Like Seth MacFarlane, and the Oscar ceremony itself, our Oscar menu was just a little too ambitious. Considering there were only three of us in attendance -- me, my husband, my friend Erin -- perhaps three appetizers, a main course and dessert (plus cocktails) was a bit much. Luckily, the dress code was "yoga chic," and I assure you -- those elastic waistbands came in handy.
But of course, I'm still in the afterglow of purchasing The Smitten Kitchen, and combined with my ongoing obsession with the vegetable orgy that is Plenty, we created a menu that ultimately sent poor Erin home early in the throes of an early-onset food hangover.
On the Menu:
Appetizers • Bruschetta on Artisana Bread • Fried Leeks with Marinated Red Peppers and Crème Fraîche Dipping Sauce (à la Plenty) • Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Portobellos (à la Plenty)
Main Course Marinated Pork Loin with Smashed Horseradish Parsnips (pork and parsnips purchased at Urban Harvest; parsnip recipe a la Smitten Kitchen)
Dessert "Chipwich" cookies with Chocolate Chip Cookies from Freebirds (thanks, Erin!)
Even if our attire was less than elegant, the food was fantastic. As always, my favorite dish eluded the camera because it was gone as soon as it hit the table. I had wavered between the Fried Leek recipe and a couple of recipes for leek fritters, but Fried Leeks won in the end because I'm lazy and they were less work. Also, I'm a sucker for any sour cream-like dip. Bruschetta is kind of a go-to, and since we had tomatoes and an eight-dollar loaf of bread on hand, it seemed like a good way to showcase both ingredients. (I wouldn't spend eight dollars on bread every day, but this loaf, from Artisana, was a lovely treat; a splurge, and a delightful one.)
Josh picked out the cheese-stuffed mushroom recipe, which, between the mushroom and the cheese, was so rich, it deserved a place as a main course. These mushrooms, paired with a very light salad, would be a dinner unto themselves. The stuffing was quite simple: celery, fresh herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, onion and cheese.
Josh took charge of the main course, marinating the pork loin for several hours in the juice of one lime, one Meyer lemon and a variety of fresh herbs. He seared the outside and cooked the pork in the oven, while he smashed the parsnips (plus a few potatoes, which we all agreed made the dish a little too starchy and rich) with butter, salt, pepper and horseradish. Smashed parsnips with horseradish are officially my New Favorite Food -- you must eat this now. The pork was served atop the parsnips, with just a drizzle of the pan drippings.
Erin brought over huge chocolate chip cookies and ice cream, which she assembled into delicious weapons of mass destruction, rendering all three of us mute until 10:30 p.m., at which point Erin turned to me and said, "Dude, I gotta go home. I'm not going to make it." I haven't talked to her yet, but I know she is going to be bummed when I tell her Jennifer Lawrence tripped on her way up the stairs to receive her Best Actress award -- Erin is going to be disappointed she missed that.
So do tell, what was on your Oscar menu? I've learned my lesson, and in the future, whether the crowd is three or 30, small plates or a big meal are the way to go. Right now I have a kitchen full of dirty dishes and leftovers to attend to -- but first, a recipe.
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Hey, remember when I said this was less work than Leek Fritters? I lied, because this recipe has three components: the leeks, the dipping sauce and the marinated red peppers. Enjoy!
• Chop off green tops of leeks, cut whites into 1-inch chunks. Wash the outside, set aside. • In a small saucepan combine one red pepper cut into quarter-inch strips, add one cup water, 6 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 10 pink peppercorns, pinch salt, half teaspoon coriander seeds, 3 cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, simmer for about 20 minutes until peppers are soft. Remove from heat and let cool. • Drop chopped leeks into boiling water for about 15 minutes. (This will clean dirt & debris out from the layers, as well.) Remove from water onto a town and let dry. • While leeks dry, combine 7 ounces of crème fraiche, chopped scallions (I used a lot of dill instead), 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, a dash of white pepper (I used black), a pinch of salt. Set aside. • In one dish beat an egg with a bit of salt, in another combine panko bread crumbs with a bit of salt. Heat oil (sunflower, or canola) for frying. When oil comes to temperature, roll leek segments in egg, then breadcrumbs, and fry for about 30 seconds per side until golden; transfer to paper towel to dry. • You can serve leeks individually dressed with dip and peppers with a scallion garnish, or separately and let your guests assemble themselves (my preference).