Tasty bites for an Oscar-worthy party

23 Feb Tasty bites for an Oscar-worthy party

 by Sydne George
Food writer
for the Great Falls Tribune

Maybe it just got lost in the mail. I’m guessing mine did.
Regardless of what happened to our invitations to the 83rd Annual Academy Awards cere­mony at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, let’s not fret over not being able to attend the gala affair. It’s just another excuse to throw a party.
Roll out the red carpet and throw a star-studded Oscar party at home this Sunday.
Here is a party plan, scripting essential details like what to wear and what to serve your distinguished guests.
Prep for your role. Doing a little homework never hurt and getting ready for your role as party host might require some brushing up on material. Up for Best Picture are “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The King’s Speech,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3,” “True Grit” and “Win­ter’s Bone.”
Scroll through the complete list of nominees at www.oscars.org and you’ll find that in category after category, whether it be acting, directing or film editing, these same films keep popping up. While it’s a challenge seeing all the movies nominated for the Oscars, you can always cram for the evening by watching the movie trailers online.

Dress the part. You could always go black tie, but it might also be fun to dress as a famous couple Check out http://www.celebritycouples.net/ Married.aspx for inspiration.
Wardrobe options run the gamut this year. Give a nod to “True Grit” by throwing on your jeans and cowboy hat. Explore your inner “Black Swan” and don a tutu and leotard. If you’re stuck, grab an oversized GAP sweatshirt, dial up “The Social Network” trailer, and you’re good to go. The possibilities are endless.
The true star of the night will be you, as soon as your guests have the first bite of the award­winning menu you’ve prepared.
Making the dessert components ahead of time and setting aside a little prep time the morning of the party will set you up for A­list party prowess.
Timing is everything, and the beauty of this menu is that the Mini Beef Wellingtons and the Parmesan Zucchini Fries are baked at the same temperature for about the same amount of time, minimizing your time away from your party guests. On with the show.
Thes tasty fries offer a nod to “True Grit.”
Garlic Chili Dipping Sauce
1 cup real mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder or more, to taste
Combine all ingredients in small bowl and stir until thor­oughly mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 3 eggs, beaten
 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
 ½ cup Parmesan, grated
 ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
 ¼ tsp. salt
 3 medium zucchini, sliced in 4­ inch-by-½-inch strips
 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Preheat oven to 425°.
Pour beaten eggs in shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper and pour in large plastic baggie. Dip zuc­chini strips in egg mixture.
Remove zucchini strips from egg and put in baggie with bread crumbs. Shake to coat. Remove from baggie and place on baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven for six minutes. Turn with spatula, driz­zle with additional olive oil and bake an additional six minutes, or until lightly browned.
Serve warm with Garlic Chili Dipping Sauce. Makes ten serv­ings.
Here’s an entree fit for “The King’s Speech.”
17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
 4 tbsp. butter, divided
 8 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
 2 tbsp. shallots, finely chopped
 ½ cup Dijon mustard
 3 tbsp. fresh thyme sprigs, fine­ly minced
 ½ tsp. salt
 ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
 10 small beef tenderloin por­tions, each 4 inches by 2 inches by 1 inch
 1 egg, beaten
In a medium heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat.
Saute shallots until soft. Add mushrooms and saute briefly, about two minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer mushroom mix­ture to small bowl and wipe out pan.
Return pan to heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to pan and melt.
Meanwhile, dip each tender­loin portion in Dijon, covering all sides. Then dip in the thyme/salt/­pepper mixture to coat.
Sear tenderloin portions in heated butter, about one minute on each side, until lightly browned. Transfer to baking pan, leaving room between each tenderloin.
Top each seared tenderloin with mushroom mixture.
Roll thawed pastry sheets out on lightly floured surface to 12­inch-by-12-inch squares. You will have two.
Using a pizza cutter, cut puff pastry into 12 equal rectangles, large enough to drape over pre­pared tenderloins. You may have to roll them out a bit more to make them big enough.
Drape puff pastry pieces over tenderloins, tucking pastry and crimping to seal. Brush beaten egg over pastry. Use extra puff pastry to cut out stars. Decorate each Wellington with puff pastry stars and brush with egg.
At this point, Mini Beef Wellingtons can be covered with foil and refrigerated until ready to bake and serve.
Remove from refrigerator, remove foil and let warm to room temperature before baking. Preheat oven to 425°.
Bake prepared Mini Beef Wellingtons in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until pas­try is golden brown.
Serve immediately. Makes 10.
Something light to offset the darkness of “Black Swan.”
Mini meringue nests 2 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cream of tartar
 ½ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 275°. Beat egg whites, vanilla and cream of tar­tar until soft peaks form. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff and glossy.
Pipe or spoon onto parchment covered baking sheet, making nests about three inches in diam­eter and indenting the center with a spoon to create a nest.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Turn oven off and leave meringue nests in oven for one hour. May be made two days ahead and stored in airtight con­tainer at room temperature.

 ½ cup heavy cream
 ¼ cup powdered sugar
 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and cut into small slices
Beat cream with electric mixer until soft peaks form.
Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.
Spoon sweetened whipped cream into indentation of each meringue nest. Top with berry slices and serve. Makes 10.
Sydne George is a food journalist specilizing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com  .
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