Tonight is Oscar night! If you are having people over to watch the fun unfold, consider our method. The key is to get your guest to play for money and make them leave their cell phones at the door! This post was originally published in 2011.
There are few things I look forward to more than the Academy Awards. I’ve been celebrating them for years in both high and low ways. I’ve rented hotel suites and made customized cocktails (I recall a “Babe” martini with a pink grapefruit rind tail). I’ve been to viewing parties where no one paid attention, and I’ve been to viewing parties hosted by Elton John. Yes, I’ve even been to the Academy Awards themselves, albeit in the nose-bleeds, the last year they were held at the gorgeous Dorthy Chandler Pavilion. My current mode for Oscar night is what I like to call “cozy red carpet.” Comfort food, good friends, and fuzzy slippers. Best of all, I have discovered the secret tool needed to having a truly fun Oscar night party: a DVR. Here’s how it works:
Forget the ballots, go for live betting. Rather than have all your invitees fill out ballots before the show begins, engage in live betting throughout the night. We give out ballots for reference only, so people can keep their own score on what’s been unveiled and what’s to come.
Record the show and start watching it late. Nothing brings down an Oscar party more than too many commercial breaks. Record the Oscars but don’t watch them live — at least not a first. Don’t worry, you’ll catch up as the night goes on. This way you can dive right in and fast forward through the dull parts.
No cell phones allowed. Because you’re not watching the show exactly live, don’t let cheaters check twitter or text messages that may be revealing the winners before you’ve seen them. Make reasonable exceptions for moms worried about babysitters.
Pause the show right before the envelopes are opened. This is the fun part. Just as Natalie Portman is fumbling to get that envelope for best actor open, hit pause. At that moment, instruct everyone to write down who they think is going to win that award only. Hit play.
Reward everyone who got it right. We like to give out little toys as tokens. Your guests can take them home, so everyone is a winner.
Winner takes all! At the end of the night, the person with the most tokens, wins the pool! (We got zoo animals and gnomes from orientaltrading.com.)
The day after the awards last year, everyone was grumbling about how long the show was, and how dull it was — that is, everyone but us. We all had a such a blast placing live bets throughout the night that the three plus hours fly by.
Of course the other important component to a good academy awards night is the menu. My menu for Sunday is still being debated, but right now I’m eying spiced popcorn, mini quiches, bite-sized pulled pork sandwiches, some kind of chocolate pots. I also am on the hunt for the perfect cocktail to make by the pitcher.
What about you? Are you planning anything special for Oscar night this Sunday?
My Sunday routine usually consists of cooking a big pot of something we can enjoy that night, and use its leftovers for lunch most of the week. It has to be something yummy, that reheats easily. And, considering the freezing temps we’ve been facing nearly every day this past month, it better be something warming. This Bon Appetit recipe for Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens stew totally does the trick. The two things that make this baby taste really delicious: anchovies (my newly discovered secret ingredient) and Parmesan rind. I found the BA version a bit heavy on the greens, and on the second time I a made this opted to leave out the arugula completely. I didn’t miss it one bit.
Here’s my take on Spicy White Bean Stew with Winter Greens
WHAT YOU NEED:
¼ cup olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 sprig rosemary
1 or 2 pieces of Parmesan rind (about three inches big) plus shaved Parmesan for serving
1 pound dried white cannellini beans soaked overnight, drained
1 bunch of kale, ibs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, trimmed, coarsely chopped
HOW TO MAKE
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook anchovies, chiles, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and anchovies are dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add onion, celery, and rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Add Parmesan rind, beans, and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed, until beans are beginning to fall apart, 2.5 to 3 hours.
3. By now you should be able to crush the beans with a wooden spoon to give the stew a creamy consistency. Mix in kale, spinach, and half of arugula; season with salt and pepper. Cook until greens are wilted, 5–8 minutes.
4. Serve with additional Parmesan for sprinkling.
Little darlings, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter — and our kid’s birthday landed smack in the dead middle of it. We’ve been trying to hang on to the aloha-vibe we picked up in Maui last November, but it ain’t easy when we’re iced-in. To help us all warm up a bit, we decided that this year (number 6!) Isadora would have a hula-themed birthday. I found a local hula teacher who specialized in lessons for children, and booked her as the main event. Around the house we mixed vintage Hawaiian decor with some tchotchke’s from new, inexpensive things from Oriental Trading Co. Below are photos of some highlights!
A vintage tiki bowl mingles with some paper centerpieces from Oriental Trading Co.
On the mantle, more vintage tikis doubling as vases, along with a straw skirt — meant for a table but it worked better here for us.
Our safe for kiddies tropical punch included pineapple, orange, cranberry, and white grape juices with guava nectar and sparkling apple cider. Served with paper umbrellas, of course.
A rainbow of fruit featuring a mini-marshmallow cloud in the middle. Guess which got eaten first?
The piece de resistance: A hula girl cake! This one might need a separate post on its own, but lets say that we started with Wilton Doll Cake mold and a lot a of green food dye.
The finished piece of beauty.
This post was originally published in 2012 — but in honor of both Super Bowl Sunday and approaching Valentine’s Day, we thought we could use another dose of this yumminess.
I have a soft spot for things that are salty and sweet — especially things that are chocolately, salty and sweet (like my favorite Trader Joe’s candy). So when I spotted this recipe from Ina Garten in Food Network magazine, I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl. It’s from her new cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof Recipes, which could really be the title of all of her cookbooks. Her recipes never fail. This super rich, moist chocolate brownie would be outstanding on its own. It has a bit of instant coffee in it, which gives it a nice sophistication. Chocolate chips blended in the rich the batter give it a double wallop of goodness. Then, on the top of this magic, you drizzle caramel sauce finished off with a sprinkle of course, high quality sea salt. That touch propels these brownies into the stratosphere. The caramel and the salt are not every day pantry ingredients, but they are worth hunting down and using if you really want to make an impression. I promise you that everyone who you share these with (if you can force yourself to share them) will swoon. Use cautiously as they are hard to have in the house without devouring.
What You Need:
2 sticks of unsalted butter
8 ounces plus 6 ounces Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips (a little more than one bag)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules (I used decaf Nescafe)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 to 6 ounces good caramel sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt
How to Make
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 x 12 x 1 1/2-inch baking pan.
2. Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature (very important!).
3. While that mixture is cooling, sift sift together the half cup of flour, the baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, and then add to the cooled down chocolate mixture. 4. In a separate bowl, stir the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the flour-coated chips to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake!
6. As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, heat up the jar of caramel sauce (either in the microwave without the lid, or buy running really hot tap water over the whole thing). Make sure it is pourable. Use a spoon to drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies.
7. Sprinkle with the sea salt. Cool completely and cut into 12 bars.
Here’s something worthwhile to do during the next snowmageddon: make lasagna bolognese from scratch. It will occupy hours of your time, make your house smell wonderful, and please your family more than a cup of hot chocolate.
I had been wanting to try Bon Appetit’s October cover story for some time, and actually decided that this was the perfect dish to serve at the Christmas pot luck we attended. I followed their instructions faithfully, but decided NOT to make my own noodles. Perhaps another year. The results were outstanding, and tasted even better as leftovers the next day.
What you need:
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 pound ground pork
4 oz. pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk
1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
How to Make:
1. Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add beef, pork, pancetta, and vegetables; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until moisture is almost completely evaporated and meat is well browned, 25–30 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
3. Add wine to pot and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until moisture is almost completely evaporated, 8–10 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes and 2 cups broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, adding water by ½-cupfuls if sauce looks dry, until flavors meld and sauce thickens, 2½–3 hours.
5. Let sauce cool, then cover and chill at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.
What You Need:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, warmed
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
How To Make:
1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.
2. Whisk in warm milk, ½-cupful at a time. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until the consistency of cream, 8–10 minutes; add nutmeg and season with salt.
3. Remove from heat, transfer to a medium bowl, and press plastic wrap directly onto surface; let cool slightly.
Third – Assemble the lasagna!
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 13×9” baking dish with butter.
2 Cook your noodles — don’t use the no-boil kind. Be sure to make them al dente. When finished, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Try not to overlap them, or they will stick together.
3. Reheat the sauces if needed. Combine Bolognese sauce and remaining 1 cup broth in a large saucepan over medium heat, and heat until sauce is warmed through.
4. Meanwhile, if you made the béchamel ahead of time, heat in a medium saucepan over low heat just until warmed through (don’t let it boil).
5. Spread 1/4 cup béchamel in the prepared baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles, spread over a scant 3/4 cup Bolognese sauce, then 1/2 cup béchamel, and top with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
6. Repeat process 5 to 7 more times, starting with noodles and ending with Parmesan.
7. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake lasagna until bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 50–60 minutes.
8. Let lasagna sit 45 minutes before serving.