New projects, recipes included, always begin with a lot of excitement and high hopes. And sometimes complications arise. So when the blog post I was preparing for this week fell through, I turned to my old stand by: popcorn.
It’s one of my favorite foods. I have been known to eat it for dinner. And I am pretty damn picky about it, too. No microwave popcorn is allowed in my house. I make my popcorn on the stove top.
Are you loyal to microwave popcorn? A few things to consider:
Try the stove top method and you’ll forget why you even own a microwave.
This is less of a recipe and more of a method. You can adapt it to your taste and your serving needs. Start with a heavy bottomed pot. If you’re popping for a crowd, a Dutch oven will work. For two to four people, use a two quart sauce pan. For one or two people a one quart sauce pan is just enough. Of course, these are just guidelines. The important thing is that the depth of the pan is close or equal to the height of the pan. A skillet or sauté pan is going to be too shallow.
Put your chosen pot on the burner and turn the heat to medium. (Stoves may vary, but I’ve always had luck with medium heat.) Now pour just enough popcorn kernels to make a single layer on the bottom of the pot.
A word about kinds of popcorn: You can find it at any grocery store. You don’t have to buy fancy stuff to get good popcorn. But the best popcorn I’ve ever had is by White Cat Corn. Yes, it costs eight dollars, but the flavor is so superior to most other corns, you’ll notice it right away. The kernels pop into beautifully filled-out pieces, and have a true, righteous corn flavor. Not to mention it comes in a sweet jar you can re-use later. (I haven’t told you about my glass-saving compulsion yet—another day.)
Once the kernels are in the pot, pour in just enough oil to cover them. I use canola oil. Olive oil has many fans, though it’s not my favorite on popcorn. To each his own. I’ve also tried coconut oil which lends a subtle coconut flavor and gives this New World staple an exotic essence.
Now, put a lid on that pot. Some people recommend leaving the lid ajar, but I’ve never needed to. In a couple minutes you’ll hear the first tentative “pop.” This is a good time to have glass lids so you can watch the action unfold.
The pot will fill with popcorn and the popping will reach a crescendo and begin to slow. When the popping has slowed to about one pop every two seconds, take the pot off the heat. Wait a second while the popping comes to a stop. Then dump the contents into your favorite popcorn bowl.
If you like buttered popcorn (and who doesn’t?) drop a pat of butter into the pot while it’s still hot. Melt the butter using the remaining heat, and feel proud that you didn’t dirty another bowl to melt the butter. Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and toss to distribute.
I like to salt after adding the melted butter. If you’re limiting your saturated fats, you could drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top, or skip it altogether since some of the oil from the pan will cling to the popcorn. Personally, I’ve found that adding more helps the salt stick. I use a fine grain sea salt. Large crystals like Maldon salt are delicious but don’t adhere as well. Some people add their salt to the oil and unpopped kernels at the beginning. I’ve found that method leaves the salt in the bottom of the pot and not on the popcorn.
Once you’ve salted to taste and tossed so it’s sufficiently distributed, your popcorn is ready to eat! Get to it, while it’s still hot.
Kettle corn is the perfect storm of flavors that hits all your brain’s pleasure centers at once. Good kettle corn is a transcendent culinary experience. Making it yourself can be tricky, however, since the sugar has a tendency to burn. Here’s what I do:
Add three tablespoons of granulated sugar (if you’re using a two quart pot) to the oil and popcorn kernels in the pot. You can adjust the amount of sugar to your taste. I dust the sugar over the oil and kernels so it soaks in evenly, then I shake the pan just a bit to spread it out.* Now cook the popcorn as described above, but give the pot a little shake now and then to prevent burning.
*Alice at Savory Sweet Life recommends heating the oil first, then adding the kernels and sugar. I will try this next time and see if it improves my results.
After taking the pot off the heat and pouring the contents into your serving bowl, salt to taste. You won’t need to add additional oil or butter because the warm sugar will grab the salt and not let go. The popcorn will be slightly sweet, with a thin crystallized layer of sugar over the kernels. You can’t beat it.
Enjoy! And thanks for reading.