The Academy Awards show is as famous for its over-the-top production numbers as it is for the glamorous stars who strut their celebrated stuff on the Oscars red carpet. So little surprise that the post-awards party known as the Governors Ball also is a blockbuster event.
With a menu created by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, the celebration immediately following the telecast this Sunday, Feb. 24, is Hollywood excess at its finest: the 1,500 invited guests will have their pick of some 50 bite-sized hors d'oeuvres and small-plate entrees, including 6,500 wood-fired Oscar-shaped flatbreads.
This is Chef Puck's 19th consecutive year devising the ball's environmentally responsible menu, which incorporates local produce and sustainable seafood. And what a meal: In addition to such signature dishes as smoked salmon Oscars, chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles and mini Kobe burgers, party-goers also will nosh on shrimp fritters, duck wontons, Japanese baby peach salad, baked potatoes with caviar, lobster with black bean sauce . . . and the list goes on and on. And that's not counting the more than a dozen desserts from pastry chef Sherry Yard. (Visit www.oscars.org/press/presskits/assets/85/govball-2013-oscar-menu.pdf for a complete menu.)
If the number of offered dishes blows you away, the ingredients list might push you over the top: it includes 5,000 cage-free eggs, 6,000 chestnut tortellini and 600 Maine lobsters, along with 30 pounds of white and black truffles, 1,000 pounds of San Francisco's Guittard bittersweet chocolate and 10 pounds of edible gold dust.
In other words, everyone's going to eat pretty well.
You can, too, if you try one of these Wolfgang Puck recipes, all of which will be served, in one form or another, at the Governors Ball on Sunday. Because really, what fun is watching the Oscars if you can't vicariously participate?
When I was testing these dishes, none of which are particularly low-cal, I have to admit, I had a hard time picturing super-skinny nominees such as Jessica Chastain or Anne Hathaway -- both of whom you just know will be poured into tight-fitting, couture gowns -- actually eating them. Then movie critic Barb Vancheri told me she read somewhere that once the actors are finished posing for pictures in the press room, they whip off their gut-inhibiting Spanx and toss them into the trash can.
I know that sounds a little crazy, but as they say, "That's Hollywood!"
Wolfgang's vegetarian Spring Rolls
These crispy Asian appetizers look a lot more complicated to make than they really are, probably because the list of ingredients is so long. Here's a suggestion: Make the filling ahead of time. That way, you can roll and fry the wrappers in just a few minutes.
The spring rolls are so good, they actually got one of my daughter's friends off her couch and into our kitchen on a Saturday night.
Store any uncooked rolls in the freezer.
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup peanut oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
4 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded
3 tablespoons peanut oil, for stir-frying
1/2 cup onions, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 1/2 cups red bell pepper, julienned
2 cups green cabbage, julienned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces glass noodles, soaked in water for 10 minutes, chopped into smaller strands
1/4 cup mushroom soy sauce
2 tablespoons chili paste
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
To form spring rolls
1 package eggroll wrappers
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon each of water and cornstarch
Peanut oil, for deep-frying
Prepare the aromatic mixture: In a food processor, combine the ginger, garlic, green onions and red pepper flakes. Turn on machine, slowly add oil and process mixture to a puree. Cook mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Set aside.
Prepare the filling: In a wok or heavy skillet, stir fry mushrooms in peanut oil for 30 seconds, then add remaining vegetables and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in noodles, mushroom soy sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, and cilantro. Add aromatics mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool completely. When ready to form the spring rolls, squeeze out all the excess liquid.
To make the spring rolls, place about 1/4 cup of prepared filling per eggroll wrapper. Place filling as per package directions. Roll the wrapper, tuck ends in, and complete as if wrapping a parcel. Seal edges with the egg wash. Repeat the process until all filling is used.
In a heavy deep saucepan, heat oil to 350 degrees and deep-fry spring rolls, 3 or 4 at a time until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with duck or chili sauce, or hot Chinese mustard.
Makes 20 to 24 rolls.
Chinois Chicken Salad with Chinese Mustard Vinaigrette
This easy-to-assemble dish is the signature salad at Wolfgang Puck's fine-dining restaurant Chinois, in Santa Monica. The original recipe calls for roasting a chicken stuffed with finely diced vegetables and herbs, but I was in a hurry. A rotisserie chicken was a fine substitute, and actually was cheaper.
I doubled the vinaigrette recipe (but didn't use it all), and also added more snow peas. Love that crunch!
2 teaspoons dry Chinese or English (Coleman's) mustard
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons light sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 small heads, or 1 medium head Napa cabbage
3-pound rotisserie chicken
1 cup romaine lettuce, cut into 1/4-inch julienne strips
10 snow peas, cut into 1/4-inch julienne strips
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Prepare the vinaigrette. Place all the vinaigrette ingredients, except peanut oil, in a blender and blend until smooth. Add peanut oil slowly and correct the seasonings.
Select 4 to 8 nice-looking leaves from the Napa cabbage and reserve them. Slice the remaining cabbage into 1/4-inch julienne strips.
Shred the meat from the breasts and thighs of the chicken.
Combine the chicken, cabbage, romaine and snow peas in a bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to coat the salad nicely. Serve on top of reserved cabbage leaves, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Serves 4 to 6.
Wolfgang's Classic Chicken Pot Pie
Celebs like to be pampered, so after the 2010 Oscars, Wolfgang Puck served this American classic with shaved black truffles. My family had to settle for crimini mushrooms in the filling, and cheddar in the crust.
I made the pies in brulee ramekins so there'd be individual portions. To save time, make the filling and the pastry the day before you need it. Just remember to heat the filling before topping it with the crust.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons snipped chives
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
For chicken and vegetables
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 stalk celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 pound crimini or shiitake mushrooms, sliced
10-ounce package frozen pearl onions, thawed
3/4 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg with 1 tablespoon water, beaten
Prepare the pastry: Place the flour and chives in a bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cheese and work in until just blended. In a small bowl, whisk together the yolks and 5 tablespoons of the cream. Sprinkle the yolk mixture over the pastry dough, a little at a time, stirring with a fork until pastry comes together. Add remaining cream if necessary. Knead lightly until just combined. Press pastry into a circle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the butter and vegetable oil. Saute the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned but not cooked through. With slotted spoon, remove chicken to bowl.
In the same pan over medium-high heat saute the carrots, celery and mushrooms 5 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove vegetables to another bowl. Stir thawed pearl onions and peas into vegetables.
Prepare the sauce: In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until the mixture is bubbling and smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in stock, cream, and thyme. Return skillet to heat, bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes until sauce has thickened and is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in reserved chicken and vegetables. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon cooled chicken and vegetable mixture into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a circle 11-inches in diameter. Place pastry on top of chicken mixture. Trim pastry edge, fold overhang under and press gently all around baking dish to make a decorative edge. Reroll any trimmings and cut out to make a decorative design for top of pie. Brush pastry with beaten egg wash. Using a knife, cut 3 slits in center of pie.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown, chicken and vegetables are tender and filling is heated through.
Makes 1 large or 6 to 8 individual pies.
I let the dough for this intensely chocolate shortbread chill too long, so when I went to roll it out, it was impossible to work with. My solution was to cut the rock-hard dough into small chunks, and flatten them with the palm of my hand. They weren't perfectly round, or even remotely pretty, but they still were delicious!
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa, sifted
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Cream together the butter and sugar for 5 minutes. Add the cocoa and flour and mix together well until it combines. Allow to rest for 1 hour, covered in plastic.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
With a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into small circles with a cookie cutter. Place on parchment paper on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the sheet and bake another 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
-- All recipes from or adapted from Wolfgangpuck.com
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.