12.3.09 (Jimmy) Crack Corn
Once upon a time (before parasites and gluten intolerance had come into full focus in this household) two people developed something of an addiction to Kettle Corn, that aphrodisiacal delivery system for salt and sugar disguised as a light treat. We would buy a large bag from Whole Foods, certain it would last the week, and then devour the entire thing while splayed on the couch watching Big Love. The subsequent bloating and intestinal pain was deemed "worth it."All that had become like a fever dream of the past when I stumbled upon a recipe for Maple Pecan Popcorn in the now defunct Gourmet magazine. (Damn you, Condé Nast! or should I say Damn you, McKinsey?) I decided it seemed like a "healthy" alternative—no sugar, after all—and whipped up a batch with my own addition of dried cranberries and cayenne.
When G came home a few hours later, he was lucky to find any left. I begged him to take it away from me—which he gladly did, I might add. It's compulsively addictive. I took some to a party once and had a great time watching people unable to move away from the bowl. Make it at your own peril.
Crack (Maple-Pecan-Cranberry Popcorn)
adapted from Gourmet magazine
serves 8-10 (or a couple of greedy pigs)
— 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
— 1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup (grade B preferred)
— 3/4 stick salted butter
— 1 cup dried cranberries
— 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
— 8 cups plain popped popcorn
— 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Toss popcorn, pecans and cranberries in a large bowl.
Line bottom of two baking pans with foil and lightly oil.
Melt butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add maple syrup, salt and cayenne and boil (still over medium heat), without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 300°, about 20 minutes or more.
Pour syrup over popcorn mix and quickly stir with a silicone spatula to coat. Divide immediately between baking sheets, spreading in a single layer. I like to sprinkle a bit of coarse sea salt on at this point. Cool completely, then break into bite-size pieces.