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Oscar Worthy: 3 Dishes From Wolfgang Puck's Kitchen to Yours

Wolfgang Puck Rodrigo Vaz/FilmMagic

This year marks Wolfgang Puck's 20th year catering the Governors Ball, one of the biggest Oscar after-parties. Being a star chef and chef to the stars, a lot rests on his shoulders and this year is quite the milestone for him. What are they eating these days? Any new diets? Which classic faves are keepers?  Perhaps some comfort food to those in need of comfort (ouch!)? Like a true host, Mr. Puck intends to make everyone feel at home—for decadence seekers, there are will be chocolate to bite, dip or sink into, for those seeking predictability, he will serve up his staples like chicken pot-pie and for those on juicing and vegan diets—the options will be ample.

Hosting your own Oscar party this year? You too can be a crowd pleaser with these three Wolfgang Puck recipes for The Governors Ball 2014.

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CARROT-ORANGE GAZPACHO

Servings: 16, 1 1/2 ounces each

Refreshing two-sip chilled soup as guests walk in will freshen them right up. Feel free to use a good bottled fresh organic carrot, apple, and orange juice available at your local health shop markets. Or, throw in to an electric juice extractor. Serve cold by shaking it with ice in a cocktail shaker.

2 cups fresh organic carrot juice

1/2 cup fresh organic apple juice

1/2 cup fresh organic orange juice

Thin slices fresh carrot or apple, for garnish (optional)

Combine the juices in a nonreactive pitcher or jar. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, until well chilled.

Meanwhile, put 16 shot glasses, about 2 ounces each, on a tray. Chill in the freezer.

Just before serving, remove the pitcher or jar from the refrigerator and the glasses from the freezer. Briefly stir the juice and then pour about 1 1/2 ounces into each shot glass. If you like, garnish with carrot or apple slices. Serve immediately.

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WILD RICE AND FARRO SALAD WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE

Servings: 8

Delight your vegans guests with this delicious, colorful and satisfying salad for your Governors Ball.

1 1/2 cups raw wild rice (40 to 45 minutes, until puffed open; fluff and 5 minutes longer)
9 cups good-quality canned vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups raw farro (25 minutes cooking, covered)
Sherry Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Butternut Squash Puree (recipe follows)
1/2 lemon
3 Granny Smith apples
1 small fennel bulb
4 raw baby beets
2 navel oranges
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 Brussels sprouts
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

First, start cooking the wild rice. Put the rice in a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Transfer the rice to a 6-quart saucepan and add 4 1/2 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the wild rice until the grains are tender and look puffed open, 40 to 45 minutes. Uncover the pan, gently fluff the rice with a fork, and then cover and steam for about 5 minutes longer.

About 20 minutes after the wild rice starts cooking, begin cooking the farro. Put the farro in a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Transfer the farro to a 6-quart saucepan and add the remaining 4 1/2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the farro until the grains are tender, about 25 minutes.

When both the wild rice and the farro are done cooking, transfer each to a separate nonreactive bowl. Leave both to cool to room temperature.

Make the Sherry Vinaigrette (recipe follows). Stir it well and then divide evenly between the bowls of cooled wild rice and cool farro. With a fork, thoroughly toss the grains in each bowl with the vinaigrette. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Begin making the Butternut Squash Puree (recipe follows).

While the squash is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Begin by filling three mixing bowls with ice cubes and water. Squeeze the lemon into 1 of the bowls.

Core the Granny Smith apples. With a mandolin or sharp knife, carefully cut the apples into very thin, round slices. Immerse the apple slices in the bowl of ice water with the lemon juice.

With the knife, trim the top and bottom of the fennel bulb, removing protruding stalks. With the mandolin or knife, cut the fennel bulb into very thin, round cross-section slices. Immerse the fennel slices in another bowl of ice water.

 With the knife, trim the tops and bottoms from the beets. Scrub the beets dry with a kitchen brush, rinsing well. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. With the mandolin or knife, cut the beets into very thin, round slices. Immerse the beet slices in another bowl of ice water.

With a sharp, serrated knife, peel each orange thickly enough to remove not just the white peel but also the outer membranes of the fruit segments beneath. Then, holding the peeled orange over a bowl, cut between the fruit of each segment and the membrane on either side to free the segment, letting it drop into the bowl. Set the segments aside.

Trim the stalk ends of the Brussels sprouts. With your fingers, carefully separate and remove the leaves from each sprout, keeping them whole and stopping when you get down to the tight core of smaller leaves that can no longer be separated easily. Reserve the cores for another use.

Heat a medium sauté pan, over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and, as soon as it is hot enough to swirl freely in the pan, add the Brussels sprout leaves and sauté them, stirring continuously, until they begin to turn a light golden color, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

When the squash puree is completed, assemble the salads.

First, separately and thoroughly drain the apples, fennel, and beets, patting all the slices dry with paper towels.

Divide the squash puree evenly among 8 serving plates, spreading it attractively across the center of each plate with the back of a spoon.

Stir the marinated wild rice and farro mixtures, and divide each among the plates, arranging separate mounds on top of the squash puree.

Over the grains, attractively arrange the apple, fennel, and beet slices, the orange segments, and the Brussels sprouts leaves.

Serve immediately.

SHERRY VINAIGRETTE

Makes just under 1 cup

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sugar
1/2 cup canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
1 small shallot, cut into small dice
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

In a nonreactive mixing bowl, put the vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and a pinch of the sugar. Stir briskly with a wire whisk until the salt and sugar have dissolved.

While whisking briskly, slowly pour in the oil. Stir in the shallot, chives, and thyme. Taste and adjust the seasonings to taste, if necessary, with more salt, pepper, and sugar.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE
Makes about 2 cups

1/2 small butternut squash
1 cup good-quality canned vegetable broth
4 tablespoons almond butter, preferably unsalted
Salt

With a sharp knife, carefully peel the squash. Cut the squash into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Put the sliced squash in a wide, shallow pan with lid. Add the vegetable broth. Cook, covered, over medium heat until the squash is fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain off any remaining stock and put the squash in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade. Pulse the machine until the squash is coarsely pureed. Add the almond butter and pulse until a smooth puree forms. Season to taste with salt, adding it sparingly if you've used salted almond butter. Transfer the puree back to the pan. Cover and keep warm.

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OLD-FASHIONED PRETZEL STICKS AND CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD

Servings: 18

Salty and sweet is certainly an Oscar-winning combination. These warm, golden-brown, crunchy-chewy sticks that are dipped into choco-hazelnut spread are sure go fast at your Oscars bash.

PRETZELS:
Dough:
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm (90°F) water
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Simmering Liquid:
2 quarts water
1/4 cup amber beer (or amber ale or red ale)
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Glazing and Seasoning:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for glazing
1 to 2 tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse sea salt, to taste

For the dough: In a medium bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the water and leave it until cloudy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the buttermilk, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vegetable oil, mixing thoroughly.

Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade. With the motor running, pour in the liquid mixture through the feed tube and process for 2 minutes.

Spray a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Handling the processor blade carefully and using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough from the processor bowl into the mixing bowl. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with the nonstick spray and cover the bowl with it, sprayed side down. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Line 4 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and spray the paper with the nonstick spray. Lightly oil a clean work surface and your hands.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On the work surface, press it into an even 6-inch square. Cut the square into 3 equal pieces 2 inches wide; then, cut these crosswise at 1-inch intervals to make a total of 18 equal pieces.

One at a time, roll each piece back and forth to elongate it into a slender stick 6 to 8 inches long, tapering the stick's ends to points. As they are shaped, arrange the sticks on 2 of the lined baking sheets. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, refrigerate, and leave to rise until they have almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

While the pretzel sticks are rising, place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F. And, in a 10-inch wide stainless-steel pot, combine the simmering ingredients—the water, beer, baking soda, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.

Carefully lift a pretzel stick and slip it into the simmering liquid. Cook for about 15 seconds and then, with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, lift it out and let it drain over the pot before transferring it to one of the remaining lined baking sheets, gently straightening it. Repeat with the remaining sticks.

Brush the tops of the pretzel sticks with vegetable oil and dust them with the pretzel salt or sea salt to taste.

Put 1 sheet of pretzels on the lower oven rack and the other on the upper. Bake until they are evenly chestnut brown, about 15 minutes total, switching the sheets from top to bottom and rotating them front to back halfway through the baking time.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Serve the pretzels warm or at room temperature.          

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD:
1/2 pound shelled raw hazelnuts
9 ounces Guittard Orinoco milk chocolate (38 percent cocoa solids) or other good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
7 ounces Guittard Sur del Lago dark chocolate (65 percent cocoa solids) or other good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup glucose syrup or light corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or pan. Put them in the oven and roast until they smell fragrant, their skins are dark and cracked, and the nutmeats underneath look deep golden brown, about 15 minutes, stirring them 2 or 3 times while they roast. Remove the nuts from the oven and leave them at room temperature until cool enough to handle.

Pour the nuts into the center of a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the nuts to enclose them complete and then rub the nuts thoroughly inside the towel to dislodge their skins. Pick out the nuts, transfer them to the bowl, and carefully shake the skins from the towel into the trash.

When the nuts are completely cooled, put them in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade. Pulse the machine on and off several times to chop them coarsely; then, run the machine continuously until the nuts form a paste. Use a rubber spatula to remove the paste from the processor bowl, transferring it to a bowl. Set aside.

Put both the milk and dark chocolates in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the glucose or corn syrup over them.

In saucepan, warm the cream over medium heat until it reaches a simmer.

Pour the simmering cream over the chocolate in the bowl. With a wire whisk, begin stirring together the melting chocolate and cream in the center of the bowl. As the chocolate begins to blend with the cream, forming a smooth, shiny mixture, stir in more and more chocolate from the sides until the mixture is completely smooth. Add the hazelnut paste and fleur de sel to taste, and continue stirring until the nut paste and the chocolate and cream are completely blended.

Spoon the mixture into individual small serving glasses or bowls or into  1 or more larger serving containers. Leave it to cool and set at room temperature. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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