Easy Oscar Party Meal
February 24, 2011 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Help me plan a menu for a small dinner party that I can cook during the Oscars this Sunday.

I am having a small dinner/Oscar-viewing party (very small--there's only 4 of us). In the past few weeks I've seen "theme" recipes everywhere for Oscar parties--e.g. hearty Irish fare (for The Fighter) or trail mix (127 Hours). That's not what I'm looking for. I am looking for recipes that are pretty easy to make and won't keep me in the kitchen (and away from the fun) the whole time (this ends up happening to me a lot in these situations because I get overly ambitious and attempt labor-intensive food). I don't want to have to cook everything and have people eat before the thing starts (I'm on the west coast so it starts at 5)--just something I can get mostly-ready beforehand, stick in the oven, check now and then, and pull out and have it ready-to-eat. Bonus points for stuff involving seasonal fruits/veggies I can pick up at the farmer's market, and any veggie options (one of us is a vegetarian).
posted by lovableiago to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Whatever you make, use a crock pot. :)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:45 AM on February 24, 2011

I don't have one!! Should have said that as a crock pot would have made sense.... :(
posted by lovableiago at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2011

An enormous and delicious vegetable lasagna?
posted by unlaced at 11:53 AM on February 24, 2011

Chili? (Assuming you have a pot enough bigger than the amount of chili you want to make that you won't have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't boil over. I say this because this happens when I make chili.)
posted by madcaptenor at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2011

I've made this mushroom lasagna for a small dinner party, and it was a hit. You can assembe the lasagna ahead of time, then pop it in the oven when the show starts. Serve it with a nice salad with seasonal vegetables, and maybe pick up (or make ahead) a loaf of crusty bread, and you're set. If you are serving dessert, just toss some fresh berries with sugar and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (trust me, it's wonderful), and serve with whipped cream. (Whip the cream with a splash of vanilla and a little sugar, if you like.)
posted by Spinneret at 11:59 AM on February 24, 2011

posted by Spinneret at 11:59 AM on February 24, 2011

Crock pots are really damn cheap. You can find one at your local big box store or megamart for $30. I bought this one as a stop gap when my oven fatally broke until the replacement came in. And even with the oven, I still use it at least once a week - more in cold weather.

Ignore recipes that you see that start with a couple cans of Cream of Mushroom/Celery soup.

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker is a great book to have with it.

You want a meal or food items that let you front load your preparation, and this is exactly what a slow cooker does - forces you to really.

Casseroles or stews do the same thing.

You might consider braising a corned beef brisket as a main dish. You slow cook it in the oven for 5+ hours. Slice and serve when it's done. I'd also layer some sliced carrots in there and use a good ale for the braising liquid.
posted by plinth at 12:36 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sous vide, sous vide, sous vide. Here's the Metafilter thread on the topic. Basically you put the steak or fish in a Ziplock bag and get the air out. Then you put it in a pot of water at about 135F (never below 130). The next step is to simply wait for 40 minutes, or I believe, up to 3 hours ... it doesn't really matter. The meat comes out absolutely fabulous.

Sous vide cooking is seriously about as easy as putting something in the microwave and the taste is superior to grilling in all respects. The long time frame means you can do other things without having to time the meats. If I have people over, I always do sous vide, it allows me to not have to hover in the kitchen. The only thing you have to check is the temperature to make sure it is between 130-140. I do this usually just once or twice.
posted by geoff. at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2011

You can do anything oven-roasted.
Root vegetables are great in-season for late winter, so anything you can get - potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, beets, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, seriously just about anything - and chop into 1" cubes, toss with olive oil and salt/pepper/herbs.
Some kind of meat for your meat-eaters: pork tenderloin(s) or a chicken both cook in about an hour. Rub with oil and spices.
Put it all in the oven - I'd split the veg between two pans (cookie sheets or 9x13) and set the meat on top of one of them (meat on veg is a good roasting combination, but keep some meat-free). Check the directions for your meat, but pork tenderloin actually cooks slightly faster (45 min) than the veg (1 hr), though 400F is good for both.

Alternately, for fun eating - cheese fondue! chop your bread and veg in advance, grate the cheese in advance. Then melt the fondue, bring it out in the saucepan, and enjoy, maybe put it back on the stove to warm up periodically. Or buy a slow-cooker or fondue pot.
posted by aimedwander at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2011

Every Oscar night my family made tempura during the show. We broke out the electric wok, set it up full of oil on the dining room table (where we have a little TV) with bowls of prawns, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, sweet potato slices, etc., along with a big bowl of batter. Dip the veggie in batter, toss it in the wok for a minute, fish it out, let it sit, and eat. Fun, tasty, and completely vegetarian after the prawns ran out.
posted by theodolite at 1:35 PM on February 24, 2011

Our current favorite dinner party menu--mostly done ahead, smells wonderful, is absolutely delicious--is this recipe for Hunter Chicken. It's actually best (and easiest for the party!) if you make it the night before and reheat it. Serve with soft polenta into which you've folded some grated Fontina and Parmesan cheese, some crusty bread, wine and YUM!
posted by donovan at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2011

Follow-up question for you culinary folks: A couple of these that I've chosen as "best" sound fantastic but they include mushrooms--which are one of the ONLY things I just haven't come around to! I love to cook and always come across recipes that sound great but include mushrooms--does anyone know of a good sub for them? Maybe butternut squash? Their texture is kind of unique (which is actually the main thing I don't like about them.) I guess I could leave them out altogether, but it seems like with a lot of recipes you'd end up lacking mass, so to speak.
posted by lovableiago at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2011

With the mushroom lasagna recipe (smitten kitchen), you could probably sub very thinly-sliced or grated butternut squash. (The slicing/grating part will be a pain, but you can do it a day ahead.) I'd also add some spinach, swiss chard, or escarole (sauté the greens with minced shallots for 3 minutes or so, until wilted, first) in layers with the béchamel, cheese, and squash. I think it would be delicious. Just be sure the squash is cooked through at the end of the baking time.

(Or you could probably use thinly sliced or grated sweet potatoes instead of the mushrooms, which cook a little faster than butternut squash.)

Of course, I'd give this a test run before the event, if that's possible, to make sure it works.

Good luck!
posted by Spinneret at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2011

One component of your meal could be a soup that you just reheat during the event. That way you can prep it ahead of time.
posted by mmascolino at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2011

This Roast Vegetable lasagna is really tasty - best made the day before as the flavours meld more.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:07 PM on February 24, 2011

You could use eggplant as a substitute for mushrooms in the lasagna recipe. Cut off both ends, cut off the skin to make it a little fancy(or leave it if you like it). Chop the whole thing in half so you end up with two pieces that are about as tall as they are round. Cut up the two halves into slices about an eighth if an inch thick(these can go up to about half an inch depending on what you like). Then salt all the pieces on both sides while building an eggplant tower with a paper towel between each layer to remove water. After an hour you can layer these just like you would the mushrooms.
What about the mushroom texture bothers you? In the lasagna recipe you could puree the mushrooms and add them to the bechamel, just watch the liquid, so if you go this route don't use dry mushrooms try to pick some up at your farmers market. You can also put some salt on presliced mushrooms and bake them at about 200 degrees until they get dehydrated and kind of crispy. There's also always the possibility of leaving them out.
I was also coming in here to say roast chicken and root vegetables.
posted by JackarypQQ at 11:06 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

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