I don’t think I’ve ever confessed this on this blog. What I’m about to say, I mean. I’m a popcorn fanatic. We always had it around when I was growing up and made it in, variously, an aluminum sauce pan, a cast iron frying pan, any of a number of curious electrical contraptions we found at the swap meet or regrettably, a hot air popper in the late 70’s. We slathered it with melted Parkay and optional light Karo syrup. I’ve never lived in a house with a microwave in my life, but used to stink out the staff kitchens at certain jobs I’ve had with microwave popcorn.
Now in the Consolidation phase of the Dukan diet, I’m able to have carbohydrates (including polenta) twice a week and I reckon that popcorn is equivalent to polenta. They both start with ‘po’ and have seven letters. Both are made from maize (corn). Only difference I can see is that one involves grinding the kernels and the t’other heats them up until they explode.
I have a great Whirley-Pop corn popper in which I use my allotted teaspoon of oil to pop my corn in. It’s a special high-temperature, low oil stove top contraption which stirs the kernels around, preventing them from burning. It makes a terrific racket and is nearly as much fun to make popcorn as to eat it. I use about 3 – 4 tablespoons of popcorn. I bought my last bag at Marks & Spencer by the way. I use to have to ferret it out in whole food shops, but it’s slowly becoming more mainstream.
Normally, I’d melt plenty of President unsalted butter in the pan after the corn has popped. The stirring mechanism helps coat all of the kernels beautifully. Then sprinkle it with Maldon sea salt. At this point, I can go one of three ways. One, eat it as it is. Lovely. Two, drizzle it with Lyle’s Golden Syrup (in a squeezy bottle (it’s dang close to Golden Karo Syrup)). This is stickylicious and gives this Southern Gal that sweet-salty combo she just can’t get enough of (think French toast with real maple syrup and streaky bacon). Or three, grate some fresh Parmigiano–Reggiano onto it and stir. Perhaps cook up some streaky bacon or pancetta and cut it into ¾” pieces and sprinkled on top. This is popcorn you would be served in a Tuscan version of Heaven.
But I’m on a very, very low fat diet so am not being liberal with butter. I tried adding freshly grated Parmigiano–Reggiano but it doesn’t stick well without plenty o’ butter. So, I ordered some American popcorn toppings from The Stateside Candy Company.
And had a popcorn topping tasting and review last week for dinner when Steve was away. I popped up a batch of corn and melted a couple of tablespoons of butter onto it. Just to give the toppings something to stick to. The manufacturers recommend spraying the popcorn with oil, but that’s just plain weird. And popcorn just isn’t right unless you get butter fingers!
Each was good in it’s unique way. Here are the results:
Wabash Farm Buttery Jalapeño Popcorn Seasoning
Ochre with a nice spicy-heat flavour. A bit salty, but that’s because I used salted butter. NB: Need to try this again w/ unsalted butter.
Kernel Season’s White Cheddar Flavour Popcorn Seasoning
Elegant pale yellow colour. Good strong, but mellow and complex, cheese flavour with a lingering finish. Very sophisticated on the palate. Similiar to high quality packaged popcorn for grown-ups, eg Smartfoods White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn.
Gourmet Fries Seasoning Cheesy Cheddar
Scary bright orange colour. Strong, ‘buttermilk’ cheese flavour found in certain highly processed and junk foods, eg Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Tangy Cheese Doritos. Very good if you’re after that ‘never to be found in nature’ cheese taste experience. Highly addictive, the ‘crack cocaine’ of the artificial cheese world. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper for chili cheese popcorn.
BTW, when I was looking for online cheese powder sources, I found this funny editorial in the Guardian: Cheese powder corrupts absolutely.
“What was this stuff? It was as if some evil genius had personally researched my tastebuds, rootled into my darkest psyche for forgotten guilty pleasures and tailored something to flick every switch. Sure, there’s plenty of umami in there, plenty of salt and MSG – hell for all I know there’s catnip and dandruff – but there was more, so much more. God, it was good.
Many foods can be improved by a sprinkling of cheese. Parmesan, with its high glutamate content is a natural flavour enhancer, a good cheesy gratin is still the only surefire way to render any vegetable palatable, and a decent sized slice of rattrap cheddar melted over most things will brighten them considerably, but this is a different league.”
– Tim Hayward, 2011