash and bake circles for about ten minutes, necks for about five. Turn down oven to 375 and bake necks for five more minutes, circles for ten more. Remove from oven and let cool.

To Assemble:
1. Cut circles in half. Take the top half of the circle and cut in half lengthwise (the top half will make the wings.) Pipe whipped cream in the bottom half, and place the wings on top of that. Stick the neck directly into the whipped cream. Viola! You have a cream puff swan.

For the Filling:
1 quart heavy whipping cream
3 TBS powdered sugar
1 TBS coco powder (for half)
1 TBS vanilla extract (for half)

1. Place whipping cream and powdered sugar in stand mixture with whisk attachment. Whisk at high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until cream has stiff peaks. Watch carefully, as cream might over whip.
2. Divide cream in half. Whisk cocoa powder into one half, and vanilla extract into other half. Now you'll have enough cream to make black and white swans.

Chocolate and lemon curd crepes
Inception: Spinach Crepes (since part of the movie was set in France..)

This was a hard one. Inception is a mind-blowing movie, so I thought that I should create a sort of cerebral dish that attempted to blow your mind. I am not, however, a very cerebral person. So, I took the easy way out on this one, and chose to create a dish based off location. Part of the movie was set in Paris, so I am making a classic French dish. Maybe after thinking about it for six months, I'll be able to come up with something slightly more interesting. This will have to do for now.

The recipe I use for crepes is straight from the French Chef herself, Julia Child:

For the Crepe Batter:
1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
4 TBS melted butter

1. Blend the water, milk, and eggs together in a blender or (if you don't own a blender) whisk together briskly. Add flour and butter and beat together until batter is smooth. Refrigerate for two to three hours. The batter should be light and fluffy, just thin enough to cover the back of a spoon. If it is too thick, whisk in a little bit of water.
2. Heat an iron skillet over medium high heat. Brush a little bit of melted butter or oil on the brush. Using a ladle or a 3/4 cup measuring cup, remove pan from heat and ladle in crepe batter. Quickly turn pan in a clockwise motion so the batter forms a thin layer over the bottom of the pan.
3. Cook for sixty seconds on one side. If the bottom has turned a nice brown color, it is ready to flip. Use two spatulas to gently flip the crepe over. You can also use your fingers to lift from the side closest to you. Cook on the other side for another 30 seconds. Remove from pan and cool.
For the Filling:
1 bag spinach
2-3 green onions
1 TBS canola oil
Salt and pepper, To taste
1/2 cup Mornay Sauce

1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add green onions and saute for one minute.
2. Add spinach and saute for one to two minutes or until spinach has wilted.
3. Add Mornay Sauce. Place filling on the inside of crepes and wrap like a burrito.

Toy Story 3: Candy Buffet!
Toy Story 3 was such a colorful movie that left children in amazement at the idea of talking toys, and adults nostalgic for days gone by. What better way to celebrate this youthful movie, than with a candy buffet. Gummy bears, jawbreakers, wax lips, licorice ropes, whatever you can think of. The gap between adulthood and childhood will seem much smaller as you nosh on licorice while watching Woody and Buzz's acceptance speech. (The previous picture was not taken by me. It is from the internet.)

Jelly Beans
Gummy Bears
Licorice Ropes
Gum Drops
...And whatever your heart desires

Serve everything individually in little glass bowls.

True Grit: Veggie Chili or White Bean and Herb dip
White bean and herb dip with pita chips
Cowboys eat a lot of beans. Canned beans. They have to have food that travels well, like on horses across rivers and non paved roads. I could just open up a can of baked beans for my guests and call it a day, but I thought I would be a little bit more creative. Therefore I am bringing back the veggie chili and also making a White Bean and Herb dip to keep things fancy. For the dip I'll probably use dry beans (those would travel well by horseback too I would imagine...), but if you're running out of time use canned and skip the cooking.

2 cups dried white beans, or 1 14 oz can
1 TBS fresh thyme, minced
1 TBS fresh rosemary, minced
2 TBS garlic, minced
1/2 lemon squeezed
1 cup olive oil

1. Place dried beans in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer and let cook until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Check the water level at least once during cooking and add more water as necessary.
2. Once beans are tender, place in a food processor and blend with thyme, rosemary, garlic and lemon juice until smooth. Slowly blend in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Chill in refrigerator before serving. Serve with crackers, flatbreads, or pita.

Ok, so to be honest. I was really stumped at this one. I'm not from the Ozarks, I already have a bone reference (which you'll see next), and I haven't seen this movie. Really the only thing I know about it is that the father is a meth addict. So for guests who want to emulate the movie, I guess I'll have to serve meth. (No there won't. I'm KIDDING. RELAX. The only possible way there would be meth at this party is if A, I had a major life change in the next two days or B, I suddenly meet Brian Cranston and he performed his chemistry magic in front of me. But, seeing as either of those scenarios are highly unlikely, this will definitely be a meth-free party.)

127 Hours: Chicken Wings?

There had to meat on the menu. I slipped up! But, can you think of any other dish that so perfectly matches 127 hours? The main character in this movie, played by James Franco, cut his own arm off so I'm serving the severed arm of a chicken who shared the same fate. (Ok. That sounds gross.) Sorry to say only chicken will suffice here. I'm not going to write a recipe for this one, though. Try Epicurious.

The Fighter: Guinness

This movie is about a tough Irish family, one of which is an alcoholic and a druggie, so I'm going to have Guinness on hand so we can all emulate the Boston Irish. I could have easily chosen a strong Irish whiskey, but my crowd is more of a beer drinking type.

The Kids are Alright: A good bottle of California red (of course!)

All that Julianne Moore and Annette Benning did in The Kids are Alright was drink red wine and act really self absorbed, as far as I could tell. Though Mark Ruffalo is super hot, so I don't blame you, Julianne Moore. (Spoiler alert!) I'm glad they could work it out in the end, because they were a really nice family. For the wine, I recommend a bottle of Pinot Noir from La Crema. This bottle is a little on the expensive side, but it's delicious. You'll find yourself emanating Annette Benning's character in The Kids Are Alright.

Because uh... that's what college kids drink?

Fill out those Oscar Ballots and vote for your favorites. Good luck to all the nominees.


  1. For the Social Network, it should be Becks. (I finally just saw the movie and they were drinking a lot of Becks. Also, I read an interview where they said Aaron Sorkin was obsessed with finding out what kind of beer Mark Zuckerberg was drinking when he got drunk and made Facemash...apparently it was Becks.)
    Longest aside ever.

    Remember that Oscar party we threw at your house in high school? And we cooked all day and then no one dressed up except us? That was fun.

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