What to serve at this year's Oscar party March 2? I had no clear idea about the right dish until I glanced at a list of the movies in contention.
Gravity was the one that jumped out at me. Watching the trailer, I was a little alarmed at the sight of poor Sandra Bullock floating around in space. But I also was inspired by her weightlessness. It made me think of souffles, which are famously light thanks to all the whipped egg whites in them. Thus, these "anti-gravity" — not "anti-Gravity" — treats.
Still, a problem remained: How to turn a full-blown souffle into a tasty nibble for a party?
The solution: Make each one small enough to fit into a mini phyllo shell, available in the freezer section of your local supermarket. Take them home, fill them and bake them and they're good to go. Even better, each of these little guys is fairly low in calories — no more than 15 calories per shell (fillings, alas, are extra).
And if you can't find the shells, they're easy to make at home. Just stack four sheets of phyllo dough on top of one other, lightly spritzing each sheet with olive oil cooking spray as you stack. Cut the stacked sheets into 3-inch squares, ease the stacks into the cups of a mini muffin pan, then bake at 375 degrees for eight to 10 minutes, or until they're barely golden at the edges. Let them cool before filling and baking.
What about that filling? I considered a chocolate souffle or an orange souffle or a broccoli souffle. But I opted for the lusciousness of a cheese souffle because, after all, we're talking about the Oscars here, which is not exactly a model of restraint. Still, I went with goat cheese, which is relatively lean even as it boasts tangy flavor and creamy texture. I also added some Parmigiano-Reggiano, because even a little delivers big impact.
With the cheeses chosen, making the "cream" sauce was easy: Just thicken some 1 percent milk with a little roux (the classic butter-flour mixture) and flavor it with the cheeses and some Dijon mustard.
And here are a couple of tips about working with those egg whites. First, it's much easier to separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are cold. Second, separate them not by swapping the innards from one cracked egg shell to the other, but with your own (very clean) hands. That way you eliminate the possibility of puncturing the yolks with the sharp edges of the shell.
Once you've got your egg whites, it's best to beat them at room temperature. Beat the whites until they're barely stiff.
When the show, which will air on ABC, is over, don't be surprised if you walk away with an award for Best Appetizer at an Oscar Party.