Lisa Abraham

If ever there were a year to host a party for the Academy Awards, this has got to be it.


There are nine movies nominated for best picture, and each one offers a wealth of ideas for serving up food and drink while gathered around the small screen to celebrate the big screen.


There’s no easier place to start an Oscar party than with popcorn. Inexpensive and easy to prepare, bowls of popcorn are the perfect munchie for celebrating the movies. Try sprinkling popcorn with a variety of toppings — herbs, spices, even grated cheese. You can even make sure the popcorn is properly dressed for the black-tie event with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds (see recipe).


Champagne will be flowing in Hollywood and it’s always appropriate for an Oscar party too. But considering the awards are on a Sunday night, when many of us non-Hollywood types have work or school the next day, serving non-alcoholic sparklers in champagne flutes is a fun, kid-friendly alternative.


With three best picture nominees having connections to France (Hugo and Midnight in Paris are set there; The Artist is a French production), this year’s party could be a French-inspired buffet featuring quiche, baguette and brie. Love The Help? Serve Southern fried chicken, grits and of course, Minny Jackson’s chocolate cream pie (minus the secret ingredient). Or keep it simple and order Hawaiian pizza to celebrate The Descendants.


Dante D’Avello’s party-planning team at Totally Cooked Catering in Cuyahoga Falls used this year’s crop of nominees to suggest some fun menu options for an Oscar party.


The beverage menu begins with Midnight in Paris, a cocktail made by combining champagne and Chambord, a black raspberry liqueur. For an appetizer, try Sizzling Clooney, a beef satay with aioli dipping sauce.


Tracy Dye, director of customer care for Totally Cooked, noted how creating party ambiance will help increase the fun. She suggested rolling out a red carpet for guests to enter your house, or creating a walk of fame using cutout stars as name tags for guests.


At the end of the evening, it’s always a good idea to give guests a little something to take home, and Dye said popcorn also fits the bill here. She suggested giving small buckets of gourmet popcorn as favors.


Still not sure what to serve? Consider one of these themes:


• Serve traditional movie snacks: popcorn, sodas, large boxes of movie-favorite candies like Junior Mints and Milk Duds.


• Pick your favorite movie and theme the food around it. Is your money on Moneyball? Offer ballpark fare with hot dogs, beer and nachos.


• Host an Oscar potluck and have friends bring a dish to celebrate their favorite movie or one of the nine best picture nominees.


• Not familiar with this year’s cinema? Theme your party food and drink around your favorite Oscar winners of the past. Serve pasta for The Godfather and pass around boxes of chocolates a la Forrest Gump.


Here are some recipes to get you started:


 


BLACK SESAME


MUSTARD POPCORN


4 quarts popped popcorn


3 tbsp. butter


1 tbsp. dark sesame oil


1 tbsp. yellow mustard powder


1 tbsp. black sesame seeds


1 tsp. kosher salt or popcorn salt


 


Place popcorn in a large serving bowl. In a small bowl, combine butter, sesame oil and mustard powder. Microwave butter mixture for 20 seconds or until butter is melted. Stir until mustard powder is dissolved and mixture is well blended.


Drizzle butter mixture over popcorn and toss. Sprinkle sesame seeds and salt over popcorn and toss again; serve immediately.


Makes 4 quarts, 16 (1 cup) servings.


— National Popcorn Board (www.popcorn.org)


 


CHOCOLATE CREAM PIE


1 single-crust pie shell, baked and cooled


4 egg yolks


1½ cups sugar


? cup cornstarch


2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped


½ tsp. salt


3 cups milk


2 tsp. vanilla


1 cup sweetened whipped cream


 


In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with fork; set aside. In a 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Then stir in chopped chocolate. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.


Immediately stir at least half of the hot mixture gradually into egg yolks, then stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cool filling slightly. Pour warm filling into crust. Press plastic wrap onto filling to prevent a tough layer from forming on top. Refrigerate at least 2 hours until set.


Remove plastic wrap. Top pie with whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate cooled pie until serving. Store covered in refrigerator.


Makes 1 pie, serves 8.


— Betty Crocker Cookbook (Wiley)


 


SIZZLING CLOONEY BEEF SATAY


2 lbs. beef tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin connective tissue (see note)


½ cup olive oil


¼ cup beef rub/spice blend


 


Soak bamboo skewers in cold water for half an hour before grilling.


Slice beef tenderloin against the grain into ½-inch thick slices approximately 3 to 4 inches long. Place in a bowl with oil and rub and toss gently to combine. Chill for 1 hour.


Preheat grill to medium-high.


Thread seasoned tenderloin onto skewers developing a wave pattern.


Place beef satays on hot grill until marks appear, about 30 to 40 seconds. Flip to mark on opposite side, another 30 to 40 seconds.


Serve with a drizzle of garlic aioli.


Makes 12 satays.


Note: For a less-expensive option, substitute top sirloin, flank or rib-eye steak. Satays can be grilled inside on an electric grill or stove-top grill pan, or broiled.


 


GARLIC AIOLI


4 cloves garlic


2 egg yolks from large pasteurized eggs


4 tsp. fresh lemon juice


1 tsp. Dijon mustard


½ cup extra virgin olive oil


5 tbsp. vegetable oil


Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Salt


 


Mash garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt using a large heavy knife. Whisk together yolks, lemon juice and mustard in a bowl. Combine oils and add them, a few drops at a time, to yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. (If mixture separates, stop adding oil and continue whisking until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.)


Add fresh chopped parsley and season with pepper.


Makes about 1 cup.


— Totally Cooked Catering, Cuyahoga Falls


Lisa Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or at labraham@thebeaconjournal.com.