How To: Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

Internet, listen up!  I’m about to teach you something really important.  Something, that if you don’t already know how to do, will completely change your life.  I’m going to teach you how to make the world’s best popcorn – on the stove top!

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I learned this method from my parents, who have made popcorn this way ever since I can remember.  In fact, I dont think I had microwaved popcorn before the third grade or so.  It’s very simple, requires very few ingredients & equipment, and will always please a crowd.  Let’s get started!

First, you’ll need a pot with a lid – about this big:

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A pot with a heavy base will work best.  You’ll want something that conducts and retains an even heat well. It doesn’t need to be expensive like All-Clad or Le Creuset, though those are certainly good options.  The pot pictured above came from a restaurant supply store. I got it for Christmas 7 years ago and it still looks good as new.  I will probably have it forever.  The other important factor about the pot you choose is that it should have relatively high sides to allow plenty or room for the corn to pop up.

Put the heat on high, then coat the bottom of the pot with a very thin layer of vegetable oil.  Just enough to coat the entire surface (I’ve never measured how much this is, and it will vary depending on your pot).  Then pour enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom in one even layer.  Like so:

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Next up, put the lid on.  Don’t walk away at this point… because within 20 seconds or so the corn should start popping.  {Excitement!}  Listen to it pop, and occasionally give the pot a forceful jiggle to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.  The popping will start off slow, just a few kernels every few seconds.  But after a bit, the popping will get very fast and the majority of the popcorn will pop at once.  Don’t freak – it’s all good!  {But do keep an eye on the lid, sometimes I find I’ve put in too much popcorn and once it pops it can start to push up on the lid.  If this happens to you, just keep a hand (use a kitchen towel if you think the lid’s handle might be hot) on the lid and be ready to pull the pot of the heat if starts to overflow.}

After about a minute and a half (this will vary depending on your pot and how much popcorn you put in), the popping will slow way down and then rather abruptly stop.  Just like in the microwave, once one or two seconds pass in between pops – your popcorn is done and you should remove it from the heat.

You don’t have to worry too much about pulling it off the heat too early, you’ll just have more unpopped kernels.  But if you let it go too long, it will burn.  To try and help out, I recorded the very end of the popping process so you can listen to the popping slow down. (It ends rather abruptly because I quit filming and moved the pot off of the heat).

As quickly as possible once you remove the pot from the heat, pour the popped corn into a big bowl.  Then place the hot pot on an inactive burner on your stove and place the lid aside. Allow the pot to cool down for around 90 seconds, then toss in 2 Tbsp salted butter and 1 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh rosemary (do not use dried, it is not the same.  If you must, acquire some fresh rosemary from your neighbor’s front yard.  I did).

The remaining heat from the pot will melt the butter and the rosemary will give off the most amazing fragrance.  The rosemary sort of fries in the butter, and infuses it with yummy flavor.  If the pot is too hot, the butter might brown a bit.  This is fine.  Swirl it around to keep the butter moving and prevent it from burning.  Browned butter tastes wonderfully nutty, burned butter just tastes gross.  Here’s a video of the rosemary and butter melting.  {Yum!}

Once the butter is completely melted, pour it all over the popped popcorn.  Season to your preference with table salt (don’t bother with kosher, sea salt or silly finely ground “popcorn” salt.  Table salt is best).  Toss the popcorn in the bowl to evenly coat with the butter & rosemary mixture.  Divide into serving bowls and enjoy!

When I was growing up, we made this popcorn (minus the rosemary, which is my own addition) for family movie nights, or for when the weather was all snowy & yucky outside.  Popcorn is great for a special occasion, or no occasion at all. It is definitely my favorite junk food.

Making the perfect stove top popcorn is an art and not a science.  It may take a few attempts for you to get it down perfectly.  Once you do have the method down and you know when it’s the perfect amount of popped, you’ll be glad to have this technique in your repertoire.

17 Comments + Posted in: Dessert, Recipes

Green Chili Mac & Cheese

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The alternate title for this post should be My Official Application for “Most Eligible San Antonio.” Kidding. Mostly. Bravo, are you casting?

In all seriousness though, folks, this is the most indulgent, rich, sinful dish I’ve made recently. It’s creamy, starchy, savory and spicy all at once.

I used roasted Hatch chilies I purchased several weeks ago when they were available at my grocer. I bought a pound of roasted chilies (HEB & Central Market roast them on the spot for you during the special week of the year when Hatches are available) and separated the chilies into four 1/4 lb batches before freezing.

If you don’t have magical roasted Hatch chilies in your freezer, fresh poblanos will work well. Just put them in the oven to roast at 450 for 30-45 mins or until they are nice and blackened. I used a 1/4 lb of roasted chilies, and it produces a pretty spicy finished recipe. If you are less adventurous or serving this to kiddos, I would cut that back by half.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
32oz Velveeta (don’t judge me!)
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1 lb elbow macaroni (I use cavatappi which is my favorite pasta shape)

Directions:

In a large pot of very salty water, cook the pasta according to package directions (I always shave 1/4 of the time off, since this will bake for a bit and you want the pasta to stay al dente. This also helps it stand up through a few reheatings of the leftovers).

Using a food processor or blender, puree the roasted chilies (seeds and all) until it is a smooth paste.

Over medium high heat, melt the butter and sprinkle in the flour. Stir or whisk continuously for 3 minutes till it forms a thick paste. Keep it moving, or it will burn. It’s ok if it darkens a bit and gets yummy/toasty smelling, but you don’t want your roux to get dark brown. Slowly whisk in the milk (I find this goes better if the milk is room temperature). Add in the Velveeta a little bit at a time, stirring frequently.

Once all the Velveeta is all melted, fold in the chili puree. Add the cooked pasta and stir to incorporate well.

Ok – so you could totally eat this now, and it would be tasty…. but I like to pour it into a baking dish (this recipe yields one 9×12 and one 9×9) top with shredded cheddar and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

While not exactly good for you in a nutritional sense, I like to think that this dish nourishes your soul. Sometimes you need a little of that.

12 Comments + Posted in: Main Dishes, Recipes, Sides, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Cayenne Pecans

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Autumn in a bowl, that’s what this dish is – and it is unbelievably simple.  You’ll want to make some of this to enjoy snuggled up on the sofa with your sweetie. I made this over the past weekend when I went on a fall flavors cooking binge. The whole process takes less than 30 minutes, but it tastes like it cooked on the stove all day.

Recipe Source: Fast Food My Way, Jacques Pepin (one of my favorite cookbooks of all time)

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
sour cream (garnish)
1 cup pecan halves
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute the chopped vegetables in olive oil for 3-5 minutes to soften. Season generously with salt & pepper. Add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then stir in the pumpkin puree. Boil another 5-8 minutes. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend soup until smooth.

Spray pecan halves with non stick spray, sprinkle with cayenne pepper and toss with your hands to coat evenly. Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes.

At serving time, add a dollop of sour cream and a few of the toasted cayenne pecans. Will keep in the fridge for a few days. Freezes well.

5 Comments + Posted in: Recipes, Soups & salads

Dishes You Should Know By Heart

Recently, lifehacker offered their list of dishes everyone must know how to make without a recipe.  Currated by chefs and tastemakers, the list included some solid choices such as fresh marinara, an easy cocktail etc.

My friend Lauren shared her list yesterday, and I loved it.  It is the list of a very well-rounded foodie.  She listed dishes that call for a variety of techniques from roasting, baking to pickling.  I’ll admit, I’ve never pickled anything.  I think I’m just as well rounded of a foodie, I’m just not that into pickled stuff.  Except onions -lately I’m obsessed with pickled onions, so I might give that a try.

Lauren’s list got me thinking, what are my “go-to” dishes that I can make without referencing a recipe?

Hummus:

Hummus is almost always a crowd pleaser.  If your friends aren’t down with hummus, you would probably be best served finding new friends.  It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up.  It’s reasonably healthy and packed with flavor.  You must have hummus in your “make from memory” arsenal.

Basic Pesto:

I use this basil & walnut pesto recipe in several different recipes on my site.  From pesto stuffed cherry tomatoes, pesto muffins and my favorite green eggs.  With pesto comes great power – the power to jazz up just about anything.  Once you know how to make a pesto, you can make lots of different variations using different herbs and ingredients.  Cilantro pesto is another favorite of mine.

Fritatta:

Fritatta is wonderful in that it allows you to make use of whatever you have on hand.  It is ideal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It’s easy enough to make for yourself at home to eat in your PJs in front of the TV, but smart enough to serve company.

Beer Bread:

Beer bread is magic.  Beer bread is foolproof.  Flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and a pint of your favorite brew – done.  The yeast in the beer does all the leavening for you.  You can add in whatever additional flavors you would like.  The recipe linked above has sharp white cheddar and dill.  I’ve made sweet beer breads with fresh berries and St. Arnold Lawnmower.  Beer bread is ideal for those “oh no I need to bring something to a potluck” or “I really should bring ‘so-and-so’ a homemade treat to celebrate their baby/new home/promotion, but I’m sooo  busy” kind of moments in life.  We all have those moments.

A Family Favorite Entre:

It’s a good idea to have one dish up your sleeve that everyone in the family loves, is simple and inexpensive to fix, and good during a variety of seasons.  In my family, that dish is chicken picatta.  The recipe linked above is my Moms – I’ve eaten her’s too many times to count, and I’ve made it so often for myself that I know the recipe by heart.

A Sinful & Simple Dessert:

Everyone should have one dessert recipe that they know by rote. Maybe it’s your favorite cheesecake, lemon bars, or oatmeal cookies.  For me, it’s chocolate stout cake.  I’ve made this cake over and over – I’ve made it in a bundt as pictured above.  I’ve made it in a towering 3-layer cake with whipped ganache frosting, and I’ve made it as cupcakes.  This cake is moist, dense and chocolatey.  Best of all, it’s always turned out for me.  It’s not finicky at all like some cake recipes can be.  I know that I always have everything I need for this recipe on hand (except maybe a stout which I can pick up at a convenience store on the way home), and I’ve got the method of preparation down pat.

I’m curious – what are some of your go-to recipes that you know by heart?

14 Comments + Posted in: Uncategorized

Fall Must Tries – Sherried Mushroom Soup

It’s time for one from the way-back machine…

I shared this recipe in September of last year, I was looking through my fall recipes to find some favorites to share – and this mushroom soup was a definite stand-out.  I hope you enjoy it!

In much of the US, the autumn weather has started to creep in.  A crispness to the air, with scents of spice and richness on your palate.  Not so much in Texas.  We’re still experiencing summer.  Granted it’s not swealtering – but it won’t feel like fall here for another month or so.

In the meantime, I’m going to play pretend.  I’m going to eat warm, savory, soothing dishes that are totally appropriate for enjoying beside a window looking out over multicolored foliage.

Recipe Source: Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

Ingredients:
6 tbsp/75 g butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
12 ounces/340 g button mushrooms (Or baby bellas)
4 cups/900 ml light chicken stock or broth
1 sprig of flat parsley
Salt and pepper
2 ounces/56 ml high-quality sherry

Directions

In the medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons/28 g of the butter over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the mushrooms and the remaining butter. Let the mixture sweat for about 8 minutes, taking care that the onion doesn’t take on any brown color. Stir in the chicken stock and the parsley and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour.

After an hour, remove the parsley and discard. Let the soup cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the blender and carefully blend at high speed until smooth. Or you can use an immersion blender right in the soup pot – I think this is probably easier/less messy but may require more time to evenly blend the soup.

When blended, return the mix to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and bring up to a simmer again. Add the sherry, mix well, and serve immediately.

*Notes from The Wasp – This soup keeps well. In fact the flavors get even better overnight. If you’re making to serve to guests, do yourself a favor and make it the night before.

Also – I would be remiss if I didn’t include a snippet of Tony Bourdains suggested “improvisations” from the cookbook. If you don’t have a copy of his Les Halles cookbook, you really should pick one up. It’s a great read.

To be read in Anthony Bourdain’s sarcastic narrative tone:

“To astound your guests with a Wild Mushroom Soup, simply replace some of those button mushrooms with a few dried cèpes or morels, which have been soaked until soft, drained, and squeezed. Not too many; the dried mushrooms will have a much stronger taste, and you don’t want to overwhelm the soup. Pan sear, on high heat, a single small, pretty, fresh chanterelle or morel for each portion, and then slice into a cute fan and float on top in each bowl.

And if you really want to ratchet your soup into pretentious (but delicious), drizzle a few tiny drops of truffle oil over the surface just before serving. Why the hell not? Everybody else is doing it.”

3 Comments + Posted in: Uncategorized

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