At a very pathetic low point when I was studying abroad last spring, all I wanted was something to make me feel at home… halfway around the world. It was raining outside, I was having boy trouble and I missed my Berkeley friends — I was having a pity party. After rummaging through our kitchenette cabinets, I found a full bag of popcorn kernels that the previous residents had left behind as a parting gift of sorts. I know we aren’t supposed to seek emotional support from food and all, but sometimes you just need a bowl of something salty and a tear-jerker to get you through those days.
Growing up in a world of Orville Redenbacher microwavable goodness, I had never made popcorn on the stovetop before. Against my better judgement, I did a total of zero research before I had a pot of simmering oil in front of me. Note: hot oil and emotional instability probably was NOT a good combination. The first round I attempted was almost entirely burnt and yielded an ungodly amount of popcorn. Further, in my disgruntled state, I kept the lid off at first, resulting in a mess of popcorn all over our floor. After cleaning up my failed batch, I was determined to make this snack work. On my second attempt, I used a lot less oil and allowed it to heat up on high before adding about a third of a cup of kernels to the pot. Putting the top on to keep the steam (and popcorn) inside, I repeatedly shook the pot back and forth, ensuring that each kernel was equally coated in olive oil and received an even amount of heat on all sides. It looks sort of aggressive, but you really do have to shake the pot on the heat almost the entire time so that the popcorn on the bottom doesn’t burn. Once the pops became sparse, trust your ears to tell you when it is nearly done. I took the pot off the heat and transferred the popcorn into a bowl. Since this was my first batch and I had already spent way too much time making a single bowl of popcorn, I finished it off with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, a touch of pepper and tossed that baby. I also added half a bag of M&M’s-like candy because sometimes that’s how I roll.
Upon my return to Berkeley, I became, and still am, a serious popcorn fanatic. Inexpensive, fast, versatile and delicious, popcorn is so insanely craveable. The addiction has gotten so out of hand, I feel like every night begins and/or ends with someone asking, “So, what’s our flavor profile going to be?” Throughout the semester, we have gone through a number of popcorn phases, resulting in an eclectic and creative repertoire of mixes. Some of my all-time favorites include, but are not limited to: nutritional yeast, rosemary and garlic powder, chili powder and lime, grated gruyere and black pepper, cinnamon and agave and of course the classic olive oil, salt and pepper combo.
Because I don’t want any of you to experience the same mayhem I did on my first go, I included a very basic “recipe” of sorts to get you and your friends started on an epic munchies adventure. Your wallet and stomach will thank you for avoiding the Durant drunchies walk of shame.
Recipe: Gourmet popcorn
Time: 5 minutes | Yield: One giant bowl of popcorn goodness!
3 tablespoons of your oil of choice (I prefer olive oil because it tastes great)
1/3 cup of popcorn kernels (yellow, white or red kernels — it doesn’t matter!)
1 tablespoon of olive oil to finish
Salt to taste, and pepper to taste if you are into that (I am)
A sprig of rosemary (try to use fresh!)
½ tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed medium or large pot on high heat, or really whatever pot you have that has a top that fits. If you are using coconut oil, allow all of the solid oil to melt.
When you can hear the sizzling sound of the oil, add 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Swirl in oil for a few moments to coat evenly.
Allow the kernels to heat up in the oil for a few moments, stirring every few moments. Once you hear the first kernels pop, gently (or violently) shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner.
Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid and dump the popcorn immediately into a big bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil (or butter!) and all of the toppings your little heart desires!
Probably make another batch immediately!