If the saying “you are what you eat” is to be believed, I think I can safely say that, in addition to coffee, spinach pesto, and Chipotle burritos, my body is composed largely of popcorn. I’m not even kidding– I eat popcorn on a near-daily basis, a habit which has its roots in my childhood, when my mom, brother and I shared a bowl of popcorn every single solitary day after school, usually while watching the Animaniacs (so. incredibly. hyper).
Of course, all the popcorn I ate as a kid came out of a bag in the microwave, or on rare occasions, from the machine at the movie theater. Consequently, I spent the first twenty-something years of my life with no idea how to make popcorn that didn’t come pre-buttered in a bag. But one day a little over a year ago, my dear friend Joe introduced me to the world of stovetop popcorn, and that pretty much clinched it for me. Popcorn for me, every day, from here on out.
Stovetop popcorn is incredibly easy to make. (Did you see that one coming?) And while I still think the microwaveable stuff is the bee’s knees, especially for moms whose kids are strung out on hyperactive cartoons, the old-fashioned stuff comes with the benefit of total control. You decide how much you want to make, how much butter you add (if any), and what kind of toppings you want.
This particular topping combo was the result of an intense food craving. I might have lately hinted at the fact that my life is work, work, work all the time these days, and that work typically lasts beyond what most would consider a normal dinner time. And on a lot of nights when I make it back to the apartment at 9:30pm or later, all I can really muster up the energy to cook is a big bowl of popcorn. I see this as a pretty reasonable late-night dinner. It’s a great source of whole grains, at least, which is more than I can say for a bowl of ramen. But on one particular night, I was hankering for something spicy and flavor-packed, without the effort of cooking a big meal or the expense of takeout from the local Thai place. Thus, this spicy popcorn was born.
As you can see from the near-emptiness of the bottle, Sriracha is kind of a big deal in our apartment. Old Bay seasoning is a relatively new addition to our spice cabinet, but it reminds me of low-country boils and Cajun food. Mmmm.
Stovetop popcorn is so easy that, once again, there really is no recipe. Take a pot that looks like it will hold about the amount of popcorn you want to eat, and make sure it has a lid that fits. Pour in enough oil (olive, canola, whatever you have) to easily cover the bottom of the pot, and then pour in enough popcorn kernels to make a single layer. Note that they aren’t submerged in oil, just nestled in cozily.
Top the pot with a lid and turn the stove on to medium-high. Let the pot sit until you hear the first few kernels pop, and then, using oven mitts, hold the lid onto the pot and give the whole thing a few gentle shakes. You just want to keep the popcorn moving around so none of it sits too long on the bottom and burns. Continue cooking, shaking the pot every few seconds, until the popping slows, then turn off the burner. Lift the lid to let steam escape, but watch out, because a few more kernels may still pop after the heat is turned off.
For my spicy version, I melted about two tablespoons of butter (ok, I actually used Earth Balance), and stirred in maybe 1/4 teaspoon of Sriracha– a little goes a long way. After the popping had subsided, I poured the butter-Sriracha mixture into the pot with the popped corn, replaced the lid, and gave it a good shake to coat. After I poured the whole mixture into a bowl, I shook on the Old Bay seasoning like salt. Err on the side of too little Old Bay, though, because too much might make your popcorn a little bitter.
The possibilities for dressing up popcorn are endless, really. My favorite, favorite popcorn topping is Cabot cheddar, even if it is impossible to find in stores. Another surprisingly delicious addition is dried seaweed, in the tradition of Hurricane popcorn, a Hawaiian treat introduced to me by my friend Terence. You can use pieces of cut-up Nori to make your own, or use Bragg’s blend of seaweed and herbs to add an extra kick. Happy snacking.
Oh, and one other little thing that I nearly forgot to mention. Last Saturday, I hopped down to New York, took in the city, visited Brooklyn for the first time, and… let’s see, what else did I do? Oh, right– I totally met Joy the Baker.
And so did hundreds of other people.
This was after Alex and I decided to leave and come back in an hour, in an attempt to let the crowd die down a little bit. It didn’t work; the crowd had simply changed faces by the time we returned.
What you can’t see in the photo above is the line of chairs along the far left wall, where a bunch of boyfriends who had obviously been dragged along sat and stared hopelessly at their girlfriends, who were somehow still stuck in the back of the crowd. At least Brooklyn Brewery had provided tons of free beer, and there were heaps of Joy the Baker goodies to snack on.
But there you have it– after months and months of reading, and a few hours of waiting, I finally met my blogging hero. Can I officially call her my friend now? I think I will.