, Newburyport, MA


February 22, 2012

Another star at your Oscar party

Having an Oscar party? Trying to decide what should be on the menu? Here's a simple but spectacular appetizer.

People often pay homage to Oscar-nominated movies with thematic food inspired by the hits. But I prefer to pay homage to Wolfgang Puck, who for years has been the official caterer for the Governor's Ball post-Oscar bash.

Despite being born and raised in Austria, Puck generally is regarded as one of the forefathers of California cuisine. I remember going to his restaurant, Spago, years ago when it was the hottest table in Beverly Hills. I'd be lying if I didn't 'fess up to going in part to check out the star-studded scene, but mostly I went for the famed smoked salmon pizza.

And it didn't disappoint; that pizza is still one of my favorite food memories. The simple goodness of a wood-grilled pizza crust smeared with dill cream and topped with smoked salmon and a garnish of caviar was luxurious and accessible all in one delicious bite.

I've made many of my own riffs on Puck's California culinary style since that first bite. One of my favorites is to take the idea of the classic smoked salmon canape and make it playful. All it takes is a little imagination and a sturdy cookie cutter to make these smoked salmon stars.

This is an Oscar-worthy treat that is appropriate, regardless of your favorite movie or actor. Everyone will love to eat them. They are easy to make — more an assemblage than an actual recipe — making them a good choice for the novice host. And don't put the recipe away once the Oscars are done; the idea is adaptable to every occasion. I frequently make them in the shape of pigs, using a pig cookie cutter, of course.

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