November 21, 2012

Catching up with a pop culture phenomenon

It's one of the great American snack foods, and with very little fuss, you can make your own gourmet popcorn.

By Wendell Brock / McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 1)

POPCORN
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Popcorn is a centuries-old simple food that has gone gourmet. Nutty-cheese popcorn features Parmesan, pistachios and cashews.

McClatchy Newspapers photos

POPCORN
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Gladys’s Popcorn Balls are studded with bacon.

Servings: Six to eight

With chopped pistachios, cashews, Parmesan, chives and lemon zest, this olive-oil-popped corn has a slightly Mediterranean zing. If you run the cheese and nuts through the food processor until coarse, you get just the right mixture for clinging to the popcorn. If making ahead, get everything ready and toss just before serving.

½ cup popping corn

3 tablespoons olive oil (may use any kind of oil)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces good-quality Parmesan cheese, grated

1 cup roasted, salted pistachios, finely chopped

1 cup roasted, salted cashews, finely chopped

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

3 tablespoons fresh chives

Chopped zest of one lemon

Place popping corn and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or skillet with a lid, and cover. Heat over high heat. As soon as the corn begins to pop, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to pop until all the corn is popped, about 5 minutes, shaking regularly and lifting the pot an inch above the flame to keep the popcorn from burning. (Once you can no longer hear any pops, the corn is ready.) Dump into a large bowl, and toss with butter. Add Parmesan, pistachios and cashews, and mix well. Toss in salt; taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in chives and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 443 calories (percent of calories from fat, 74), 15 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 38 g fat (10 g saturated), 25 mg cholesterol, 984 mg sodium.

 

GLADYS'S POPCORN BALLS

Servings: Eight to 10 balls

Atlanta's Watershed restaurant executive chef Joe Truex, a native of Mansura, La., credits this recipe to the woman who took care of him and his sisters while his parents worked. If this sounds like a lot of bacon grease, well, it is. But the fat really flavors the popcorn and gives it shelf life. You may cut back to as a little as 1 tablespoon if desired. Feel free to mix in peanuts, cashews or pecans, too.

1 cup sugar

1 1/3 cups cane syrup, preferably Steen's

2/3 cup water

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

4 quarts popped corn, preferably not microwave popcorn, lightly salted

12 ounces bacon, fried and chopped into crumbles (should have about 1 cup), fat reserved

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for coating hands while shaping balls

¼ teaspoon baking soda

In a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, melt sugar, syrup, 2/3 cup water, vinegar and salt over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 250 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully so mixture does not boil over.

In a very large bowl, toss popcorn and bacon. Cover a work surface or large baking tray with waxed paper. When syrup mixture is ready, turn off heat and stir in butter, reserved bacon fat and baking soda; it will foam up. Mix well.

Pour about 2/3 of the syrup over popcorn and bacon. Working very quickly, mix well with a wooden spoon. Grease hands with butter. Being very careful not to burn your hands, shape the popcorn mixture into softball-size balls and place them on prepared surface to cool; this is best done by more than one person, so syrup does not have time to harden. As the mixture begins to dry, stir in the remaining syrup.

Cool and serve. Or wrap individually in waxed paper and store in an airtight container.

Per ball: 575 calories (percent of calories from fat, 37), 15 g protein, 77 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 24 g fat (9 g saturated), 44 mg cholesterol, 1,069 mg sodium.

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