Dress Up Popcorn

The 90th Academy Awards are nearly upon us, and no matter which films and actors you're cheering for, you are going to want snacks for what is traditionally a long and winding road to the best picture award presentation. And, since we're talking movies here, it only seems fitting to make sure popcorn is on the menu. But before you grab a package of microwave popcorn, consider taking just an extra step or two (or more, if you are looking for something very special) to put together something all your own.

If you aren't looking to invest a lot of time or effort, you might be interested in saving some money. Making your own microwave popcorn instead of buying it can really add up over the course of a year, especially if you like to indulge once or more a week. Before you think that sounds like too much work, check out this simple recipe and give it a whirl. You can set all those savings aside and make sure you get to see all the films nominated for the 91st Academy Awards!

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

  • 2-3 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. unpopped popcorn kernels
  • Seasonings, as desired
In a large bowl with a loose-fitting, ventilated lid, microwave the butter for one minute or until melted. Add the popcorn kernels and mix lightly to make sure all of them are coated in melted butter. Place the bowl with the lid loosely covering it in the microwave and cook it on HIGH for 5-6 minutes or until there are 3-4 second pauses between popping. Carefully remove the bowl (it will be hot) and season your popcorn as desired. My favorite option is a 1:3 ratio of garlic powder and salt. Here's a situation where lighter salt makes a lot more sense than heavier coarse salts, which will simply fall to the bottom of the bowl. If desired, more melted butter can be added as well.
  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 6 minutes

You can, of course, sprinkle this simple popcorn with a bit of fine salt (opt for either popcorn or pickling salt, as you'll get better coverage) and call it a night. But if you're like me, you might wish to give your popcorn something extra. I adore sprinkling my popcorn with Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle or Bold Taco Seasoning, both from Penzeys. Of course, I've also been known to drizzle a bit of melted butter on my popcorn, but when I'm sharing with someone avoiding dairy (or just in the mood for something super tasty and different) I opt to use nutritional yeast, aka nooch. If you're new to this fantastic ingredient and want some help getting started, get a great guide from Gimme Some Oven. Of course, like the Oscars, we need to save the very best for last. Our equivalent of the best picture award for popcorn goes to … Chipotle Bacon Caramel Popcorn. Yeah, it's a thing!

Despite being beyond decadent and perfect for your Oscars Night viewing, it only takes about 15 minutes to make, not counting the time it takes to cool. But, let's face it, we all know there's going to be some nibbling before it's completely cool anyway! So whip up a batch, settle in, and may your choice for best picture be awarded!

Chipotle Bacon Caramel Popcorn

  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon -- cooked, crumbled, and bacon grease reserved
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 3 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Prepare the bacon and set aside, reserving the bacon grease rendered during the cooking process. In a large saucepan or pot with a lid, heat 2-3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover, and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped, about 4 minutes. Transfer the popped popcorn to the large prepared bowl, removing any unpopped kernels.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, 3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon grease, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light, thickened caramel, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking soda mixture (the mixture will bubble up). Quickly fold in the bacon bits. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss, like a salad, until all of the popcorn is evenly coated with the caramel.

Pour the popcorn onto a large baking pan and quickly flatten and separate it into small pieces while it is still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once it is cool, store it in a well-sealed airtight container.

  • Yields: About 10 cups
  • Preparation Time: About 15 minutes, plus cooling time

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