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Monday, November 29, 2010

Phew. Well Thank Goodness That's Over. (And Spiced Popcorn)

My cinematographer, Mansee Kong, with the HUGE 35mm camera we used for my spec commercial.
I got through NYU's commercial production period! Victory!! That would be two weeks of back-to-back 1 (sometimes 2) day shoots. I produced three, production managed three, work as boom operator on one, art assistant on another, and directed one.  If you can't already guess, that's a lot to do in two weeks. I pretty much stopped being a functioning human. The dirty dish pile was taller than me, and I was one pair of clean underwear away from being a hygiene abomination.  

So enough about my hectic film student life. I realize that for a food blog, it's kind of essential to have a Thanksgiving recap. An extravaganza of all the various dishes that said blogger and his/her family went through various pains to create. And friends, I DO have tons of recipes I want to share with you, along with some great photos. Here's the problem: the photos are not in my possession right now, and frankly, the recipes, as of this moment, don't exist. My mom and I are generally in charge of handling Thanksgiving preparations, and this time around, we decided "screw it", and just started throwing things in bowls and pans, tossing them in the oven, and crossing our fingers. With this method, we were able to make an awesome jalapeno cornbread dressing, sumptuous butternut squash bread, awesome braised short ribs, great sauteed kale and spinach, and seriously FANTASTIC butternut squash biscuits (which I still dream about). As soon as I get a chance to have a long phone conversation with my mom, I'll hammer out some recipes for you guys. 

Courtesy of "The Whole Kitchen"
In the meantime, I thought I'd give you guys something to play with. Recently I've discovered the joys of spiced popcorn, which is stupidly easy to make, completely addictive, and (best of all) cheap! My recipe is a based off of Nigella Lawson's, but with a few tweaks. I use a few more spices, give it a bit of an Indian twist. I made this once for a bunch of friends coming over for a dinner party and everyone LOVED it. And now it's pretty much a staple of my repertoire. 

A quick warning: this is really one of those "go by your own taste" sort of things. I'm a big lover of salt, always have been, so this mix gives your popcorn a nice, salty taste. I'd recommend checking the spice levels before you toss everything together. 

Courtesy of...erm...someone....

Now, generally when people make their own popcorn, they just melt regular butter and pour that on top. Personally, I don't like when the butter finally solidifies, and leaves that waxy coating over the kernels. To me, the best thing to do is use clarified butter, which is a snap to make, and after you learn, you'll wonder to yourself "I've lived on Earth for (insert number here) years without this nectar of the gods???"

Courtesy of Flickr
Now, this is my version of spiced popcorn, but if you're adventurous, I encourage you all to try your own combinations, and let me know when you find something tasty!

Spiced Popcorn
Based off Nigella Lawson's "Party Popcorn"

Large paper bag
4-5 tbsp clarified butter (recipe below)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5-2 cups popping corn
4 tsp salt
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp red pepper

Add the vegetable oil to a large (and I mean LARGE) pot and set it to high heat on the stove. Drop in the popcorn kernels and stir to make sure they are all coated. Put the lid on pretty quick and leave it alone. 

Meanwhile, combine the rest of the dry ingredients in a small ziplock bag. Shake to make sure everything is well mixed. In a small sauce pot, melt the clarified butter and add the spices. Mix so they combine to make a thin paste. 

By now, those kernels should be popping like crazy. You can shake the pot every now and then to make sure nothing's sticking to the bottom, but make sure you don't take the lid off. Unless you like getting pelted by exploding corn. 

As soon as the popping settles down considerably (you hear only one or two kernels going off at a time), turn off the heat. Now is when you'll need an extra set of hands. Get that large paper bag (like a Trader Joe's bag) and, with someone else holding it open, dump the popcorn straight in.  Then grab your heated spice mixture and pour it on top. Use a rubber spatula to get every last drop out of the pan. Immediately, fold over the top of the bag and shake that thing like your life depends on it. After about 40 seconds, pour the contents into your serving bowl. And there you have it: awesome spiced popcorn. 

Clarified Butter

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter cut into pieces

Drop butter into sauce pan and slowly melt over low heat (this is crucial). After all butter is melted, take off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the top and slowly pour into a tupperware container. Make sure all (or a majority of) what you are saving is clear butter. 

Refrigerate for up to 1 month. 

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