Life Staple #3: Chipotle Popcorn

Keith and I don’t own a microwave, so when we want popcorn I make it the old fashion way–on the stove top. Though some would never trade the instant gratification of pressing one button and snacking less than 2 minutes later, I find stove top popcorn infinitely more satiating and exciting. Popcorn is a fun, versatile, and low-cost way to experiment with both savory and sweet snack ideas without investing too much time or effort. To me, the light airy kernels are a crunchy blank canvas, and with a few easy steps I can turn them into a life staple that never disappoints a crowd. Though I have done a variety of combos, the one flavor I receive repeated requests for is my Chipotle Popcorn. We actually have friends that repeatedly show up to poker night a half hour early because they want first dibs.
Presentation and taste will score equally high marks: the infused oil coats each kernel with a beautifully speckled orange shimmer while the first bite packs a salty punch that quickly fades into the smoky spice combination, then eventually the heat from the chipotle  builds up to slow smolder on your palate.
I suspect the requests for this popcorn keep coming because of my secret ingredient–chipotle extra virgin olive oil. Truth be told, though the chipotle oil really boosts the flavor, the real secret is having a best friend (check out her amazing blog on nutrition and fitness here) that spoils you with culinary gifts from her worldly travels. Last year, when Lauren traveled to Maine, she stumbled upon Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars and picked me up a bottle.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unpopped kernels
4 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil OR 4 tbs Chipotle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbs salted butter
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
3/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
3 cloves garlic, grated
salt, to taste (I use pink Himalayan rock salt because of the great health benefits)

Follow stove top popping instructions for your popcorn–you want to use around 3/4 cup unpopped kernels.  Make sure you use a pot that has a lid, and distributes heat evenly to avoid uneven popping.

Combine oil, butter, chipotle pepper, chili powder, and smoked paprika in a small sauce pot over LOW heat.

Using a microplane, grate garlic cloves into the mixture and stir to incorporate.  Keep heat on very low for approximately 5 minutes, which will allow the garlic to mellow out and the spices to infuse the oil/butter mixture (this step is especially important if you don’t have chipotle oil to start).  The mixture will bubble very slightly–so you should stir it occasionally and make sure that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Pour chipotle mixture over popcorn, and sprinkle with salt.  Mix gently, but thoroughly, to distribute flavors evenly.

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