Sunday, September 7, 2008

Stovetop Popcorn with Real Butter and Salt

Sometime after my 5th purchase of a 6 oz bag of specialty mediterranean cheesey potato chips at $3.39 per bag (single serving size unfortunately - there is no way you can open a bag of these and not finish them), I began getting cravings for real home cooked popcorn, one of the most cost effective snack foods ever invented. Not microwaved popcorn with yellow butter like powder all over, and not movie theater popcorn with yellow greasy sludge posing for real butter, but the actual popcorn my mom would make when I was a kid and she had friends come over to play kitty whist. We got to have our own little bowls of the well buttered and well salted loveliness, but the most amazing part was getting up the next morning. Pushing aside a couple of highball glasses, the big white corningware bowl of leftover popcorn was sitting on the counter with lots of butter and salt hardened at the bottom.

Real popcorn is really tasty even if you have to wash the pan.

Most of my cooking is a weighted decision based on clean up. I love to cook. I hate to clean up. I generally won't make pasta and sauce because the result is not worth cleaning the 2 pans it requires. I know - it makes me sound lazy and frankly, when it comes to dish washing, I really am. This is the reason why I had not made homemade popcorn in at least the last 20 years. Take it as you will.

Lately I have been thinking more and more about health, and flavor versus calories, and the big ole butt that follows me every day. If I'm going to have a treat, like the specialty potato chips or popcorn, the flavor better be worth it. Now that calories, carbs and salt concern me more than fat, I've been rethinking the whole popcorn thing. That plus when I got a good look at the sludge that they put on movie theater popcorn - that just can't be good for anyone - even as a treat. What kind of chemicals live there???

So - I've recently taken to cooking popcorn kernels on the stovetop just like my mom did when I could just barely pull that big white corningware bowl off the counter in the morning before she got up.

As I made some this afternoon, it occurred to me that there is probably a whole generation of people out there who really aren't sure how to make this really yummy treat, so why not post a recipe??? :)

- A heavy bottom sauce pot with a good fitting lid - maybe 2 oe 3 quarts in size or a dutch oven if you are serving a crowd

- A glug of vegetable, canola or peanut oil - just enough to coat the bottom of the pan

- A handful (or 2 or 3) of popping corn to cover the bottom of the pan in 1 layer or up to a layer and a half

- a knob of butter

- a sprinkle of salt

Put the pot on the stove and add your oil and popping corn.

Cover the pot with the lid and turn the heat on high

Listen for the corn to begin popping

Pop the butter in the microwave and melt it

Once the popping slows, shake the pan a bit so any unpopped kernels fall to the bottom

Just before the popping stops, take the pan off the heat

When it seems that you can open the pan without having an avelanche of white kernels whizzing across the kitchen, take off the lid of the pan and pour the popcorn into a specially assigned popcorn bowl like that big white corningwear bowl my mom had. Create a tradition.

Drizzle the butter over the hot popcorn, and sprinkle salt over it. I use a knife to dip down in the bowl and pull up some unsalted popcorn, and then add more salt. Mix it about and add as much butter and salt as you like. Yes, there are calories, but at least the butter is real and it tastes amazing.