The evening rolls into night as the house quiets at long last. I glance over at my husband who’s sitting on the couch next to me, and before any words are spoken he’s off to grab the big pot and our large container of popcorn kernels.
Popcorn happens a lot in our family. Sometimes it’s just for my husband and I. Other times it makes movie night feel like more of an occasion and still other times it helps to bridge the afternoon gap when the kids are already begging for dinner.
It’s a simple and nutritious snack that is quick to make, and although it requires a good sweeping after the kids tear into the bowl, I love making it for them and seeing how excited they get when I land a large bowl in front of them.
Making popcorn on the stove-top
We learned early in our marriage how to make a bowl of perfectly popped popcorn on the stovetop. Mostly out of desperation as our first few homes didn’t have a microwave and yet I couldn’t live without the light and salty snack.
- First you will need a large and heavy-bottomed pot. The bottom of the pot should be wide enough so that the kernels form an even layer on the bottom when added.
- Put the pot over medium-high heat and pour in about a tablespoon of oil. We’ve used everything from canola oil to coconut oil. I’ve even used olive oil as I love the flavor it adds but it does tend to smoke when heated too high.
- As soon as you add in the oil toss in a single kernel of popcorn. Cover the pot with a lid and give it an occasion toss so that the kernel doesn’t burn on one side.
- When that single kernel pops, immediately pour in 1/2 cup of kernels (less if you aren’t using a very large pot). To that add your salt. We usually add about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. If we need more we’ll add it in at the end.
- I ever so slightly prop the lid to let a bit of the steam escape out of the back so that the finished popcorn is perfectly crisp. I grab the handles of the pan with a kitchen towel or oven mitts as they get hot in the process.
- The reason why you wait until the oil is hot to add in the kernels is so that all of the popcorn pops are roughly the same time. This prevents scorching and leaves you with very few unpopped kernels.
- When the popping has stalled to a few *pops* per second pour the popcorn into a large bowl.
How to dress your popcorn
Since popcorn happens so often for us we usually eat it just like that. Perfectly salted, crunchy and very satisfying. But when the occasion deems it worthy, we’ll add in some melted butter and serve with plenty of napkins.
You can melt the butter in the residual heat of the pan and simply pour over top of the popcorn tossing as you go. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Popcorn is like a blank canvas. Over the years I’ve added everything from garlic salt, parmesan, brewer’s yeast, sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon to the bowl - although, not all at once.
Here are a few of my favorite variations:
Stir in 1/4 cup white sugar along with the popcorn kernels. Shake vigorously throughout the process to prevent scorching. Use brown sugar for a more intense caramel or toffee flavor.
To the kettle corn recipe you can also stir in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder to make chocolate popcorn. Add a bit of cinnamon and cayenne to make Mexican Chocolate Popcorn.
Stir in fresh chopped rosemary or thyme along with finely grated Parmesan or sharp cheddar.
My mom’s favorite is butter with salt and loads of fresh ground pepper.
Freshly ground fennel or cumin add a lovely intrigue when sprinkled on top.
Toast the butter in the pan until the milk solids in the butter caramelize and give off a nice toasty scent. Pour this over the popcorn.