Posts Tagged ‘Oscar recipes’

Oscar Banquets

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Oscar night looms. Commentators are dusting off their pre-show red-carpet patter, craftsmen are fashioning gold-plated statuettes, Price Waterhouse officials are counting ballots in secret sessions, and Hollywood is preparing to dazzle its colleagues and the general public with its annual orgy of self-congratulation.

Today Wolfgang Puck and his minions are working on the food for the Governor’s Ball. According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this year’s menu will feature my favorite edible for ANY occasion—lots and lots of finger food, served buffet style. I would LOVE to taste Puck’s lobster tacos, not to mention the gold-dusted chocolate Oscars now being fashioned.

The first Academy-Awards banquet was less elaborate than the one planned for tomorrow evening. Held in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel in May of 1929, it fed about 270 people instead of the 1500-odd nominees, presenters, and guests expected this year.

The overall ambiance, according to later recollections, was one of a small community celebration. First best-actress winner Janet Gaynor said decades after the fact, “It was just a small group getting together for a pat on the back…. Hollywood was just one big family then, and [the award] was a bouquet—thrown to me, I think, because I was new and because they thought I had certain freshness. It was nothing then like it is now.”

Janet Gaynor in “Sunrise,” one of the three films for which she won the best-actress trophy in 1929.

The food was less sophisticated than that being planned for this year. Hollywood and the American public were a little simpler then. I think it sounds pretty tasty, however.

According to the official Awards Librarian at the Academy, the menu consisted of:

Assorted Nibbles (rolls, olives, etc.)
Consommé Celestine
Fillet of Sole Sauté au Beurre
Half-Broiled Chicken on Toast
(The librarian noted that she hoped this meant “broiled half-chicken” rather than underdone poultry.)
New String Beans
Long-Branch Potatoes
Lettuce and Tomatoes with French Dressing
Vanilla and Chocolate Ice Cream

Nostalgia is always on the menu at the Academy Awards, so I am supplying a version of one of the dishes consumed in 1929. Happy viewing … and eating. Enjoy Billy Crystal’s return!

Billy Crystal and Friend. Courtesy of AMPAS. Photo credit : Bob D’Amico/ABC

Original Oscar Night Fillet of Sole

I love sole—and so, apparently, did diners in Hollywood in 1929. This is my favorite way to pan fry this fish in butter. If you want to make the fillets look more beautiful, dredge them in flour before cooking them.

I haven’t made this recipe lately so I don’t have a photo to share with you. But I do remember that it was delicious.


1 small juice glass almost filled with sprigs of parsley
about 1/4 cup clarified butter
1-1/2 pounds sole fillets
salt and white pepper to taste
the juice of 1/2 large lemon


With kitchen scissors cut the parsley into small pieces in the glass. In a large frying pan, melt about half of the butter over medium heat. Put in a few sole fillets; they should not touch each other.

Fry the fillets gently for a minute or two on each side, until they become flaky, adding salt and pepper as you cook. As each fillet is done, place it on a platter in a 250-degree oven so that it stays warm until its relatives have finished cooking. Add butter to the pan as needed for sautéing. For those who are looking for healthy and delicious recipes, you may try this recipe from

When the fillets are all cooked and on the platter, throw the parsley and lemon juice into the frying pan, and stir to allow them to mingle with the pan drippings. Ladle the parsley-lemon-butter mixture onto the fish fillets, and serve.

Serves 4.

This postcard of the Roosevelt Hotel, currently for sale on ebay, was postmarked in 1929.

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Tea and Biscuits

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Alas, once again I am unprepared for the Academy Awards. I’ll watch the ceremony, OF COURSE, but I’m not having a party. And the only nominated film I have seen this season is How to Train Your Dragon.
I guess I spend too much time with the very young and the very old!
Not having seen most of the films doesn’t keep me from thinking about what might have been eaten in them. I may not have a dish for each of the best-picture nominees as I did in my filmgoing heyday, but I did want to offer one recipe for those of you who are looking for an Oscar nibble this year. 

I have seen photos of Helena Bonham Carter pouring tea as Queen Elizabeth, consort of King George VI (Colin Firth), in The King’s Speech, so I know that tea and biscuits are appropriate for this film.

It’s one of the nominated films I really look forward to seeing. History, human drama, tea, and Colin Firth all in one cinematic package. Not to mention a celebration of the human voice. Who could ask for anything more?
I was tickled to learn that PG Tips Tea is holding a King’s Speech/Oscar tea contest.
This British tea company bills itself as “the ONLY tea being served in the Oscars’ Green Room.”
I’m not sure this is a huge honor since I have a feeling that the Hollywood glitterati might favor stronger beverages on Oscar night. But a tea-party contest is a fun idea.
PG Tips is inviting tea fans to send in photos of people sipping its tea at an Oscar party. Where the photos are supposed to be sent is a mystery, but I have asked the company’s publicist to let me know. When she does I’ll update this blog post.
Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for shortbread, a cookie type that always goes well with tea.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any George VI china for my Oscar party. I did find a little cup in our China cupboard from the coronation of his father, George V (played in the film by Michael Gambon).
The back of the cup features the lyrics to “God Save the King.” 

I have a feeling that director Tom Hooper and company will be humming that song quietly Sunday night as the envelopes are opened………

King’s Speech Shortbread
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch baking powder
1 cup flour
Thoroughly blend the butter and the sugar. Beat in the salt and baking powder; then stir in the flour.
The mixture will be crumbly!
Mold your crumbs into a ball or at least a blob. Wrap the blob in waxed paper and refrigerate it for 1 hour.
At the end of the hour preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Gently pat the blob into a 1/4- inch-thick rectangle on a silicone mat or a plastic cutting board. Cut the rectangle into 12 smaller rectangles. Gently place the rectangles on an unbuttered cookie sheet.
Prick holes in the rectangles. Bake the cookies—pardon me, the biscuits–for 20 to 25 minutes until they begin to turn golden on the edges. 

Cool on a cookie rack. Makes 12 cookies.

In a Stew about the Oscars

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

(Courtesy of Omelette/AMPAS)

The Oscars are coming!
Abuse them as much as you like. I know all the arguments against Hollywood’s annual tribute to itself. The televised show is long and boring and still manages to leave out many important categories. The statuettes are awarded to middlebrow fare. The whole shebang revolves around money rather than quality.
I don’t care. Oscar Night is a highlight of my year.
Years ago I hosted annual Academy-Award parties. My guests and I ate movie-themed food and watched the awards knowing that most of us had seen many of the nominated films—certainly the majority of the best-picture nominees.
My life is now more complicated, and I don’t get out to the movies as I used to. This year, alas, I have not seen A SINGLE FILM on the best-picture roster, despite the increased odds now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expanded the number of nominees from five to ten.
I no longer stay in one place long enough to give a huge Oscar party so I don’t plan a huge Oscar menu.
Nevertheless, on Sunday evening I have to make and eat at least one dish that pays tribute to a film from 2009. Oprah and Barbara are busy getting ready for their star-studded televised Oscar Specials. My own production will be a more modest Blue-Plate Special.
It hasn’t been hard to select a film to honor. Like every other food lover in the United States last year I saw Julie & Julia.
I found the original book Julie & Julia fun but not scintillating. The film adaptation captured my heart, however.
In the book, blogger-turned-author Julie Powell described the “Julie & Julia Project,” in which she spent a year making every recipe in Julia Child’s groundbreaking work Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
To augment her own adventures Powell recreated bits of Child’s biography, bits that didn’t have the sincerity or humor that she projected into her descriptions of her own life and cooking.
In the film, writer/director Nora Ephron had more resources on which to draw. She used Child’s account of her life; her own experiences (a former food writer, Ephron knows the lure of a full plate); and cinematic tools such as set design, costumes, and music. (One doesn’t get to hear both Doris Day and Charles Aznavour on very many soundtracks!)
Above all, Ephron took advantage of a magical cast, headed by Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Stanley Tucci as her supportive husband Paul. The two emerged as the Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon of 2009, a seemingly natural and ideal cinematic couple.
Meryl Streep is cooking with gas as Julia Child. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Meryl Streep is cooking with gas as Julia Child. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Julie & Julia the book is a collaboration of two partners, one of them dead and trapped in a book. Julie & Julia the movie is a collaboration of hundreds of creative partners. It invites the audience into that partnership as well, encouraging us to believe that cooking and love can help a woman of any age fulfill her dreams.
Fans of the book OR the movie who live in western Massachusetts may want to attend some of the Julie/Julia events in local libraries between now and March 20. These include book discussions, cooking demonstrations, and Julia Child impersonations! For details on the innovative “Tale for Ten Towns” project, visit its web site
Those of you planning to watch the Oscars Sunday evening may also want to join me in making a Julia-themed dish. Here is a recipe I always associate with Julia Child, Beef Burgundy—or, as she would say in her indelibly American accent, “Boeuf Bourguignon.“
Because I am neither Julie nor Julia I don’t actually make this dish the way they would. I appreciate Child’s contributions to American cooking and treasure both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Nevertheless, I am a simple cook. I see those volumes as reference books rather than cookbooks. The only dish I ever make straight out of them is Child’s version of scrambled eggs. Even then I cut down on the butter.
I do use one of Child’s tricks to good effect in this recipe, however, and that is saving the little onions and the mushrooms until the last minute so they don’t stew down so much that they are invisible.
My version is simple to make and perfect for a cozy evening spent in front of the television set watching film personalities emote and cavort. I offer it in homage to a great cook and an enjoyable film.
Bon appétit!
Not Julia’s (or even Julie’s) Beef Burgundy
1-1/2 pounds stew beef, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cloves of garlic, 1 crushed and 1 minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
several turns of the pepper mill
2 tablespoons flour, divided
1 small onion, finely cut
1-1/2 cups red wine (plus a little more if needed)
1 cup water (plus a little more if needed)
several sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
a small amount of butter for sautéing
1 cup tiny onions with their ends cut off
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced (the slices should be fairly thick—no more than four per mushroom)
chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. When it has heated toss the meat, the crushed garlic clove, the oil, and the salt and pepper together in a sturdy, uncovered Dutch oven.
Place the pot in the hot oven until the meat browns (this takes between 10 and 15 minutes). While the meat is in the oven be sure to stir it every few minutes to ensure even browning. When most of us it has browned stir in 1 tablespoon of flour and let it continue to brown.
When the meat is brown carefully remove the pot from the oven and turn the oven off. Use a slotted spoon to take out the garlic clove (which you may discard) and the meat, which you should reserve.
Add the onion and garlic pieces to the gravy in the pot, and sauté them for a couple of minutes.
Whisk in the remaining flour for a minute or two; then deglaze the pan with a little of the wine. Add in the remaining wine and the water; then stir in the thyme and bay leaf, the carrots, and the reserved meat.
Bring the stew to a boil; then cover and reduce the heat. Cook the mixture until the beef can be pierced by a fork (about 2 hours). Check and stir it every half hour, but make sure you cover it completely after checking (you don’t want it to dry out!).
If you have time after the beef has cooked, allow the stew to cool to room temperature and then chill it. You will then be able to skim off much of the fat easily. If you don’t have time—and/or don’t care about fat—ignore this step.
Shortly before you are ready to serve the stew, melt a little butter in a frying pan, and quickly sauté the small onions and the mushrooms. Add them to the beef mixture, and stir to make sure they are covered in sauce.
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. If the flavor is too strong, add a little water. Simmer on the stove top for 5 to 10 minutes.
Garnish the dish with parsley and serve over noodles or potatoes. Serves 6.



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An Oscar Nibble

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009


For many years I regularly wrote a food column just before the Academy Awards. I made a point of seeing most of the nominated films (certainly all of the nominees for best picture) and coming up with a suitable recipe for several of them.


Sometimes I replicated food actually consumed in a film. More often I created a dish that merely worked thematically with a picture. For example for Traffic I created poppy-seed dressing to reflect the film’s focus on drugs. For Titanic I made North Atlantic salmon on a bed of lettuce—iceberg, of course! I loved putting together these recipes and articles.


In addition to writing about the Oscars, I used to celebrate them in a big way. My guests in Hawley-wood weren’t necessarily as well dressed as the ones in the big theater in Hollywood, but we probably had as good a time—and we had a lot less traffic to combat.


I festooned my living room with movie posters. One year my local video merchant even gave me a few cardboard promotional cutouts to add to the décor. One of them drove my little dog crazy. I just couldn’t keep the poor creature from trying to defend me from the big guy in the living room with a gun (Bruce Willis advertising Last Man Standing).


Nowadays, however, I hardly make it to the movies AT ALL—and I’m on the road too much to plan an Oscar Soiree. I still love to watch the Academy Awards, however, and I wanted to acknowledge them, however briefly, on this blog. So I’m posting a simple recipe in homage to this year’s feel-good nominated film Slumdog Millionaire, a rags-to-riches romance set in Mumbai.


I SHOULD make Pani Puri, the popular Indian snack both mentioned and consumed in the film by the young hero Jamal (Dev Patel). Pani Puri is a delectable bite—a small fritter-like substance deep fried and filled with spice. It’s the sort of snack it’s more convenient to buy than make, however. So instead I’m making a nibble my family always enjoyed when I lived in India as a teenager, spiced cashews. (I give a batch to my brother David every year for Christmas.)


They’re simple and tasty—and if you happen to be hosting an Oscar party they’ll come in handy.


As for my own Oscar party, there’s always next year. Meanwhile, I’ll be glued to the TV on Sunday evening……….


(Courtesy of AMPAS)

(Courtesy of AMPAS)

Slumdog Millionaire Indian Cashews




2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon cumin seeds (if you have a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin a little to release the oils)

1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound raw cashews




Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.


In a bowl combine the salt, cumin, and curry powder. I have made the nuts tasty but mild; if you want more flavor, add more cumin and curry! Mix well.


In a frying pan melt the butter. (I prefer to use a large cast-iron pan that can go straight into the oven.)


Add the cashews and stir to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle on the spices and toss well. If your frying pan is ovenproof and large enough to accommodate a single layer of cashews, place it in the oven. Otherwise, transfer the cashews (and all their flavorings) to a cookie sheet. Place the nuts in the oven. Bake them for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.


Remove the cashews from the oven and allow them to cool completely on paper towels. Store them in an airtight container until they are all gone. (This doesn’t take long in our house!)


Makes about 1 pound.