Raise your hand if you eat microwave popcorn. Don't lie. Do you make it at work? Do you eat it while you watch movies at home? Wait... is there a box in your kitchen cupboard RIGHT NOW? There is, isn't there?
Homemade popcorn is my favorite snack. It's simple, healthy, and almost as fast to make as the microwave variety. Of course, you'll have to give up that gritty, chemical-tasting "butter" that clings stubbornly to your fingers, but you can add almost anything else you like: savory spices, parmesan and herbs, sugar and salt... and you don't even need special equipment. All you need to make your own delicious popcorn is is a heavy lidded pot, a little oil, and some good quality popcorn.
Speaking of high-quality popcorn: if you are in the Des Moines area, grab a bag of Emmack Farms popcorn the next time you're at the farmer's market (I like the "party pack" pictured above, called such because it contains all the various colors). The family that grows this wondrous popcorn always sets up in front of Johnny's Hall of Fame. One quart costs a whopping $3.00; far less than you would pay for the same amount of microwave popcorn.
A quick story: we wanted eight bags to give as Christmas gifts last year (yes, it's that good), but we couldn't find the family's booth at the winter market. After we called the phone number listed on the popcorn label, they offered to drive to Des Moines with eight bags of popcorn just for us. They didn't even charge for delivery - just met us in a HyVee parking lot and handed over the popcorn. Wouldn't you rather give your money to people like this than to Orville Redenbacher? But I digress.
Popcorn this good doesn't need much else to make it tasty, so I usually top mine with a little butter and Sriracha (the spicy, slightly sweet Thai chili sauce). It makes a wonderful snack for road trips, which is how we enjoyed ours last weekend.
2 tbsp oil (a high-heat oil like safflower or peanut is best)
1/2 cup popcorn
2 tbsp butter
Sriracha, as much as you like
Spread oil in the bottom of a thick, heavy pot with a lid (I use a wok) over medium heat. Place a few kernels in the pot and cover it with the lid as the oil warms up. Because I'm a nerd, I like to use exactly one kernel of each color. There's no science behind this that I'm aware of; it's just fun.
Listen closely while the oil heats. After a few minutes, you'll start to hear popping. When all three kernels have popped, the oil is ready.
Add 1/2 cup of kernels to the oil and cover tightly with the lid. Now all you have to do is listen and occasionally shake the pot to redistribute the kernels, making sure to keep the lid closed.
In the meantime, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat and add as much Sriracha as you like.
Clearly, I like a lot of Sriracha.
Bring the butter and Sriracha just to a boil, then drop the temperature to low. Swirl pan occasionally and keep warm until ready to use.
Listen to the popcorn, shaking the pot occasionally, as it continues to cook. When you hear it slow to 2-3 seconds between pops, give the pot one more shake and remove from heat. Immediately transfer popcorn to a paper grocery bag and pour in Sriracha butter.
I hate to waste any Sriracha butter, so after pouring it over, I'll spoon popcorn into the saucepan to scoop out the last of the Sriracha.
Add a little salt to taste, then close the paper bag and shake up your popcorn until it's well mixed with the Sriracha butter and salt.
That's it! Now you're ready for a road trip...
...or just a night on the couch!