Ok. So I’ll be completely honest. Even though I posted the poll on Friday regarding foods that I’d like to make while re-doing Macheesmo, it turns out that I was so busy doing that thing that I didn’t even have time to make food!
But never mind that. I still wanted to make something based on the winning pick: Popcorn!
I’ve made a few popcorn recipes before on Macheesmo but this one seriously might be my favorite. It’s subtly sweet, but not overly sweet and has a small kick from the paprika. Betsy and I tried it and at first I didn’t think it was all that great. Then I looked down 30 minutes later and I had almost eaten the whole bowl.
The stuff was like a drug. I couldn’t stop!
1) Mix sugar and spice together in a small bowl.
2) Add oil and a few kernels to a medium-large pot. Cover and put over high heat until the kernels pop, just a few minutes. That means the oil is hot!
3) Remove the cooked kernels so they don't burn. Add all the unpopped kernels and cover with the sugar/spice mixture. If the oil isn't barely covering the kernels, add a bit more oil.
4) Cover with lid and put back on heat. Every few seconds, hold the lid down and give the pot a good shake to make sure none of the kernels are sitting on the bottom burning. Also, you need to coat the kernels with sugar evenly.
5) Once most of the kernels have popped (the popping will slow to a few seconds in between), remove them from the pot as soon as possible so they don't burn.
6) Season right away with salt but let the kernels cool for a few minutes before serving. The cooling will let the sugar harden a bit which gives the popcorn great texture.
Kettle corn is normally made in huge copper pots at state fairs and stuff. It’s some crazy cross between caramel corn and normal popcorn so it’s slightly sweet and a little crunchy, but also salty. In other words, it’s right in my wheelhouse as far as snack foods go!
If you’ve never made popcorn that isn’t microwaved, just trust me that it’s another world and once you make the switch you’ll have a really hard time going back. Good news is that it’s really easy to make and while this kettle corn is kind of cheating because most people don’t have access to a huge copper pot, it’s pretty darn close to the real deal.
First, you need some sugar and a bit of spice. The spice is optional but I think it adds a great dimension to the popcorn. Subtle is the key here people. A little goes a long way.
Testing the waters
The key to this recipe is not to put the kernels and sugar into the pot until the oil is really hot. That way the kernels start popping almost immediately and the sugar has time to caramelize but not burn at all.
To make this happen add the oil to a medium to large pot and add just a few kernels. Put this over high heat with a lid.
When these pop, you know you’re oil is ready to rock. Quickly remove those kernels from the pop and add all your kernels at once and cover with the sugar. If the oil doesn’t cover the kernels just barely, add a bit more oil.
It should basically look like this.
Cover this and put it back over medium-high heat. Every few seconds, hold the lid on the pot and give it a good shake to make sure none of the kernels are sitting on the bottom too long. As the sugar melts, you also want to evenly cover all the kernels with the sugar and spice.
It’ll only take a minute or two for the kernels to pop since the oil is already so hot.
Once most of the kernels have popped (the popping is a few seconds apart), immediately pull the pot off the burner and pour the kernels into a bowl. If you leave them for too long in the pan you run the risk of burning the popcorn and the sugar. So once it’s popped, get it the heck out of there.
I actually found that this popcorn is better if it cools a bit so the sugar hardens kind of. So hit the popcorn with a good pinch of salt and then let it cool for a few minutes. Try to break up any kernels that stick together.
It’ll be delicious.
I’m really proud about a few things in this post.
First, that I made some delicious popcorn and hopefully inspired you to try out some real popcorn that isn’t microwaved.
Second, I’m really happy that I believe I caught and fixed all of my poopcorn typos throughout this post before publishing it.