Movie Night

I’m currently addicted to Trader Joe’s “Herbs & Spices” popcorn — the perfect snack when I get a potato chip craving and don’t want the fat. But a rather surprising development given my historical indifference to popcorn.

A bowl of wickedly addictive chipotle Mexikettle corn

I’ve never considered myself much of a popcorn guy. It’s fine at the movies, but otherwise something I just never thought about. But every Christmas, my brother Mark, a man of fine taste, gets our family a large tub of three flavors — cheese, kettle and zebra chocolate — from Popcornopolis. And who winds up eating most of it?? That, and the recent creation of my now famous Porkcorn got me wondering what else I could do with popcorn that would be interesting.

An invitation to a taco party provided a perfect opportunity to get creative and see. Expanding on the sweet/salty kettle corn theme, I used a little leftover bacon fat from the BLTs I’d sent off to the beach with the wife and kids and got to popping. When the corn was done, I drizzled it with some melted, browned sugar and sprinkled with salt, chipotle power and ancho chili powder. The result? A sweet, spicy snack that even the children at the taco party couldn’t resist, although it sent them sprinting for their juice boxes, tongues hanging out. Then I got the bright idea to do movie recommendations with each of my new popcorns. And the choice for this one was easy.

Next, I found myself in a more contemplative mood, craving a corn that was a bit more refined. Could a do a subtly addictive savory popcorn? And then a single word floated from my tastebuds into my brain — umami. For this popcorn, I paired parmesan, truffle salt and umami-rich Japanese dashi powder. And for the movie? Another obvious choice, which you’ll find below.

Finally, inspired by Popcornopolis’ zebra chocolate corn, I decided to do something sweet. I settled on a sophisticated butter vanilla caramel, almonds, a drizzle of dark chocolate and some Maldon salt. The movie selection for this popcorn was less obvious to me — I wanted something funny and lighthearted, and worked my way through favorites such as “Princess Bride” and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” before settling on a Tim Burton film.

Salted vanilla caramel & chocolate corn gets its close up.

Here, then, are three different popcorns, with a movie recommendation for each. Of course, you’re welcome to alter the recipes and pick your own damn movie if you so choose. Enjoy!

*   *   *

Chipotle Mexickettle corn
serves 4 for movie night

3/4 cup popcorn
2 slices bacon
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
2 tbsp. kosher salt

Heat the canola oil in a skillet, and cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from heat, eat the bacon and reserve oil.

In a large pot, heat the reserved canola oil and bacon fat over medium high heat until smoking. Turn off heat, add popcorn kernels, cover, and let sit for 30 seconds. Return pot to medium high heat and pop the popcorn, shaking pan slightly every so often, until the popping slows to several seconds between pops. Remove from heat, sprinkle with salt, toss and leave uncovered.

In the pan you cooked the bacon in, heat the sugar over medium high heat. When it begins to liquify, stir with a wooden spoon, incorporating the unliquified sugar into the liquified, until it is all liquid. Working quickly, drizzle liquid sugar slowly into the popcorn. Sprinkle in the two chili powders and begin tossing gently (so as not to break up the popcorn) with a wooden spoon. Continue tossing for another minute or two after your sugar pan is empty, coating as many popcorn kernels as possible.

Let cool and serve.

Movie suggestion: Amor es Perro, Mexico, 2000
A dazzling film by the great Mexican director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, that begins with a car crash that connects three different stories. (Sounds like a derivative American movie I recall…)

*   *   *

Umamicorn
serves 4 for movie night

3/4 cup popcorn
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 tbsp. butter, cut in thin slices
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp. truffle salt
1 tsp. dried Japanese dashi broth

Toss together the cheese, salt and dried broth in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.

In a large pot, heat the grapeseed oil over medium high heat until smoking. Turn off heat, add popcorn kernels, cover, and let sit for 30 seconds. Return pot to medium high heat and pop the popcorn, shaking pan slightly every so often, until the popping slows to several seconds between pops.

Immediately remove the lid and place butter slices in several spots. Cover for 20 seconds, then remove the lid again and gently toss to coat popcorn. Then immediately sprinkle in the cheese mixture, tossing once or twice, and cover for 1 minute. Remove lid, let cool and serve.

Movie suggestion: Spirited Away, Japan, 2001
By the “Walt Disney” of Japan, Hayao Miyazaki, this Academy Award winner is animation as good as it gets. I’ve watched this movie, about a girl who gets stuck in the spirit world, dozens of times with my kids — and a few by myself — and every time I get excited to see it again.

*   *   *

Salted vanilla caramel & chocolate corn
serves 4 for movie night

3/4 cup popcorn
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tbsp. Maldon or fleur de sel salt

In a large pot, heat the grapeseed oil over medium high heat until smoking. Turn off heat, add popcorn kernels, cover, and let sit for 30 seconds. Return pot to medium high heat and pop the popcorn, shaking pan slightly every so often, until the popping slows to several seconds between pops.

Make your caramel: place the sugars, corn syrup and vanilla in a sauce pan and heat over medium until simmering. Stir in baking soda and remove from heat. Pour the caramel over the popcorn, tossing lightly as you go until all popcorn has a light coating. When all caramel is gone from the pan, sprinkle the almonds over the popcorn and continue tossing for another 30 seconds.

Spread caramel corn on a large cookie sheet, and place in a 200-degree oven. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, gently breaking up popcorn clumps from time to time. Remove from oven.

Place a small shallow saucepan over medium heat. Fill to 1 inch with water and bring to a simmer. Place the chocolate chips in another, even smaller pan, and put that pan into the water in the other (this is called a “double boiler,” and helps melt the chocolate without burning). Stir the chocolate with a wooden chopstick or small spoon as it melts.

When all chocolate has melted, quickly spoon into a small plastic Ziploc bag, and force chocolate into one corner, twisting off the bag above the chocolate to seal. Using scissors or a sharp knife, snip off a tiny piece of plastic at the corner where the chocolate is. Use as you would a pastry bag, squeezing out a thin drizzle of melted chocolate in rows or zig zag patterns over the popcorn.

When the chocolate has all been drizzled, place popcorn tray in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes. Remove, break up into chunks and individual pieces, place in a large bowl and enjoy.

Movie suggestion: Big Fish, U.S., 2003
I tried to think of a really sweet movie to go with this delicious confection, and came up with my favorite Tim Burton film starring Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney, about an estranged son and his tall-tale-telling father. Tears are guaranteed if you happen to be a dad.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Benjamin Thompson
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 18:15:01

    http://www.garrettpopcorn.com/

    The 1/2 caramel, 1/2 cheese is a mysterious culinary triumph.

    Reply

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