I have had a popcorn problem for a long time. By problem, I mean two things. 1) I love it, and it’s my go-to snack whenever I’m not really hungry, just craving savory flavors and need something to mindlessly pick at while doing a task that makes me sit my ass in a chair for more than an hour (usually writing an article, brochure, website, or another piece that’s longish). Also: 2) I burn the crap out of microwave popcorn. I’m not kidding – every single time I shove one of those bags into the microwave and follow the directions religiously, about 1/3 of the bag comes out brown, tastes like smokey cardboard, and makes the house smell like a place where volunteer firemen practice putting out kitchen fires. Still, I love the stuff so much that I pop a bag, sift through the contents to remove the charred failures, and collect the rest in a huge bowl to enjoy dipped in Frank’s Red Hot sauce or sprinkled with garlic powder and parm out of a shaker. (And you thought I was all down-home and au natural).
Ohhh, then there’s the third problem. I found out about just about two years ago that in addition to the the faux-butter and high sodium sins I’d chosen to ignore, the lining of microwave popcorn bags contains PFOA, short for perfluorooctanoic acid. It belongs to a class of nasties that increases the prevalence of obesity in your female offspring, renders some vaccines less effective, and increases risk to all kinds of shittyness including cancers and thyroid issues.
That last jobbie prevented me from making microwave popcorn for a long time, which sucked, honestly. Before we moved from Vermont back to Buffalo in the spring of 2012, though, Kevin went to our incredible local food co-op and bought me a jar full of popping corn. Which I promptly ignored for over 20 months while we tended to way more important things like selling our little piece of Vermont, moving too much, grieving, and fixing up this old house.
Then tonight I had an incredible jonesing for popcorn. So I grabbed that jar of corn kernels, looked up what in Sam-hell to do with it, and made some popcorn from scratch like people did in the olden days. AND IT WAS SO SURPRISINGLY EASY AND GOOD. It took less time than the microwaved kind, resulted in a surprising volume of popped corn from a small amount of kernels, didn’t burn at all – I’m serious – even though it’s cooked over a flame, cost considerably less, allowed more flavoring flexibility, and the bare-ass popcorn had a light nuttiness that delivered way more flavor than it’s bastard bagged cousins. We just popped it, drizzled it with some melted butter and seasoning, and proceeded to annihilate the entire bowl within the first 15 minutes of Letterman.
I will not miss you, you burnty bag o’ crap-lined crap. Here’s the new girl in town:
3 Tbsp oil (most recipes call for peanut or canola oil; I din’t have either, so I did 2 Tbsp olive and 1 Tbsp veg, and it was fine)
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
Whatever you want to put on the top of the popcorn. Options: 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter and 1 tsp. seasoning mix (seasoned salt, greek seasoning, BBQ seasoning, whatever); garlic powder and parmesan cheese; nothing, etc.
– Heat the oil in a 2.5 quart or larger heavy-bottomed pot (with a tight-fiting lid that lets steam escape) over medium-high heat.
– While the oil is heating, put 3 kernels in there.
– When one of the kernels pops, it’ll jump right out of the pot and scare the bejesus out of you, but that means it’s time to dump in the rest of the kernels in.
– Put the lid on and swish the pan around actively, keeping it as close to fire as possible.
– Those little guys will magically start popping from kernel to puff. It’s like a magic show. The shaking keeps the unpopped kernels closer to the heat at the bottom, and lets the popped guys float comfortably to the top of the pile to prevent burning.
– When the popping noise noticeably slows down, turn off the burner and let the pan park, shaking it occasionally, for about a minute until the unpopped kernels get the mojo out of their system.
– Dump the popped corn into a bowl and drizzle with butter or sprinkle with powdered seasoning (or both).