Perfect Popcorn and Hard Lemonade

IMG_6213What do you do when you come back from a strenuous hiking trip too tired for a late Friday night out on the town with a bushel of lemons that fell from the tree while you were gone? Why make hard lemonade, a perfect pot of popcorn and rev up the DVD player for a marathon couch slouch of watching rerun episodes of a favorite television show of course.

Our chosen show was Arrested Development, catching up on old episodes in a preemptive memory move for its long overdue return to Netflix this fall. So it was rather apropos to think up a dry, astringent drink to match the dry, astringent comedy.

IMG_6214Over twenty lemons were squeezed to make about a quart of country-style, pulpy juice to which we added a mere smidgeon of sugar syrup, a dash of orange bitters and cherry syrup and a shot of vodka. It was a cocktail worthy of puckered lips so we decided a simple batch of popcorn would be a nice, balancing complement.

One of the Cute Gardener’s claims to fame is that he seduced me (and allegedly a few women before me) with his perfect popcorn. I have had it a few times now and always marvel at the light and savory consistency he manages to maintain. Sometimes he seasons it with sophisticated barbecue mixes from nice spice stores like Savory’s or Penzey’s but mostly he serves it plain and simple in its extraordinary natural light. This time I scribbled down fastidious notes as he cooked it to make sure I could replicate it again on my own as well as share with my unorthodox readers. It certainly comes down to an exact science but is well worth the effort.

IMG_6218Perfect Popcorn

3/4 cup of your favorite store bought popcorn kernels
3/8 cup canola oil
Half a stick of butter

Heat a 2-gallon metal heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat for a few minutes to get it piping hot. Pour in the oil and if it does that elastic thing when you swirl the pan where it rolls in and out from the sides in waves, you know it is ready. Or you can get a thermometer and anything between 450-475 degrees is fine. Pour in the corn and put on the lid. Within a minute it should be popping. If it starts to pop immediately or sooner than a minute, turn heat down slightly. At a minute it should be popping nicely. Separately, melt the half stick of butter on the stove. Pop until the popping slows down to about four seconds between pops and turnoff heat immediately. Keep in pot and hold in your hands and shuffle it around while it finishes the last few pops.

While still in the pot season the popcorn with this patient method. Pour one third of the butter slowly around the top of the popcorn evenly then dash three shakes of salt across the top as well. Hold the pot in both hands and shake/toss the popcorn so that more fresh, undressed pieces move to the top. Repeat this procedure two more times until all the popcorn is seasoned and you are ready to enjoy!

P.S. I spend a lot of time in this blog on my soapbox about being a healthy, responsible eater because we live in a world of consumption misalignment. But for the record, and in the case of this post as evidence, I do believe in having a little fun and indulging every once in a while. I have been studying food in regards to nutrition, science, and medicine for a few years now and know that balance is the key to health and happiness. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enchant our pleasure points every now and again with a buttery tub of popcorn as an essential ingredient for life. Although there is a vast amount of butter fat in the mix with this popcorn recipe, in the end, a fourth of the batch (the amount I tend to easily consume in one sitting) clocks out at 370 calories which is much less than most slices of cake or other pastries for dessert and rather equal to things like sherbet, fruit tarts, and more healthy dessert fare. Timing is also important. I wouldn’t want to eat this popcorn the night after Thanksgiving dinner but it is perfectly acceptable after three days of hiking the mountains of Sequoia burning over a thousand calories a day and drinking more than an average day’s worth of water.

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