Monday, February 28, 2011

On Popcorn

Popcorn's a pretty neat thing.  Whodathunk that drying out corn kernels would reveal such an amazing canvas for so much creativity when it comes to butter + accoutrements... 

Did you ever read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder?  Do you remember when he and his family are still back east and they are inside one evening, listening to their mother read?  Do you remember the popcorn?

Hot, crunchy, salty, and perfectly buttery, melting in his mouth.  I remember Almanzo wanted to finish off his popcorn with a tall glass of fresh, cold milk, but the cream was collecting on the top of the pail and his mother would be furious if he disturbed it... popcorn: serious business, folks.

So, this might seem silly to you, but I'm sort of a connoisseur of popcorn.  It's a big thing in our house.  We won't have air popped, thankyouverymuch--it has to be oil popped, preferably with olive oil, and preferably in a whirly pop, though I've used a skillet and snug fitting lid in a pinch.

The corn doesn't have to be buttered, necessarily (though I do prefer it that way), but it has to be salted.  Even just plain popped corn and salt is a great treat.  (I confess, sometimes when Taylor is out for the evening, I have popcorn for dinner...)

If it's buttered, though, the butter has to sizzle just a bit while I'm heating it.  Butter that's just barely melted isn't quite perky enough.  And you have to put it on the corn evenly!  Getting a butter-soaked piece is a nice surprise, but when the rest of the bowl is just dry unsalted corn, it's no good.  To get it evenly coated, you have to add the butter little by little, and shake the bowl to stir the pieces.  Pour, salt, shake.  Repeat until you're out of butter.  And add a little more salt for good measure (go ahead--lots of it falls to the bottom of the bowl anyway).

And we have many variations on popcorn.  Popcorn with butter and cheese and garlic salt (mix the garlic in with the butter, sprinkle the cheese on instead of regular salt (pepper optional)).  Honey-butter popcorn (melt the honey w/ the butter and pour it on the same--but you'll need a moist towel when you're done!).  Maple-butter popcorn.  Spicy popcorn (add a dash of cayenne to the butter while melting).  The possibilities are endless.

So, naturally, when I was craving a sweet-and-salty snack, I thought of popcorn.  And then I had an idea...

brown the butter!  It works in rice crispy treats for a nice change, why not popcorn, too?

Then sprinkle sugar on with the salt, for that slightly sweet finish.

brilliance, really.  Next time: more butter :)

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