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Published February 25, 2012, 11:30 PM

Feast on this year’s Oscars

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

By: Lisa Abraham, Akron Beacon Journal (MCT), INFORUM

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.”

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.

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

1 ½ cups sugar

1/3 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)

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