Go International for Your Oscar Party Menu
Each year, as the hotly-anticipated awards season simmers down, we find ourselves tuning into the Oscars for various reasons: to furiously live-tweet commentary about everything from the fashion to the results, to cringe with second-hand embarrassment as hosts make poorly-received jokes, to see who delivers the most memorable acceptance speech, or to see if Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins a little gold man for himself.
Whether you’re watching earnestly or for laughs, you probably have at least one friend whom you can count on to gather your group and serve up Instagram-worthy food and drinks while you watch. If you, like me, are that friend, and you’re still trying to find the right theme for your Oscar party menu, turn your attention to the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Often ignored by American audiences because they don’t see a major theatrical release in the United States, these Oscar-nominated films are submitted by their countries for consideration, and it is the country, not the director or producer, who officially takes home the award. This year, 81 countries submitted films for the 88th Academy Awards, and the nominees include first-timers Colombia and Jordan, as well as Denmark, Hungary, and France.
Creating Oscar-themed food based on Best Picture puns (Mad Max ‘N Cheese or a Bridge of Pies, anyone?) is always a crowd-pleaser, but I drew inspiration from the Best Foreign Language Film nominees to create a five-course meal. This multi-cultural Oscar party menu will keep your guests satisfied from opening monologue to final applause.
France is known for its reds and whites, but starting the night off with wine felt like the easy way out. Instead, I turned to St-Germain, an elderflower liqueur that comes in a statuesque bottle and beautiful, theme-appropriate shade of gold. If you prefer simplicity, consider greeting your guests with a glass of La Rosette, a cocktail made with one part St-Germain and one part Rosé Brut, poured into a stemmed glass and garnished with fruit (strawberry slices, raspberries, or a lemon twist). For those of you feeling more adventurous, St-Germain’s website offers nearly two dozen cocktail recipes, the most complex of which calls for six ingredients.
An easy substitution: If elderflower liqueur doesn’t wet your whistle, try creating a classic French 75 instead.
Hungary, Son of Saul
Paprika and peppers seemed to be at the center of many Hungarian recipes I came across, and this lecsó is no different. This is a recipe generally prepared as a main course, but can easily be served in smaller portions to act as an appetizer. I found that it fell somewhere between a soup and a stew, and although it isn’t a finger food, it is warm, inviting, and comforting; in short, lecsó is exactly what you want on a cold February night.
This recipe was adapted from a guest post on The Hungary Dish.
- 1 pack bacon (approximately 12 slices)
- 1 sweet yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
- 4 bell peppers (a mix of yellow and red)
- 1 can tomatoes (Hunt’s whole plum tomatoes or similar)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pack of Hillshire Farm smoked sausage (use as much or as little sausage as you want)
- Cook the bacon. I didn’t have lard but chose to sauté my onion in some of the bacon fat. I crumbled the cooked bacon into smaller pieces and placed it into a fresh pan with my desired amount of bacon fat.
- Slice or dice your onions, and toss them in with your bacon and bacon fat. Cook on medium heat. (Vegetarians can omit the bacon and bacon fat and use an oil of their choice.)
- Once onions have softened, add a teaspoon of paprika (or more if you prefer) and stir in. Let cook for about a minute, making sure the paprika doesn’t burn.
- Add your tomatoes (whole or diced; I included the tomato juice), sliced bell peppers, and a teaspoon of salt. Stir thoroughly, then cover. Let cook for 45 minutes, covered and on medium heat.
- If you plan on adding sausage, slice your desired amount and add it to the pan halfway through the 45-minute cooking time.
- Serve your lecsó in a bowl. If you’re making this ahead of time, it can be kept simmering or be reheated in a crockpot.
An easy substitution: For a recipe designed for smaller portions, make these Hungarian stuffed peppers.
Moutabal (alternatively spelled moutabel) is a roasted eggplant dish commonly served in Jordan as an appetizer or as part of a mezze spread. I had never worked with eggplant or tahini paste before, and I was pleasantly surprised by this dip’s light flavor – maybe a little too much, since I munched on moutabal and pita bread until I was all pita’d out.
This recipe is courtesy of Jodi Ettenberg at Legal Nomads.
- 1 medium-sized eggplant
- 1⁄2 cup tahini paste
- 11⁄2 cups squeezed lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed
- 2 tablespoons salted yogurt (or plain Greek yogurt)
- Salt to taste
- Roast the eggplant for approximately 30 minutes. If a gas stove or grill is unavailable, poke holes in your eggplant, place it on a baking sheet, and roast it in the oven at approximately 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let the eggplant rest for about 15 minutes, then rinse it in cold water. Peel the skin away, discarding the skin and stem.
- Place the eggplant flesh in a medium-sized bowl. Add lemon juice, garlic cloves, tahini paste, yogurt, and desired amount of salt. Mash and mix ingredients with a spoon. I chose to run my ingredients through a food processor for a smoother consistency.
- Spread on your serving platter of choice, pair with pita bread, and enjoy. Optional garnishings: a drizzle of olive oil, fresh parsley, or paprika.
An easy substitution: Not enticed by eggplant? Choose a different mezze recipe to add to your Oscar party menu.
Entrée: Boller i Karry (Meatballs in Curry Sauce)
Denmark, A War
I have a confession to make: I used pre-made meatballs because I was short on time and they were practically begging me to save them from the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. For those of you with greater meatball finesse, the recipe for making meatballs from scratch is included along with the recipe for the curry sauce, which is made with a mild yellow curry and doesn’t take long to prepare. To complete this main course, serve your boller i karry with a side of white rice.
This recipe is courtesy of Danish Net.
For the Meatballs
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 cup breadcrumbs or 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 finely chopped onions
- 1 egg
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4 cups beef stock
For the Curry Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 generous tablespoons yellow curry
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 chopped leek
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 31⁄2 ounces heavy cream
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnishing
For the Meatballs
- Mix breadcrumbs (or flour) with flour, egg, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Add ground pork and mix well.
- Refrigerate mixture for one hour.
- Measure meatballs with a tablespoon.
- Boil water with beef stock. Add meatballs and boil for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove meatballs from water, but keep the water for the curry sauce.
For the Curry Sauce
- Melt butter in pot, then add curry and brown for a couple of minutes.
- Add onion and leek, browning again for a couple of minutes.
- Add flour and mix thoroughly.
- Add water (leftover from making the meatballs) gradually until sauce thickens.
- Add cream and meatballs.
- Simmer for 12 minutes.
- Serve with boiled rice, garnishing with parsley if desired.
An easy substitution: Stegt flæsk, or crispy pork with parsley sauce, is the national dish of Denmark.
Dessert: Torta de Tres Leches
Colombia, Embrace the Serpent
I prefer cakes that stay moist and have a light flavor, so it’s no surprise that I gravitated to this recipe. Although it has to be refrigerated for at least three hours before being frosted, it’s recommended that you refrigerate it overnight before frosting, which means you can make it the night before without worrying about the quality suffering. The torta de tres leches cake I brought to the KaTom office received rave reviews and I’m sure it will be a hit with your critics, too.
This recipe courtesy of Erica Dinho at My Colombian Recipes.
For the Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup whole milk
- 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
For the Three Milks Sauce
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1⁄2 vanilla extract
For the Frosting
- 1 egg whites
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1⁄4 cup water
- 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then grease and lightly flour a rectangular baking dish.
- Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl.
- In a small pot, heat the milk and butter until butter is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on high speed for two minutes. Add the sugar and continue mixing for five minutes. Reduce the speed to low, then add the flour mixture, butter mixture, and vanilla extract, and mix for one minute.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove cake from oven. Use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake, then set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.
- To make the three milks sauce, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. When cake is done cooling, pour the three milks sauce over the cake until it is all absorbed.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least three hours (or overnight) before frosting.
For the Frosting
- To make the frosting, mix the water and sugar in a small pot over medium heat for five minutes, stirring constantly, then set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar syrup and continue beating for five more minutes. Add vanilla extract, then beat for one more minute.
- Spread frosting, then refrigerate until serving.
An easy substitution: For a heavier dessert, make bananos calados, which are Colombian-style fried bananas served with vanilla ice cream.