Oscars 2014: Despicable Meat Stew

Posted on 04 March 2014

Forget Jennifer Lawrence’s retina-burning red gown, Ellen’s shamelessly promotional tweet, and Kim Novak’s wind-tunnel face. The real excitement was at Oscars Diner, where we partied with Drew Barrymore, Vin Diesel, Heather Locklear, and other beloved B-listers. Okay, they were just autographed 8×10 glossies, but even so they were much more animated than some of the live presenters on TV.

And so what if Oscars Diner was our place decked out with apostrophe-challenged placemats and menus, wrapped straws, and packaged butter pats? Imagine our guests’ reaction when the heavily tattooed cook and gum-chewing waitress (who looked just like us) introduced themselves as Hank and Gladys! I detected mild amusement.

Fortunately, Chris created a fine diversion with American Guzzle, a snappy mix of Ciroc vodka, pineapple and pomegranate juices.

Lynn and Willy’s Cap’n Phillips Pirate’s Booty commandeered the table and kidnapped our appetites. Shrimp, crab cakes, and other seafood delights circled cabbage boats filled with cocktail sauces. Swashbuckling Playmobil pirates dangled off the boats, successfully substituting the concept of “small” for “Somali.”

Supporting appetizers: Amy Edams with Bradley Capers, Martin Scorcheesey, Leonardo DiCapicola, and Steve My Queen Olives.

The short subject, The Wolf of Waldorf Salad, led up to our double feature, Despicable Meat Stew and Dallas Buyers Club Sandwiches. Jonah Hill of Beans, tangy and crunchy green beans garnished with fennel and red onion, completed the course, thanks to Jennifer.

Baked Nebraska, Phyllo Minis with lemon curd, and splendid Alexander Champagne (courtesy of John) finished the dinner.

Besides Guava Tea (say it three times fast), Oscars Diner’s drink and cocktail specials featured Christian Bale Ale, Sangria Bullock, Hericane, Ginnifer Lawrence, and 12 Years a Scotch.

Not too despicable

Despicable Me 2 is the funniest Oscar nominee this year. Too bad it lost. If I had served an entrée based on the winner, Frozen, I could have just pulled out any old package from my Kenmore.

This Catalan-style, beefy-rich stew sweetened with caramelized onions has a faint Northern African accent from its ground nuts and cinnamon. Boneless beef rib chunks turn particularly succulent and tender, although a well-marbled beef chuck substitutes nicely for this surprisingly pricey cut. Mushrooms make it one delicious umami fest. The “despicable” part is that it takes all afternoon to make. I’m going to try a pressure-cooker alternative. At least Hank from Oscars Diner says I should.

Despicable Meat Stew

Stew base

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large onions, minced
  • Dash of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, 14.5 ounces
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon powder (or to taste, optional)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2½ pounds boneless beef short ribs or nicely marbled beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes


  • ¼ cup ground almonds, toasted in a pan
  • ¼ cup toasted bread crumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

While stew is cooking, combine in a bowl and set aside.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ pound sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Heat oil and sauté mushrooms with a dash of salt until softened, about 5 minutes. Add sherry vinegar.


  1. Preheat oven to 310°. On the stovetop, heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add onions, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and dash of sugar. Sauté over medium heat until onions are nicely caramelized, stirring often, about a half hour. Add tomatoes, smoked paprika, and bay leaf, and cook to blend, about 5 minutes.
  2. Season beef with 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add to Dutch oven with white wine, water, thyme, and cinnamon. Stir, adding a teaspoon of beef bouillon powder (optional), or an amount to taste.
  3. Bring stew to a simmer, then transfer to oven and bake, uncovered. After 1 hour, stir, put back in the oven, and continue to bake uncovered until meat is tender, about 1½ to 2 hours more.
  4. Remove bay leaf. Stir in picada and mushrooms. Adjust seasonings to taste.

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2 responses to Oscars 2014: Despicable Meat Stew

  • Ariel says:

    Sound like a wonerful meal! Great picture too

  • Diane Brody says:

    Thanks, Ariel! That means a lot, coming from a terrific chef like you. I need to feature something from Hugs and Cookies sometime!

  • Leave a Response


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