Crispy and crunchy, salty and sweet, with a dash of spice.
In the ongoing hunt to find food that tastes good without making me look like a baby beluga, I happened upon popcorn. Understanding that a small popcorn from the movie theater holds almost as many calories as a Big Mac (making all those Big Macs I snuck into the theater redundant), and that microwave popcorn wasn’t much better, I decided to make it for myself. The healthiest choice would have been to go with a hot air popper, but because I am cheap I did not want to spend the money and because I’m lazy I did not want to leave my apartment.
So after some research I discovered it wasn’t that hard to cook popcorn on the stove. With a little bit of salt and oil (I wanted to eat a healthy snack, not packing popcorn. Trust me, that shit tastes nasty) I had something I could theoretically eat for days without waist expanding results.
It didn’t take long for me to start experimenting with different oils, seasonings and the like, and after some horrible failures that still haunt my dreams I discovered one worth perfecting.
Sesame Chili Kettlecorn
Now it’s not really kettlecorn. For that you’d need a kettle, which I don’t have, and you’d need to make it in large quantities, which I don’t want. This is more like caramel corn, but people respond better to kettlecorn so I’m just going to fucking lie.
¼ cup of popping corn
⅛ cup of sugar
⅛ cup of brown sugar
½ tbs of sesame oil
½ tbs of chili oil
1 tbs of butter (look, this recipe isn’t about health, god dammit. Stop hounding me.)
¼ tsp of popcorn salt (or you can grind it up in a food processor, the salt needs to be a fine powder.)
- Have everything measured and ready to go before you begin. Once things start to happen they will happen quickly.
- Put the oils in a medium-sized pot over a medium-high flame. Throw in a few kernels and cover with a lid. When the kernels pop, take the pot off the flame and throw in the rest of the popcorn and the salt.
- Wait while the kernels cook. You don’t want them to start popping yet, so make just keep an eye on them. You’ll see them begin to lighten in color.
- After a minute or two, throw in the butter and the sugar, and return the pot to the heat.
- Stir until the sugar and butter combine and make a thick, dark, sugary paste.
I have to interject here for a moment. If you have never worked with melted sugar before, please be careful. Have you ever burned yourself? It hurt, didn’t it? Now imagine that pain-inducing heat not only touching you, but then sticking to you. And when you go to wash it off, it only hardens into burning armor. Melted sugar is the culinary equivalent to napalm. So please, be careful.
- Cover the pot. Turn the heat down a smidgen. Shake the pot, stirring the sugar and kernels inside, constantly. Don’t stop. You’re arms will hurt, yes, but it’s better than burned sugar. Burned sugar is horrible to eat, maybe even more horrible than any other burned food because you can almost taste the good thing it was supposed to be inside it, making it a metaphysical disappointment.
- Keep the cover on and continue to stir vigorously. When the kernels begin to pop, keep your ears open. When the popping has slowed, turn off the heat.
- Place the popped corn into a bowl immediately. BUT DON’T TOUCH IT, for god’s sake.
Once it cools you can eat it right away. Or, if you like, you can take the time to add a few more ingredients. You can drizzle a little more sesame oil over it, or toss in some toasted sesame seeds. You could add some paprika to give it more pep, or perhaps a little more salt to suit your tastes. I like to do all of the above, along with sprinkling on some ginger powder to give it a distinct Asian flavor.