When we think about the Academy Awards, we think about those four famous words first uttered by the inimitable Joan Rivers in 1995: “Who are you wearing?” Though that phrase has become something of a term of endearment, we wanted to shift the spotlight away from extravagant dresses and gowns and instead focus on the food eaten at the viewing parties of ordinary people. That said, we wanted to keep things elegant and classy—the occasion calls for elegant and classy, after all—so don’t be surprised that there’s a bit of a French connection running through our menu.
Authentic Baguettes with Black Olive Tapenade
For a homemade baguette that rivals the best from Parisian boulangeries, we took a trip to France to learn firsthand what it takes. For an appetizer that will make you feel like an American in Paris (or at least an American in Provence) we spread rich, briny black olive tapenade on top of slices of crusty, wheaty baguette. Yum.
Basic Tossed Green Salad
A leafy green salad with red wine vinaigrette is a vital recipe to have in your arsenal. This basic salad consists of a mix of well-chosen greens tossed with a light vinaigrette that’s neither harsh nor oily. Leafy green salads sound simple, but in reality, the dressing often soaks the greens, resulting in a muddy salad that’s too acidic from the vinegar. With the right mix of salad greens—we like a combination of mild, delicate greens and peppery greens—and a mild vinaigrette, this leafy salad makes the perfect complement to any main dish.
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While this soup might just be your starter, it might also stop the show entirely. (Because it’s really, really, ridiculously good looking.) For a creamy cauliflower soup without cream, we relied on cauliflower’s low insoluble fiber content to produce a velvety smooth puree. To ensure that cauliflower flavor remained at the forefront, we cooked the cauliflower in seasoned water (instead of broth), skipped the spice rack entirely, and bolstered the soup with sautéed onion and leek. Pro tip: Save some of that baguette you made for dipping in the soup.
French-Style Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados
Pork and apples is a classic, but usually everyday, pairing. We turned to the French (again) recipe for porc à la Normande to inspire a more elegant rendition. Using thick bone-in chops allowed us more leeway to avoid overcooking, while salting them an hour before cooking helps keep them moist. For a sauce with layered apple flavor, we rely on a combination of sweet cider, cider vinegar, Calvados, and a few chopped apples, which break down and help produce the right texture. Butter gives the sauce richness, while chicken broth and bacon lend a balancing savoriness. We found that flambéing the sauce is critical to creating an elegantly complex sauce, and doing it in two batches kept the job easy. Also, flambéing provides your party guests with an added degree of theatrics, which is appropriate given the occasion.
Perfect Latin Flan
Latin American flan should be a dense but creamy custard, but the high-protein canned milks that recipes call for can make it rubbery. It can also bake unevenly, and the caramel tends to stick to the pan rather than pour out when you unmold the custard. To ensure even baking, we bake our flan at a low temperature, covered to keep any skin from forming. We also use a combination of canned and just a little fresh milk to produce a custard with a creamy but sturdy texture. Finally, an overnight rest and adding extra water to the finished caramel allows the release of plenty of caramel sauce. Plus, this golden-brown dessert would look perfect paired with an Oscar.
What’s on the menu for your Oscars viewing party? Let us know in the comments!