Whether you’ll be hosting a crowd or watching solo, Oscar night calls for dinner with a bit of panache.
So let’s reverse engineer this. To help you get in the mood, you’ll want to drink something with bubbles. Sparkling wine is the obvious choice, though don’t forget the sparkling cider for those abstaining. But you don’t have to sip them straight up. Sparkling wine and cider are delicious when doctored.
For either, consider pureeing watermelon, then pouring the puree into ice cube trays and freezing. Drop one cube into each glass, then top with the sparkling beverage. Or for something more wintery, grab a jar of amarena cherries, an Italian treat of sour cherries packed in syrup. Drop one into each glass, then fill and sip.
With the drinks sorted, we need something that works with bubbles. Fried food is perfect, but who wants to deep-fry at home? The other happy companion to bubbles is Asian food. So I created a simple teriyaki chicken that is served in lettuce wraps. The recipe comes together quickly, but has wonderful savory, yet light, flavors that work perfectly with your cocktails.
TERIYAKI CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS
Start to finish: 20 minutes
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 medium carrots, cut into chunks
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cool water
1 head Boston lettuce, separated into leaves (or similar broad, tender lettuce)
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic powder, hot sauce and fish sauce. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine the carrots and onion. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the chicken, then pulse several times to begin chopping the chicken. Add the sauce, then continue pulsing just until the chicken is well chopped, but not ground. The pieces should be about ¼ to ½ inch.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring often and breaking up any clumps, until cooked through, about 8 minutes. In a small glass, stir together the cornstarch and water, then add to the skillet. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to one side of a serving platter. Arrange the lettuce leaves on the other side. Diners help themselves by spooning the chicken into individual leaves, using the leaves as they would a sandwich wrap.
Nutrition information per serving: 190 calories; 60 calories from fat (32 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 70 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 18 g protein; 460 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at www.twitter.com/JM_Hirsch. Email him at email@example.com.