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?
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.
When I grow up I want to be like Paola Navone. The renowned artist and designer exudes warmth and a love a life that is evident in all her work, whether it be Anthropologie’s vibrant color-pop bedding, overly-tufted, welcoming sofas or her new vibrant and playful pieces at Crate & Barrel. She’s also a not-to-be overlooked Italian who gained prominence in the male-dominated design space, and displays a short hairstyle and a prominent nose that I can’t help but identify with. If I can’t grow up to be like her, perhaps we could have dinner one day?
I’m not sure how or when that may happen, but in the meantime I am going to take some inspiration from Crate & Barrel and channel a little Paola for my gatherings this fall. She’s created three collections all centered around entertaining.
The Como collection features bold blue on white designs with organic swirls and patterns. It reminds me of dining al fresco in Sicily, with smells of almond pastries mixing with Mediterranean breezes. Splashes of red wake you up.
The Mallorca collection is more calming, with white on white ceramics that have delicate, feminine edges. Aluminum trays with gentle dimples appear ready to elevate any dish.
All three themes bring a worldly sophistication to the table, without being stuffy or too precious. As the holidays encroach it’s easy to get drawn towards Northernly designs, but a few Navone bits sprinkled about will make sure your dinners always have a sunny disposition. Here’s a little peak at the artistry behind the work.
As if her new designs weren’t enough to inspire some noteworthy dinners of our own, Crate & Barrel even offers up a few recipes from the master herself. This one below, pasta with zucchini, in an interesting take on one of my favorites. I would add a sprinkle of crushed pastachios before serving, to give it a final hint of richness.
Pasta with Zucchini by Paola Navone
What You Need:
2 lbs. baby zucchini; no more than 1¼’ in diameter
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup fresh mint (smallest leaves only), thyme, rosemary
Saffron threads, a pinch
Fresh cracked pepper
Ground red pepper
Coarse sea salt
1 lb. uncooked dried mezzi rigatoni – shorter, ridged rigatoni
1/4 cup coarse sea salt to season pasta cooking water
To pass at the table:ricotta di bufala *
** Buffalo milk ricotta is less sweet than cow’s milk ricotta.
How To Make:
1. Wash and drain the zucchini. Slice into ¼-inch-thick “coins” and set aside. If using larger zucchini, slice lengthwise, core out the seeds, then slice.
2. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan over low to medium-low heat. Glaze the pan with olive oil. Add crushed garlic, herbs and saffron to the pan to flavor the oil. (Reserve a small handful of the herbs for garnish.) Stir and cook until the garlic just starts to color and become fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove garlic.
3. Add the zucchini to the pan and season with ground pepper and sea salt. Sear the zucchini until slightly soft and the zucchini begins to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat.
4. Remove ½ of the zucchini mixture; place in a food processor and puree.
5. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the sliced zucchini still in the pan; gently fold in pureed zucchini. Add more olive oil to taste, but sparingly. The consistency of the sauce should be creamy, not thick.
6. Fill a large pasta pot ¾ full with cold water and place over high heat. Add ¼ cup** of course sea salt to water and bring to a rolling boil. Add dried pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente.
7. Drain pasta (reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water) and place in large serving bowl. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
8. If needed, thin zucchini sauce with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add zucchini sauce to pasta and toss gently. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately. Pass ricotta di bufala for guests to stir into their pasta, to taste.
Note: This post is sponsored by Crate & Barrel.
It seems like ages since we’ve visited the regal halls of Downton Abbey. We’ve gotten over the devastation of last season‘s tragic ending, and are ready to don our long white gloves and lift our pinky fingers with the Crawley clan once more: Season four kicks off on PBS this Sunday, January 5th. To celebrate, we thought it might nice to add a little faded Edwardian charm to our homes — or menus. Here are a few ways you can give your own abbey a bit of Downton-ness.
1. Have a proper cup of tea like Lady Mary.
It amazes us how many people in America don’t know how to make a proper cup of tea. Restaurants are the worst culprits when they bring the teapot full of water and a cup with unopened tea bag on the side. You have to pour the boiling water directly onto the teabag, people! In the teapot! Also, as recommended at Yorkshire Tea‘s site, you should use two teabags per four cup pot. Let the tea brew about five minutes before serving. Having a dainty little cup like Mary’s to sip out of is nice as well. This Noritake Crestwood Gold China set has a very similar elegance.
2. Bake yourself a Bundt cake in a beautiful vintage pan.
The wall of copper cake and tart molds on display in the Downton Kitchen is enviable, but you can start your own today but doing a simple search on Etsy. Acquiring the pan is only half the step. Next you need to whip a lovely cake like Daisy, above. We have some favorites, like this peaches and cream cake, but this ginger one made with molasses and stout by Melissa Clark has been on our bake-soon list for sometime. How very, very British!
3. Dine by candelabra light.
Few things could transport us to post-War England more than dining table lit by candelabra’s. This set from Hawksworth Eyres & Co are heirloom quality. But for a quick fix that won’t break the bank, try this one from Food Service Warehouse for less than $60.
Are you having a Downton viewing party at your home? Tell us how you are celebrating and what you’re looking forward to in the next season. For more inspiration, see our previous Downton posts here.
Lets face it. We don’t make cocktails nearly enough at home. Sure, we serve beer and uncork wine bottles a couple times a week, but when was last time you got out the cocktail shaker and mixed one up? One of our (more fun) resolutions for 2014? Make more cocktails! Starting tonight, with New Year’s Eve 2013. On our bar menu is an old favorite with a slight twist, and a fancy little number that puts the same bottle of cognac to use. Helping us along the way is a new site and subscription service called Julibox. If you subscribe to Julibox for about $40 a month, you will get a box mailed to you that has the fixings for four cocktails plus recipes. (True, a bit expensive for four drinks you make yourself, but a nice gift idea for those want to move beyond craft beer of the month!) These aren’t just any recipes, but recipes that have been developed and heartily tested by expert curators, including Paul Sevigny, a well known Miami bartender (and Chloe’s brother). What we’re excited about is the idea of a cocktail community that exchanges recipes and tales of mixology, which is what the Julibox site curates. In the spirit of sharing, here are two recipes of theirs, both of which use pear cognac. Cheers — And happy new year!!
Winter Side Car
Side cars are one of our favorite cocktails to drink on a cold blustery night. This version is made with pear cognac (or brandy if you can’t find the cognac) and Disaronno. We’ll make this one in a pitcher — so times it by six!
What you need:
1 3/4 oz Xante Pear Cognac
3/4 oz Disaronno liquor
the juice of one lemon
lemon rind twist
How To Make
1. Rub the a slice of lemon around the rim of a martini glass.
2. Pour a pile of sugar into a saucer plate and dip the glass into it.
3. Pour the cognac and Disaronno into a shaker filled with ice.
4. Squeeze in the lemon juice.
5. Shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds.
6. Strain into the sugar-rimmed glass and garnish with a twist.
Because everyone needs a little bubbly on New Year’s Eve, this lovely drink uses the same cognac as the Winter Side Car, but is topped off with some sparkling wine.
What You Need:
1 3/4 oz Xante Pear Cognac
2 oz brut champagne or sparkling wine
1 tsp of granulated sugar
juice of half a lemon
How To Make:
1. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
2. Add cognac and shake until very cold.
3. Strain into a large coup glass.
4. Top with champagne and garnish with a twist.
This recipe was originally published in 2012, but it is a one of our favorites. Finally something to do with all those gorgeous market pumpkins that doesn’t involve feeding squirrels!
A few weeks ago, we hosted a Halloween-themed party at our place. I was determined to do something inventive with a pumpkin and when I spotted this recipe in Food Network magazine, I had to give it a try. It looked so cheesy and delicious, I knew that if I could pull it off, it’d be a party hit. To make this dip, you have to first make the queso in a pan on the stove, then pour it into a scooped out pumpkin to bake for about an hour. Advance planning is needed. The hardest thing, I realized, was finding the right sized pumpkins. After I made my dip, I poured it into a pumpkin that was much too large. Luckily, I had two smaller ones handy and was able to make a quick switcheroo. The nice thing about having two small pumpkins is that I served one at a time, and reheating number two mid-way through the party was a breeze. It was great to have some cheesy hotness halfway through the night. I also made my recipe slightly less meaty, by using a vegan-based chorizo substitute that we get at Whole Foods. To make it truly vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable stock.
Here’s my take on Pumpkin Queso Fundido
What you need:
2 1-to-2-pound sugar pumpkins
8 ounces chorizo (or veggie) sausage
1 jalapeno pepper (remove seeds for less heat), chopped
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Oaxaca cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
Tortilla chips, for serving
How to make:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice off the tops 1 1/2 of the pumpkins and discard. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp.
2. Heat the chorizo or veggie version in a medium pot over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until browning begins. Add the jalapeno, green chiles, cumin and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the jalapeno softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour is slightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken or veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cheeses. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheese melts and the mixture is creamy, about 3 more minutes.
Place the pumpkin in a small baking dish and fill the pumpkin with the cheese mixture. Add 1 inch of boiling water to the baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese is golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 more minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm with tortilla chips and watch it disappear.
Note: The best part is when you get near the end, and scoop up the baked pumpkin flesh along with the dip. Extra yum!