Friday, March 1, 2013

Holy cats! The Oscar Dinner!

So! Every year since 2004, I've made a post detailing who's gonna win the Oscars and who I think should win. I generally do 10 categories (I don't see documentaries or shorts, and I wouldn't know how to call sound mixing anyway). In recent years, as you can see here, we've also done an Oscar dinner with one dish per Best Picture nominee.

Thing is, this year I didn't get to the Oscar post at all (I started it, but I was cooking all day Sunday and never finished, and my predictions were off anyway). So here's the menu and the cooking process.

  • Amour: Frisse salad with mushrooms and poached egg.
  • Argo: Maple-glazed "sitting" duck.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: Fried gator bits with remoulade and hushpuppies.
  • Django Unchained: Asparagus with tarragon vinaigrette and hazelnuts.
  • Les Miserables: "Red and black" cake (chocolate cake with raspberry filling).
  • Life of Pi: Lentil cakes with a cucumber/cumin raita.
  • Lincoln: "Emancipated" bison stew (free range, you see). 
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Crabby snacks.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: Chocolate-dipped ice cream cones.
We actually started Saturday, making what we could. First thing we did was make the raita for the lentil cakes, since that would keep overnight in the fridge. This involved chopping up cucumber, cilantro, parsley: 

Various green things.

And then toasting and grinding up cumin seeds.

Yeah, baby. You'll be cumin.

Grind, grind.
And then stirred in yogurt and lemon juice and stuff.

Note the gutted cucumber in the bowl on the bottom.
Oh, somewhere in here we roasted garlic, too. That was to top the lentil cakes. And then I also cut up a bunch of veggies and cut the bison into chunks, so as to save time with the stew the next day.

"Garlic" has less sexy wordplay than "cumin."
So Saturday morning, we got up and immediately started the stew. Since it was morning, we didn't think to grab the camera until the stew was already going, but there was a lot of dutch oven cookery going on.


God, I love slow cookers. 
And the, raspberries into the saucepan, so that Michelle could make the filling for the bleeding heart cake. Now let me tell ya: This cake was a bitch, man. The filling was fine (we cooked it forever and eventually wound up getting it to a thickness we liked).

DARK RASPBERRIES.

Michelle, stirring patiently. 
But then when the cakes came out, they fell apart. Balls. So we put those, devoid of shape, into a tupperware and called it a day (and have been snacking on them randomly ever since; I also used it to make a chocolate chili sauce the other night).

Well, balls.
 Next batch looked better! I took a picture while they were cooling.

You'll come out right, right? Right?
While they cooled, I chopped up mushrooms and got them in roasting. This is notable in that I don't actually like mushrooms, but the salad sounded good from an intellectual standpoint.

Roast, little fungi, roast. 
 We popped the cakes out and...

GOOD ENOUGH.
...they mostly didn't fall apart. There was enough of a canal to fill them with sauce, so we did.

Michelle was very concerned that her cakes would not be well-received. 

But c'mon, look at that. 
Duck takes a long time to cook, if you do it right (here's the recipe I use).

Duck in its natural state.
Oh, wait, had to get the cake assembled...

If it seems like we're disorganized, holy shit, you have no idea.

Right, back to the duck.
Cutting off excess skin, which is then rendered down for fat.

Scoring the skin.

Aw, they look like...little...butchered...ducks.
Duck goes in the oven for four freaking hours, flipped every hour. Meanwhile, Michelle made a chocolate buttercream and iced the cake.

"Spackled together," "iced," what difference. 

Right, ice cream cones! Now, we could have bought cones, but y'know, fuck that. That's for wimps. So we made, basically, crepes, and I put Cheyenne to work rolling them up. They actually solidified right away.

Cheyenne, deftly rolling. 

Me, making crepes.

Cheyenne and her handiwork. 

Just her handiwork.
So then we filled the cones with Jeni's Splendid ice cream (specifically roasted pear and reisling sorbet), and put them in the freezer to...um...freeze.

Michelle, makin' cones. 
 Oh, about now the ducks came out, begging to be flipped over.

How can you refuse?
Then, a little later, we pulled the ice cream cones out so that we could chocolate dip them. Michelle had made a chocolate sauce, and I'd roasted some hazelnuts for the asparagus, so we rolled half of them in those, too.

Chocolate! Nuts! 
As they were doing that, I was assembling the mix for the lentil cakes. We'd had lentils and mung beans soaking all day, so I combined those with garlic and parsley and rice and mixed...

See? This all happens at once.
 And then I...um. What the hell was in that bowl? I don't remember now.

I seriously look like I'm about to cut somebody's face, but I'm not. 

Well, whatever. Actually that might have been the glaze for the duck. I made that - maple syrup, orange juice, honey, cooked down, then the ducks came out and I glazed 'em.

The kitchen smelled amaaaazing. 
But no rest for the wicked, no sleep till Brooklyn. Had to make alligator, too. So I cut the meat up, and put it in a bowl of buttermilk, and Cheyenne mixed flour and Cajun seasoning and dredged the gator bits. From there they were into the fryer.

Cheyenne, dredging. 
So at this point we kinda lose pictures, but the gators got fried, then I made hushpuppies (corn meal, eggs, milk), put the lentil cakes in to fry up, and other folks got working on the table. I also toasted English muffins for the crabby snacks, poached eggs for the salads (which, even with mushrooms, came out amazing), steamed and shocked and dressed the asparagus, and didn't strangle anyone.


Which is actually really hard to photograph. 

But here's one half. 

And here's the other. 

So there! Another successful Oscar dinner. Best food, for my money, was the gator bits, the salad and the ice cream cones. Everything was good, though.