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Movie munching: Pair perfect foods with your fave ‘Best Picture’ winner

Cooler weather – and an even cooler economy – mean the time is right for  movie night on the couch. But popcorn doesn’t have to be your only culinary option. Television programs have been suggesting food and movie pairings for years, and it’s an easy idea to bring into your own kitchen. To help you stage a homebound Hollywood bash, we’ve asked top chefs and food personalities to team several Oscar-winning “Best Picture” from the past 20 years with meals designed to take you behind the scenes. “No Country for Old Men” (2007) Watch: Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem chase each other through the West Texas desert in a battle over drug money as sheriff Tommy Lee Jones stands by helplessly. Eat: Bloody Mary Gazpacho, a chilled roasted tomato and vegetable soup splashed with vodka, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce, then sprinkled with chopped celery leaves.“The chilled soup represents the cold-hearted, emotionless killer that is Javier Bardem’s character,” says Danny Boome, host of Food Network’s “Rescue Chef.” “The color of the soup – deep red – reflects the blood shed throughout the film.” “Crash” (2005) Watch: Collisions, carjackings, shootings and other trademark Los Angeles happenings connect more than a dozen characters over a 36-hour period. Eat: A “double-double” burger – double meat, double cheese, a signature car consumable from In-N-Out Burger, the city’s iconic fast-food joint. If you can’t make it to Los Angeles, let McDonald’s stand in or make your own. Wash it down with a chocolate milkshake. “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) Watch: Aging trainer Clint Eastwood reluctantly makes a boxer out of Hilary Swank, an Appalachian refugee who says boxing is the only thing standing between her and a trailer park life with “a deep fryer and some Oreos.” Eat: Yup. They’re great. Honest. Dip the cookies in funnel cake batter, then drop them in the fryer. Eat while hot and gooey. “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (2003) Watch: Hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) travel to Mount Doom with that weird little creature Gollum to destroy a ring and save Middle Earth. Eat: Hobbits eat multiple breakfasts, so set out a buffet of pancakes, eggs, toast, oatmeal, muffins ... You get the idea. “Chicago” (2002) Watch: Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger sing and dance their way through celebrity, scandal, prison and the Jazz Age in the Windy City. Eat: A Chicago Red Hot (a Windy City-style hot dog) on a poppy seed bun with yellow mustard, a good sprinkle of celery salt and “salad on top” – tomato wedges, green relish, pickle spear, “sport” peppers and chopped onion. “American Beauty” (1999) Watch: Kevin Spacey covets his teenage daughter’s friend in a tale of suburban malaise. Eat: Meatloaf and mashed potatoes, because nothing says middle-class Americana better. But Spacey’s ennui doesn’t have to infiltrate your dinner. Diane Werner, food director for Taste of Home magazine, says great meatloaf starts with flavorful ground chuck, a comfy starch, such as oatmeal or rice, and accents including onions, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) Watch: The Bard (Joseph Fiennes) falls for Gwyneth Paltrow even though she’s masquerading as a man. Eat: Roasted lamb shank, suggests Anne Burrell, host of Food Network’s “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.” “The lamb shank seems very Shakespearean and lusty – big piece of meat, big bone,” she says. Use your hands. “Titanic” (1997) Watch: Leonardo DiCaprio declares himself “king of the world” just before the iceberg hits, leaving him and love interest Kate Winslet bobbing precariously in the North Atlantic. Eat: Jumbo shrimp cocktail on ice and caviar like the cruise ship elite. Drink a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. “Forrest Gump” (1994) Watch: A slow-witted but endearingly upbeat protagonist (Tom Hanks) overcomes life’s difficult moments to become a national inspiration. Eat: Isn’t is obvious? A box of chocolates. And don’t cheat by reading the card that says what’s inside      each one. “Unforgiven” (1992) Watch: A band of gunslingers that includes Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman rides into a town called Big Whiskey to inflict some frontier justice. Eat: Beans, bacon and corn pone, or just about anything you can cook over a campfire in a cast-iron skillet. Drink whiskey from the bottle. “Silence of the Lambs” (1991) Watch: Hannibal the Cannibal (Anthony Hopkins) plays intellectual cat-and-mouse with FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) as she tries to track down a like-minded killer. Eat: For the strong of stomach, try liver, fava beans and a nice Chianti, the meal that Hannibal made of a census taker. “Dances with Wolves” (1990) Watch: Kevin Costner evolves from U.S. lieutenant into honorary Sioux after helping the tribe find a herd of life-sustaining buffalo. Eat: Alexandra Guarnaschelli, host of Food Network’s “The Cooking Loft,” suggests a hunter-gatherer theme – smoked trout salad and grilled elk chops or buffalo burgers. Inspired by a movie theater classic, these easy-to-make chocolate-raisin clusters can be kept on hand for at-home movie night snacking. You also could substitute salted peanuts or cashews for some of the raisins. Chocolate-Covered Raisin Clusters Start to finish: 25 minutes Makes about 30 clusters 3 ounces semisweet chocolate morsels 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup raisins, dark or golden Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper. Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. In a heatproof bowl slightly larger than the saucepan, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and vanilla. Set the bowl over the saucepan and reduce the heat to low so the water just barely simmers. Whisk the ingredients until the chocolate is completely melted and the ingredients are combined, about 2 to 3  minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir in the raisins, being sure they are all well coated with chocolate. Use a teaspoon to scoop clusters of raisins out of the chocolate. Place the clusters on the prepared baking sheet. When all the raisins have been scooped out, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. To store, transfer the clusters to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

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