Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cracker Jacks!

This one falls under the category of "Because You Can." Make your own caramel corn, that is. Couldn't be simpler.

The inspiration was a spread in last month's Gourmet inexplicably populated by early-20-something hipsters who, we are supposed to believe, created an elaborate meal with this as one of several dessert options. I have only recently begun to notice the odd casting choices Gourmet makes when shooting its full-menu articles. The diners are all impossibly beautiful--unwrinkled, unharried, undaunted by the eleventeen steps it takes to make that peppercorn crusted pork roast and vermouth pan sauce. How can they afford these ingredients? Are they old enough to purchase the suggested wine pairings? Did mom and dad have to drop them off at this ambiguous woodland location for a dinner party? What really kills me is that none of these individuals looks like he or she has ever enjoyed a full meal, unless you count tic-tacs between modeling shoots.

Well anyway, whoever is testing the recipes at the Gourmet headquarters had a nice thought with these Pecan Praline Popcorn treats. Basically, you just cook some sugar, add a bit of butter and stir in your popcorn, then let it cool. You can spread it out and then enjoy it like cracker jacks or press it into a pan, as the recipe says, and later cut them into bits. Coming from Louisiana, I am skeptical of the term "praline" in the title of this recipe; it doesn't come through. But hey, making your own caramel corn is pretty fun. Use whatever nut you like.
Caramel Corn for Two

2 cups popped popcorn*
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/8 tsp cider vinegar
healthy pinch of salt
  • Pour sugar in the bottom of a heavy pot and melt over medium heat, stirring with a fork at first to make sure it's evenly distributed. When sugar starts to melt, stop stirring and cook, swirling the pot occasionally by the handle to ensure overall meltiness. Allow sugar to reach a deep, golden caramel color, then turn heat way down to low.
  • Drop in butter, nuts, vinegar and salt and stir. When butter is almost melted, toss in popcorn and stir to coat. Spread out and let cool on an oiled sheet pan or press into an oiled baking dish and let cool. Yum!

*Do you know this trick about air popping popcorn? Just buy your kernels in the bag (not the microwave-ready stuff) and keep a stash of those brown paper lunch-size bags. Pour about 1/4 cup into the bottom of a bag, fold top over twice (thinly) and put in the microwave for about 3 minutes, listening for kernels to stop popping. Voila! Sprinkle with salt or whatever. Great way to save dollars on your popcorn habit.

Oh my. I was just searching Gourmet.com to find the Pecan Praline Popcorn recipe I followed and found, instead, this recipe for Maple Pecan Popcorn. Sure wish I'd made that instead. You make it. And tell me how it is.

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