I love the Academy Awards. I have for a very long time, and I have certain traditions that I try to keep. They are very simple ~ champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Yummers.
A few years ago, I started having people over fo watch the Oscars, and I planned meals in addition to the strawberries, because let’s be honest ~ people get hungry. Three years ago, I did beef tenderloin, Israeli couscous with cinnamon, raisins and pine nuts and I believe asparagus. John did wedge salads to start, with a homemade blue cheese dressing, cherry tomatoes and real crumbled bacon. Two years ago, i made my Monday Night Football Polenta ~ polenta topped with Portobello mushrooms, Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella and yummy red sauce (side note: I’m half Italian, and I most assuredly do not call it gravy). Last year, we did blanched veggies and beef tips with hummus and curry dipping sauce. This year, I decided I wasn’t going to do a big thing ~ I was going to enjoy the Oscars solo (well, with the man and Lucy). And then I got a huge and awesome surprise ~ one of my dearest girl friends and definitely my oldest (since I first moved to my second high school at the tender age of 16) would be staying the night with us, and watching the awards. It’d been awhile since we’d seen each other, so I was super excited.
For the Oscars this year, I went simple again (instead of a three course meal ~ zoinks!). We enjoyed shrimp with curry dipping sauce (one of the man’s ultimate favorites), a cheese plate with smoked salmon and a cream of asparagus soup. My lovely friend is a pescatarian, so no meat, but that was a-okay. The man and I are pretty used to veggie and fish based meals now ~ it’s our new norm.
So, yesterday afternoon, after Mass and Lucy’s walk (which was ridiculously muddy, thus Lucy also got a bath) I got busy prepping for the evening (beginning by recording –just to be safe – all Oscar coverage). First up, chocolate covered strawberries. Last year, we invested in a glass bowl to create our double boiler, and I have to say, it has made all the difference in melting chocolate. My first two years, I used one of my metal mixing bowls, and I’m not sure if it just got way too hot, or if it didn’t hold the heat as evenly, but glass is by far superior.
Next up (after making John’s Curry Dipping Sauce), I began the Cream of Asparagus Soup. Not hard at all, but a couple of steps, so I referred back to the recipe a lot! Bonus ~ there were additional directions for switching up the featured veggie, so I’m looking forward to making some other soups before the weather warms up.
What I used:
3 cups fresh asparagus, cut in 1/2 inch pieces (about 1 lb)
2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
1 close crushed garlic
3/4 fresh chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp all-purpose flour (I used gluten-free, King Arthur brand)
2 cups skim milk (or low-fat)
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
What I did:
1. In a large saucepan, I combined the asparagus, stock, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. I brought it to a boil, then reduced it to a simmer, and allowed it to cook for about 10-15 minutes.
2. Once the asparagus had significantly softened, I transferred the mixture to my food processor, and blended until it was smooth.
3. Meanwhile, I added the flour to the now empty saucepan, and slowly added the milk, whisking as I went. Then I poured the pureed asparagus in, added the nutmeg, lemon zest and salt, and brought it back to a boil, stirring constantly.
4. I immediately reduced it to a simmer again, and allowed it to cook for about five more minutes. Then I served with a few roasted asparagus tips as garnish.
It was a feast, despite our best efforts to keep it simple. And to finish it all off, we sat down to watch the awards with my tradition ~ chocolate covered strawberries and bubbles (even though this year, I had Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider mixed with tonic instead of the real stuff! I always forget about special occasions when I give things up for Lent!).
I thought the Awards were great, Seth McFarlane was a fun host, the winners were deserving and the entire night a triumph. A few of my favorite moments … Jennifer Hudson singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” (Wow. She continues to amaze me. She rocks) … the cast of “Les Miserables” singing (Chills. I got chills. For real. I’m such a musical theatre nerd!) … Daniel Day-Lewis’ acceptance speech (perfection!) … “Argo” winning best picture, and everything Ben Affleck said. But especially his commentary on marriage (which, anyone with half a brain knows is the truth ~ I’ve read some of the feedback and wow people, way to focus on the negative) and some of his last words, which have become, over the past few years, my personal motto.
It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. It’s that you get back up.
He’s walking proof of perseverance, and I thought “Argo” was a brilliantly constructed film ~ a beautiful balance of historical events, suspense and comedy, woven together with a thoughtful soundtrack and beautiful camera work and editing. The acting ~ while not on the level of “Silver LInings Playbook” (um, seriously, everyone should see it because it is a tour de force of amazing work by all four leads and an awesome supporting cast) paid homage to the fact that each was portraying a real person, and together made it a strong ensemble piece. Even now, having watched it twice, I am stunned that the mission existed, but even moreso that it worked.
In the end, the 86th Oscars were very satisfying, and I enjoyed every minute.