Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Academy Award Appetizers

One of my favorite events of the year is fast approaching: The Academy Awards! The ritual I associate with viewing the Academy Awards is borderline occult. Every year, I must view every single Best Picture nominee, and then I download a ballot online and fill it out according to who I believe will win. I sit about three inches away from the television to watch the ceremonies, and I always wear a formal outfit and eat an austere appetizer like baked goat cheese with capers or sundried tomato pesto baked pastry. This confession may make me seem a bit fanatical, but I hope I do not appear as pathetic as I feel I do when I go back and read my description (wearing a formal outfit to watch TV stoops to Bridget Jones-like patheticness).

This year I plan to socially enhance my Academy Award experience. My dear friend has been planning an Oscar party since October, and I feel an event of such significant preparation is worthy for attendance on such a holy evening (even upon typing this, I know how pitiable I sound). I told my friend how dear I hold this evening, and she was impressed with my enthusiasm. She asked I be in charge of appetizers for the evening, and I plan to take my role most seriously (clearly, as I have established my menu a full five days before the event). Here I share with you the appetizers I plan to bring, and hopefully you will find them as austere and sophisticated as the legends accepting their golden statutes.

Parmesan-stuffed Dates wrapped in Bacon

From epicurious.com, this recipe features fruit, pork, and toothpicks. Clearly, this recipe has all the makings for real sophisticated fare


18 (1- by 1/4-inch) sticks Parmigiano-Reggiano (from a 1/2-lb piece)

18 pitted dates (preferably Medjool)

6 bacon slices, cut crosswise into thirds

Special equipment: 18 wooden picks

To prepare

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Stuff 1 piece of cheese into each date, then wrap 1 piece of bacon around each date, securing it with a pick. Arrange dates 1 inch apart in a shallow baking pan.

Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on a paper bag or parchment. Serve immediately

Baked Artichoke Dip with Winter Crudites

Taken from marthastewart.com, this recipe may look complicated, but I guarantee the results are well worth the effort


3 cans (14 ounces each) artichoke hearts in water

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk, warmed

2 teaspoons coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (3 ounces)

1 cup grated pecorino cheese (3 ounces)

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped, plus leaves for garnish

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Sliced fennel, radishes, carrots, celery, and cauliflower florets, for serving

To prepare

Remove leaves from 1 artichoke heart; pat dry, and reserve. Thinly slice remaining artichokes; pat dry.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne, and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in cheeses.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook 3 minutes. Add thyme, garlic, and sliced artichokes, and cook for 3 minutes. Add to cheese mixture along with zest. Transfer to an 8-cup baking dish. Top with reserved artichoke leaves. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly. Garnish with thyme leaves. Serve with crudités

Goat Cheese with Fresh Dill and Paprika

When I told my friend I was more than excited to supply the appetizers, she had one request: please make sure there is goat cheese. I got this recipe from thepioneerwoman.com, and am more than willing to accommodate my friend’s request. After all, what is a classy party without a goat cheese platter?


2 packages (11 Ounce) Fresh Goat Cheese

6 Tablespoons Fresh Dill (or More If Needed)

6 Tablespoons Paprika (or More If Needed

To prepare

Place the package of goat cheese into the freezer to chill.

While the goat cheese is chillin’ in the freezer, finely chop your fresh dill and spread it out a bit on the cutting board to let it dry for a few minutes.

The goat cheese should now be slightly firm. When it is ready, carefully remove the goat cheese from the packaging and gently roll it over the fresh dill, coating it almost completely.

Now pour some Paprika (a few tablespoons should probably do) onto a baking sheet. Give the pan a very slight shake to spread out the paprika a bit. Roll the second cylinder of goat cheese in the paprika until it is covered completely.

Carefully wrap each roll snugly in plastic wrap and chill until it’s time to serve. (The Paprika Goat Cheese will not do well if kept for longer than one to two hours so don’t make it too far in advance). Carefully slice them (easier when they are cool) and serve on crackers or crostini

Crab and Avocado Crostini

This last recipe completes the sophisticated menu for the evening, and will surely be received warmly. How could it not: it boasts both crab meat and avocados as ingredients. This recipe, taken from foodnetwork.com, seems easy to prepare.


1 loaf ficelle or thin French baguette

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup

1 Meyer lemon, juiced

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 yellow pepper, seeds removed and diced

1 avocado, halved, pitted and flesh diced

1 shallot, finely diced

8 ounces lump crabmeat

To prepare

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. Lightly brush the bread slices with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet fitted with a rack and bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before topping with the crab mixture.

In a large bowl whisk together the lemon juice, 1/4 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Add the yellow pepper, the avocado, shallot and the crabmeat to the lemon vinaigrette and toss gently, so as to not break up the crabmeat. Top the bread slices with about a tablespoon of the crab mixture and arrange on a serving platter

And with that, my ambitious menu for Oscar night 2010 is planned. It will surely be expensive to prepare, but is well worth it. After all, this is a night that only comes once a year, and beckons the most extravagant details. So proceed with vigor, and make your Oscar night a night to remember.

And fear not, readers, I will definitely post pictures from this extravaganza.

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