Emmy-inspired entertaining: in tune with fall

While most of us think of summertime entertaining as smoky, outdoorsy cookouts that stretch from Memorial Day to Labor Day (in the US), planning menus for a more formal event can be challenging, even for seasoned pros. How do you plan a special occasion menu that’s as light and breezy as the summer’s best produce but substantial enough to match the elegance autumn entertaining warrants?

Let’s turn to the fashion world for guidance. Boutiques and department stores offer “transitional” clothing that bridges the gap between summer and fall, where textures stay cool, but the colors warm up. With this in mind, start with your party planning where Hollywood event planners do—with a simple but striking event planned in perfect sync with the change of season and today’s economy.
   The team of decorators, chefs and designers who pulled together the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards Governors’ Ball thought along these lines. As the first major bash of Hollywood’s award season, starting with the Emmy Awards and culminating with the Academy Awards in late winter, these folks were not just in charge of planning a party, but also setting the tone for how Hollywood and the rest of the world will be entertaining through the holidays and into 2012.
   This year, Sequoia Productions’ interior design was built on a not-so-basic black-and-white palette, while Patina Catering goes a “comfort food” route but with a lighter spectrum of color and flavor. Grey Goose Vodka’s top mixologists Ron Patric and Randy Evans follow the chefs’ lead with cocktails refreshing and fruity enough to quench late summer heat, but complex enough to harmonize with the heartier flavors of the main course (filet mignon in a delicate oxtail Bordelaise sauce). Quality beer from Heineken and a first-rate selection of wines from Beaulieu Vineyard tie the rest of the evening together in a way that nicely parallels America’s contributions to television history and the international influences that weave through the best of every season.

 

Outstanding set design

As you can see in the photographs, though the impact of the overall party is sophisticated and refined, its underpinnings are as timeless and basic as it goes, and in a time when people are rediscovering the joys of simplicity. Sequoia’s take on black and white is inspired by the mod–pop art movement of the mid-1960s, where bold shapes and forms play a lead role in table settings and home accents and, therefore, only need a suggestion of sparkle to set the mood.
   The most beautiful thing about Sequoia’s design concept is that you can get the look at home, indoors or out, with well-selected black and white tableware and accent pieces anywhere, from Target to Pier One to Macy’s to Neiman Marcus. The minimalist palette echoes a change of seasons, splicing a fresh, breezy summer white with a rich palate of black, metallic streaks and autumn hues via the main course and dessert that will later accent the plates.
   Accents that will further enhance the pop art–optical illusion impact may include (based on your budget and imagination), strategically placed mirror balls, white-on-white flower arrangements, and gold metal and crystal serving pieces and tableware (a special design nod to Emmy herself!)

 

The opening (cocktail) montage: everyone’s a winner!

The Emmy

1½ oz Grey Goose l’Orange flavored vodka
1 oz Benedictine liqueur
1½ oz ruby red grapefruit juice
½ oz agave syrup
½ oz ginger ale
1 orange wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients except ginger ale in a shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a Collins glass or tall glass with ice. Finish by topping off with ginger ale and orange wheel garnish.

 

Grey Goose basil and lime gimlet

2 oz Grey Goose vodka
¾ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz basil syrup

Basil syrup:
1 c sugar
1 c water
10 large basil leaves

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring about three minutes to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Add basil leaves and let cool. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. Keeps refrigerated for up to three weeks.
   Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add Grey Goose vodka, lime juice and basil syrup. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with basil leaf.

 

Best lead-in performance

Heirloom tomatoes, rosemary and grilled asparagus with fried Yukon gold potatoes

Serves four.

4 pieces of large asparagus, peeled and cut to 4 inch lengths
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1 oz olive oil
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼ in thick
1 basket baby tomatoes, cut in half
1 oz extra virgin olive oil
16 fingerling potatoes
4 oz crème fraiche
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T grilled red onions
1 large Yukon gold potato
Pinch sea salt
Pinch black pepper, ground

Preparation: for the asparagus:

  • Mix asparagus with olive oil and rosemary
  • Grill asparagus over a hot grill
  • Cut asparagus in half lengthwise
  • Season with sea salt and ground black pepper

For the tomatoes:

  • Season heirloom and baby tomatoes with sea salt, ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil

For the potato salad:

  • Place the fingerling potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer
  • Cook fingerling potatoes until cooked through
  • Remove fingerling potatoes from water and peel
  • Slice fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise
  • Mix sliced fingerling potatoes with crème fraiche, mustard and grilled red onions
  • Season with sea salt and ground black pepper

For fried gold potatoes:

  • Peel Yukon gold potato and cut into julienne strips
  • Fry in hot oil at 375°F until golden brown and crisp
  • Season with sea salt

And finally…

  • Place potato salad on to four plates
  • Top with tomatoes and asparagus and fried gold potatoes

 


Best supporting performance: gratin of macaroni with Vermont white cheddar
Serves four.

1 lb of ½ inch Ziti pasta
4 c milk
1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 branch thyme
1 bay leaf
8 T flour
5 T butter
8 slices of Vermont white cheddar

  • Bring milk, shallot, garlic, thyme and bay leaf to a boil
  • Cook Ziti pasta in boiling milk mixture until cooked half way through
  • Remove Ziti pasta and set aside
  • Make a béchamel by cooking flour in melted butter to form a blond roux
  • Add poached milk and simmer
  • Strain béchamel through a fine mesh sieve
  • Coat Ziti pasta with béchamel
  • Lay coated Ziti pasta side by side on a sheet pan and chill
  • When cold, cut into 2½ inch circles
  • Place one slice of white cheddar on circle before placing a second circle of ziti pasta on top
  • Repeat staking once to create a tower
  • Spoon a small portion of béchamel over top of tower
  • Repeat to form four pasta towers
  • Place in oven at 420°F
  • Bake until hot throughout and brown on top

 

Best dramatic presentation

Filet mignon with rainbow baby carrots, caramelized Cipollini onions, broccoli emulsion and oxtail bordelaise
Serves four.

4 T onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 branch of thyme
1 c red wine
1 t Dijon mustard
7 T butter
4 oz oxtail, shredded and cooked
1½ filet mignon
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of black pepper, ground

For oxtail bordelaise:

  • Sauté onions over low heat for 2 minutes
  • Pour in red wine
  • Add smashed garlic and thyme and raise heat
  • Cook until the wine is reduced by half
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in butter, mustard and oxtail
  • Season with sea salt and ground black pepper

For filet mignon:

  • Season filet mignon
  • Sear in sauté pan over medium heat until outside is brown and caramelized
  • Cook in pre-heated oven at 375°F until internal temperature registers 132°F

* For medium rare, cooking should be approximately 10 minutes.

  • Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes
  • Slice into four portions

Side vegetable ingredients:

4 Cipollini onions
1 head of broccoli
3 T mascarpone
1 T butter
Olive oil, as needed
Cooking salt, as needed
Cooking pepper, as needed
Sea salt, as needed

For onions:

  • Sear onions in a touch of olive oil until well caramelized
  • Cover with foil
  • Place in oven at 275°F until soft

* Approximately 30 minutes.

For broccoli:

  • Place broccoli in boiling salted water until cooked through
  • Remove from boiling water and place in ice water to stop cooking process
  • Puree in food processor with mascarpone and butter
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Reheat in small saucepot
  • Season with sea salt

For carrots:

  • Place carrots in boiling salted water until cooked through
  • Remove from boiling water and place in ice water to stop cooking process
  • Reheat in small pan with touch of olive oil, salt and pepper


Best ensemble cast

Truffle cake pops

Triple orange liqueur truffle pop ingredients:

2 c baked Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate Cake Mix Crumbs
¼ c ganache (see instructions below)
1 T diced candied orange peel
1 T blood orange frozen puree
½ T oz Grand Marnier liqueur
14 oz coating chocolate (we recommend Wilton Candy Melts)

Ganache ingredients and instructions:

¼ c cream
¼ c bittersweet chocolate (recommended: Cœur de Gunaja by Valrhona)

In a medium pan, bring cream to a simmer; remove from the heat, add chocolate, and stir to blend.

  • Bake Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate Cake Mix as directed on the back of the box in a 13 by 9 cake. Allow to cool completely.
  • Crumble cake up into a large bowl.
  • Add prepared ganache, orange peels, Grand Marnier and orange purée and stir until incorporated.
  • Roll mixture into walnut-sized cake balls and transfer to a wax paper lined baking cookie sheet. Make sure balls are tightly packed and look smooth with no cracks.
  • Transfer cookie sheet with cake balls to freezer or refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Place coating chocolate in a small, deep microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring each time until completely melted. The melted coating should coat a spoon but will still be able to slowly drip off. If coating is too thick, add shortening or vegetable oil ½ teaspoon at a time. Do not exceed 2 teaspoons per 16 oz of coating or the cake pops will crack.
  • Remove cake balls from freezer. Dip tips of lollipop sticks into coating chocolate and insert sticks into cake balls no more than halfway into center. Let them set for 1 to 2 minutes, resting on the cake ball, sticks in the air.
  • Pick up cake pop by the stick and dip into the coating chocolate. Gently tap stick against the side of bowl and rotate cake pop to help excess coating fall back into bowl. (Reheat and/or melt more glace as needed).
  • Poke stick of cake pop into Styrofoam block to stand up straight and dry completely, about 5 minutes.

 

Chocolate almond truffle pop

10½ oz baked Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate Cake Mix Crumbs
1/3 c ganache (see instructions below)
¼ c almond butter
14 oz coating chocolate (we recommend Wilton Candy Melts)

Ganache ingredients and instructions:

1 c heavy cream
1 c bittersweet chocolate
1 t fresh orange zest

In a medium size pan, bring the cream to a simmer and add the orange zest. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and stir to incorporate.

  • Bake Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate Cake Mix as directed on the back of the box in a 13 by 9 cake. Allow to cool completely.
  • Crumble cake up into a large bowl.
  • Add prepared ganache and almond butter and stir until incorporated.
  • Roll mixture into walnut-sized cake balls and transfer to a wax paper-lined baking cookie sheet. Make sure balls are tightly packed and look smooth with no cracks.
  • Transfer cookie sheet with cake balls to freezer or refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Place coating chocolate in a small, deep microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring each time until completely melted. The melted coating should coat a spoon but still be able to slowly drip off. If coating is too thick, add shortening or vegetable oil a teaspoon at a time. Do not exceed 2 teaspoons per 16 ounces of candy coating or the cake pops will crack.
  • Remove cake balls from freezer. Dip tips of lollipop sticks into the coating chocolate and insert sticks into cake balls no more than halfway into center. Let them set for 1 to 2 minutes, resting on the cake ball, sticks in the air.
  • Pick up cake pop by the stick and dip into chocolate pate glaze. Gently tap stick against side of bowl and rotate cake pop to help excess coating fall back into bowl. (Reheat or melt more glace as needed.)
  • Poke stick of cake pop into Styrofoam block to stand up straight and dry completely, about 5 minutes

Raspberry red velvet truffle pop

2¾ c Baked Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake crumbs
1 T Duncan Hines butter cream frosting
1 t Chambord raspberry liquor
1/3 puréed Comstock or Wilderness raspberry pie filling
14 oz white coating chocolate (we recommend Wilton Candy Melts)

  • Bake Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix as directed on the back of the box in a 13 by 9 cake. Allow to cool completely.
  • Crumble cake up into a large bowl.
  • Soften glace in microwave for 10 seconds.
  • Add softened frosting, Chambord and pureed Comstock or Wilderness raspberry pie filling and stir until incorporated.
  • Roll mixture into walnut-sized cake balls and transfer to a wax paper lined baking cookie sheet. Make sure balls are tightly packed and look smooth with no cracks.
  • Transfer cookie sheet with cake balls to freezer or refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Place white coating chocolate in a small, deep microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring each time until completely melted. The melted coating should coat a spoon but still be able to slowly drip off. If coating is too thick, add shortening or vegetable oil half a teaspoon at a time. Do not exceed two teaspoons per 16 ounces of candy coating or the cake pops will crack.
  • Remove cake balls from freezer. Dip tips of lollipop sticks into white pate glace and insert sticks into cake balls no more than halfway into center. Let them set for 1 to 2 minutes, resting on the cake ball, sticks in the air.
  • Pick up cake pop by the stick and dip into white pate glaze. Gently tap stick against side of bowl and rotate cake pop to help excess coating fall back into bowl. (Reheat or melt more glace as needed.)
  • Poke stick of cake pop into Styrofoam block to stand up straight and dry completely, about 5 minutes

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