Though it wasn’t super fancy or time consuming, my mom’s popcorn was always a treat when we got it. She would air pop the corn, put it in a big bowl, drizzle melted butter on it and sprinkle it with seasonings. My Grandma did the same thing, except she always sprinkled the popcorn with Spike. She would give us each our own bowls and we could chomp away while watching Wheel of Fortune. I felt pretty special.
In Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cook Book, (the featured cook book this month) the very first recipe is seasoned popcorn. You can imagine how excited I got. It’s been a long time since I have seen an air popcorn machine and when I saw that I could make my own microwave popcorn without all the oil, I totally freaked.
It just so happens that I have a bottle of Spike in my cupboard. Yes, they still make it and it is still a delicious blend of spices. I also took a little day trip over to Bob’s Red Mill and bought a bunch of their spices in bulk. They even had powdered cheese, which I enthusiastically bought, knowing full well that my popcorn kernels would soon be orange with cheesy-goodness.
Bittman covers two easy ways to make the popcorn. The first one was the one I was most familiar with. I put 2-3 tbsp of oil in a dutch oven, add 3 kernels of popping corn, wait till they pop, add 1/2 cup more kernels and continue to shake the covered pot occasionally, until the popping slows. I pour it immediately into a large bowl, drizzle melted butter all over it (just like my mother and her mother before her), add my selected seasonings and proceed to demolish the entire bowl.
The not so familiar way of doing things was by microwave. I had no idea that I could pop corn in the microwave without first consulting Orville Redenbacher. All you need is a glass bowl or paper bag. You put the kernels and some salt in either bag or bowl, roll down the top or cover, and pop for up to 3 minutes until popping slows to 4 or 5 seconds between pops and before you burn it, leaving the black plague of burned popcorn forever in your home, take it out of the microwave, toss with a drizzle of butter or olive oil and your favorite seasonings and you are all set!
Some other ways to season your popped corn:
Chopped fresh herbs, black pepper, chili powder, curry powder or garam or chaat masala, Old Bay seasoning, five-spice powder, toasted sesame seeds, cayenne or red chile flakes, grated parmesan cheese, brown sugar, finely ground nuts or shredded unsweetened coconut, or chopped dried fruit.
There really is no good excuse not to pop your own corn. It’s healthier, tastier, and you get to season it exactly the way you like it. And if you’re really lucky, Wheel of Fortune will be on.
- 2 to 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. popping corn
- 2 to 4 tbsp. butter or olive oil, optional
- Salt (and other seasonings from the list that follows if you like)
- Put the vegetable oil in a large, deep pan (6 quarts or so). Turn the heat to medium, add 3 kernels of corn, and cover.
- When the kernels pop, remove the lid and add the remaining corn. Cover and shake the pot, holding the lid on. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until the popping sound stops after about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter or gently warm the olive oil if you’re using it.
- Turn the popcorn into a large bowl; drizzle with butter or olive oil if you like and sprinkle with salt while tossing the popcorn. Serve immediately.
- Microwave Popcorn: (Makes 2 to 4 servings). In a small glass container, or a brown paper lunch bag, combine 1/4 cup popping corn with 1/4 teaspoon salt and fold the top of the bag over a couple of times. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until there are 4 or 5 seconds between pops. Open the bag or container carefully, because stream will have built up. Toss with your seasonings and a drizzle of butter or olive oil or serve as is.