Duck Fat and Truffle Salt

Inspiration sparks at any moment. This time I was shopping at Whole Foods grocery looking at the different oils they had. I picked up a walnut and and almond oil, as I love experimenting. I look up, and lo and behold….. The angels are singing and the gears are turning. Brian always did call me his little heart attack girl for a reason.

I actually took this picture to send to my son, he loves to cook also, and honestly he’s a better cook than I am in some respects. Anyway, it wasn’t until the trip after that I actually picked up the duck fat.

I remembered the duck fat fried French fries, and I thought- if good for fries, then definitely good for popcorn. But similar to the bacon fat popcorn, you can’t just leave as is, there must be additional applications for it.

So I made a vlog, and came up with this. Recipe below.

Duck Fat with Truffle Salt

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Rating: ****
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A foodie’s delight. Duck fat in the popping oil and in the dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of unpopped popcorn
  • 5 Tbsp of duck fat for frying/popping
  • 2 Tbsp of duck fat for dressing
  • 2 Tbsp of butter for dressing
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp 5% Truffle salt
  • 2 Tbsp of grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp of dried Thyme

Directions


1. In a whirly pop or a regular pot covered, pop the popcorn kernels in the 5 Tbsp of duck fat. Keep stirring the whirly pop or shake occasionally your covered pot as the popcorn starts to pop,
2. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter, 2Tbsp of duck fat, and garlic clove whole until it just comes to a simmer and let it steep.
3. Dress your popped popcorn with duck fat/butter mixture (discard the garlic), and fold and sprinkle in truffle salt, parmesan cheese, and dried thyme.

How to keep your popcorn

Air is the worst enemy to your popcorn. Specifically humidity or lack of humidity. Let’s talk about two different things, your unpopped kernels. and your dressed and ready to party popcorn. Either way, you want to keep them in air tight containers, but let’s break it down, shall we?

Unpopped Kernels

Storing your unpopped kernels should be in an air tight container, however you don’t want this to be a dry environment either. Storing unpopped kernels in the refrigerator or the freezer is a big no-no. Basically the science behind how the popcorn pops is because the kernels that look quite dry are actually not completely dry. When the popcorn heats up either in oil or hot air, this causes the interior of that seemingly dry kernel to boil in it’s own steam, creating the “POP” or internal combustion that creates this magical snack. If you keep your kernels in the refrigerator, freezer, or even the ambient dry environment, you will completely dry out the interior of your kernels and the will not pop.

It is best to keep your popcorn in an airtight container and it can actually have a rather long shelf life sealed in a cool dry place like your pantry or cupboard. Most brands come in a plastic screw top container, however if it came in a baggie, you can move it to an air tight canister or a zip top bag works well too.

Here are my mushroom kernels in a fancy jar which is similar to a method of storing your popped dropped and ready to rock snack,

Popped and dressed

So as I mentioned before, even popped you want to keep your popcorn snack from the exposed elements, however the humidity is really bad for popped popcorn. It can yield a soggy and chewy texture making the snack taste and feel stale. I like to keep them in an airtight container, something fancy if appropriate, but otherwise a Tupperware or a screw top jar works just fine. To one up the game, especially in these humid summer months, I throw in a descant packet (filled with food grade silica gel capsules), which absorbs the humidity, and actually keep the popcorn fresher tasting for longer. I especially like to do this when I am shipping popcorn, because most of the places your package will rest in overnight are not climate controlled. Popped popcorn can last up to 2 weeks like this – even longer only these usually get consumed before then.

Happy Popping, and good luck!

Chicago Mix!

A friend of mine asked me to make her some cheddar popcorn and caramel popcorn because it reminded her of the popcorn she got at the O’Hare airport. I was skeptical of how the two would taste together, or if you eat them together or not, but if she liked it – it was worth a try!

I used the mushroom popping kernel variety, I had made it before with the Caramel corn and I absolutely loved the texture, so I decided to stick with that. Also I had recently purchased a 6 pound bag – so what the hey!

I made my usual cheddar and caramel variety, let them cool from the oven, and then had a little mixer in my serving tray and VOILA! It was quite delicious and everyone loved it together and alone!

Caramel Popcorn

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Rating: ****
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Popcorn coated with caramel candy


Original Caramel Corn

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of popped plain popcorn
  • 2 cups of nuts (optional – any variety)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250oF, and heat popcorn in a cookie sheet lined with parchment
  2. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt until it just comes to a boil
  3. Reduce heat to low and boil for 5 minutes
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in baking soda and vanilla
  5. Remove cookie sheet of popcorn from oven, and pour the hot toffee coating and mix well
  6. Return to the oven and bake for 45 minutes, taking it out and stirring every 10 minutes. If you like a chewy caramel bake for less time, for a glass like finish bake for as long as 60 minutes.

Cheddar Popcorn

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Toss with caramel corn for the Chicago-Mix

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popping corn
  • 3 Tbsp oil for popping
  • 1/4 tsp flavacol
  • 1/2 stick of 4 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup cheddar powder

Directions

  1. Pop the popcorn on the stovetop with 3 Tbsp oil and place in a large bowl for mixing
  2. Mix in slowly the melted butter, olive oil, and salt, tasting as you go.
  3. Slowly mix in the cheese powder until well coated.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet bake at 250oF for 10 minutes

Cheddar Popcorn 2 ways

There are two schools of thought when it comes to cheddar popcorn. White Cheddar vs Orange Cheddar. I thought why not try each one and see what we like best!

White Cheddar Popcorn

For the white cheddar recipe I wanted to try to keep a natural flavor, but wanted to add a kick, so I added in some ground mustard. I add this to my Mac and Cheese recipe as well and it add a nice complementary flavor.

For the popcorn, I stove popped the kernels in a whirly pop using 3tbs of oil and 1/2 cup of popcorn. Revisiting though, I think that for the white cheddar, the final recipe would call for the 3/4 cup oil to 1/2 cup of popcorn popping method and I will explain why later. In addition to this dressing that is prepared ahead of popping, you want to also have a 1/2 stick of butter and an additional 4 TBSP of olive oil, and salt ready, you want to dress the popcorn while its hot.

In a large bowl, slowly mix in the butter, olive oil, and salt until the popcorn tastes like really good buttered popcorn on its own. Honestly, I’ve done different methods of mixing the butter with the olive oil and then applying, or applying butter and then applying olive oil. The difference is really negligible. I like to mix the two so I know that at least I have an equal distribution of each ingredient throughout, but the lazy method is just fine too 🙂

Once the popcorn is nice and “wet”, start to sprinkle in the cheese mixture slowly, tossing and tasting as you go. This amount of popcorn I used 1/4 cup of white cheddar and 1 tsp of dry mustard.

White Cheddar Popcorn

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popping corn
  • 3/4 cup oil for popping
  • 1/2 stick of 4 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup white cheddar powder
  • 1 Tsp ground dry mustard powder

Directions

  1. Mix the white cheddar powder with the dry mustard in a small bowl and set aside
  2. Pop the popcorn on the stovetop with 3/4 cup of oil and place in a large bowl for mixing
  3. Mix in slowly the melted butter, olive oil, and salt, tasting as you go.
  4. Slowly mix in the cheese powder until well coated.

Orange Cheddar – AKA “Cheddar Popcorn”

Generally when you see “Cheddar Popcorn” you automatically get this orange cheddar, The differentiator is white cheddar is usually called “White Cheddar Popcorn”

For this recipe, since I was using a more artificially flavored cheese powder I thought, let’s go all the way, let’s add flavacol, because this will add a nice depth of flavor, and heck, since we are not worrying about the addition of Red dye 40, why not? 🙂

For the flavacol though, that is added during the popping process, and for the powder cheese mixture, I just stuck with the straight up cheez.

I used the stove top whirly pop method, with 3 Tbsp of oil 1/4 tsp of flavacol, and popped 1/2 cup of popcorn.

Once that was done, I dressed the hot popcorn with 1/2 stick of melted butter, 4 Tbsp of olive oil. I didn’t add anymore salt because flavacol is mostly salt, and it was flavored nicely.

I then dressed the with the cheese powder and used about 1/2 cup of cheez. I wanted that real orange color and strong punch of flavor.

So here is the kicker. After about an hour after popping and dressing, on the humid day that I made this, both popcorns got kind of soft. So what the heck, we threw them in the oven (since I was also making toffee corn that day and the oven was on). The results: both crisped up nicely and got a nice crunch, but with one caveat, it changed the flavor a bit. The orange cheddar developed a nicer flavor, brought out the cheddar flavor some, but the white cheddar ended up tasting like cheez-its. While cheez-its is a nice snack and flavor itself, it’s not what you are expecting in white cheddar. So the lesson here is bake your orange but not your white. And this is why I say, the final white cheddar recipe is to cook the popcorn in the deep oil method, because that produces a nice crispy product that withstands the humid summer days and keeps the mild natural flavor of the white cheddar.

Just keep popping, and find what’s right for you and your family!

Cheddar Popcorn

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popping corn
  • 3 Tbsp oil for popping
  • 1/4 tsp flavacol
  • 1/2 stick of 4 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup cheddar powder

Directions

  1. Pop the popcorn on the stovetop with 3 Tbsp oil and place in a large bowl for mixing
  2. Mix in slowly the melted butter, olive oil, and salt, tasting as you go.
  3. Slowly mix in the cheese powder until well coated.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet bake at 2500 F for 10 minutes

white cheddar vs orange cheddar

Vegan and Gluten Free “Nooch” Savory popcorn

Our friends requested a Savory Gluten Free and Vegan popcorn. While almost all of the popcorn recipes I’ve tried so far are Gluten Free, Vegan was a challenge. Every recipe except kettle corn used butter and other dairy products. I made this popcorn using Nutritional Yeast, which is a cheese powder substitute. Heck, even on the packet there was a picture of popcorn. Apparently the Doritos brand chip uses nutritional yeast, but this snack didn’t quite have the flavor of Doritos. I thought it tasted more like Chili Fritos, and Ethan of course had his own name for it – Ramen Noodle Popcorn – which I can’t lie, kind of fits the bill.

I bought Anthony’s Nutritional Yeast, which was certified Gluten Free, Vegan, Non GMO, and all that good stuff. I got it off Amazon, but you can also find Bragg’s brand in grocery stores. I saw it in Whole Foods just the other day.

I mixed the nutritional yeast with some spices, I used cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt. About a teaspoon of each, and I made a double batch starting with 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast. I didn’t want to use up all the dressing and then find out I needed more, so I made extra, I ended up using about half, so you can make this with just 1/4 cup and that should be fine.

I used a mortar and pestle to grind everything down to a finer powder. You can use a spice grinder, but the mortar and pestle is so reminiscent of cooking with my mom and my grandma. The one I have is giant in comparison to what they used to use, but it worked out because it held the quantity in this batch.

Now as for popping the popcorn, I wanted it to be crisp, and I wanted it to have some oiliness on it since we were not able to use butter. I cooked it on the stovetop with a whirly pop and used 3/4 cup of oil to 1/2 cup of popcorn. Yeah, I basically deep-fried the popcorn, but the results were astounding. I’d do it again. I used avocado oil which is my go-to lately, high smoke point for high heat cooking and pretty neutral flavor. Once I popped it, it wasn’t oily at all though, so I did have to add some extra virgin olive oil drizzle to have the spice mixture adhere to the kernels.

The result – Really nice! I think I would like it better if I used butter, and honestly I could have found a butter substitute instead of using EVOO. Maybe the next round I’ll try that.

Nooch Popcorn

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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A Vegan and Gluten Free Savory Snack



Adjust spices to your liking, add salt while dressing, and taste often!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popping corn, popped
  • 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt (and more to taste)
  • olive oil to drizzle

Directions

  1. In a mortar and pestle combine nutritional yeast flakes and all spices together until they are a fine powder.
  2. Pop the popcorn in your preferred popping method (I did oil pop with 3/4 cup of oil) and place in a large bowl
  3. Drizzle olive oil as needed and sprinkle spice mixture over the popcorn and mix thoroughly
  4. Mix until all is combined
  5. Add salt accordingly to your taste

It’s A Girl!

Welcome to the world little Annabelle!

In the world we live in today, it’s sad that we can’t visit the little newborns and our family. My niece Kristin just had her third baby, a gorgeous baby girl that has a full head of hair. So what else can I do if I can’t smooch those little cheeks, and carry her and love her while mom gets some well needed rest? Well send popcorn of course!

So I wanted to do something really special, and something appropriate so I made “Baby Girl” popcorn. This can also be done easily as baby boy popcorn.

I started out with the lady finger popcorn. It is the smallest variety and the results are so stinking cute! It’s a real pain to air pop them, as half your kernels shoot out the air popper, but it is so worth it.

Orville Redenbacher vs. Lady Finger

So time for the syrup. I made it using 1 cup of sugar, 1 Tbsp corn syrup, 3 Tbsp butter, and 3 Tbsp of Strawberry Jell-o. Yes Jell-o! It adds not only color but flavor. Be sure though that you are not sending any Jello products to family members that are vegan nor vegetarian. Sometimes we forget that gelatin is an animal byproduct, that is actually from the bones of the animal, so not even suitable for vegetarians.

For this application, using the silpat was almost a must. Parchment paper might have worked, but nothing, and I mean nothing, sticks to the silpat and this was a sticky gooey mess. And here is the result! The popcorn (I thought) was delicious! It tasted like strawberry candy or strawberry milk! The all the adult boys in the house did not like it, except for my youngest Ethan (19), who used to love strawberry milk as a kid and he liked it. He said you just need to call it strawberry milk popcorn so people know what to expect.

Here she is packaged up

Of course since I am so EXTRA, I couldn’t just send one, so I sent a toffee and a cheddar as well. The shipment arrives today and I sure hope they like it!!!

Baby Girl Popcorn

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: medium
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Using baby corn popping kernels, a strawberry flavored candy popcorn



You can also substitute regular pop corn kernels for this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popping corn (Lady Finger Variety)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp Strawberry Jell-o
  • 3 Tbsp water

Directions

  1. Pop the popcorn in your preferred popping method (I did air pop) and place on a cookie sheet lined with Silpat
  2. In a small sauce pan add Sugar, Corn Syrup, Butter, Jello and Water
  3. Mix until all is combined and melted
  4. Boil gently for 3-4 minutes, do not overboil, you can burn the gelatin
  5. Pour candy mixture over the popcorn and mix as well as you can
  6. Bake at 250 degrees for 10 minutes, remove and mix
  7. Bake another 10 minutes
  8. Let cool and then break apart as needed

Kettle Corn, the good, the bad, and the ugly…

I have been hemming and hawing over this Kettle corn experiment, finding all kinds of reasons to put it off. Today I tackled it and I will share with you my trials and tribulations over Kettle Corn. Skipping to the end, I should have just listened to my heart, and gone with my original thought of how I would make it before doing all the research, and I would have gotten it in the first shot.

I used the whirly pop for this, heck, it’s the whole reason why I bought it in the first place. I tried variations of oils, avocado (it’s what I have for usual stir frying, it has a mild flavor, high smoke point, and high cooking temperature), and coconut oil.

My first attempt I used 1/4 cup of avocado oil the (recipes called for corn oil), what I had, 1/4 cup of sugar, and the red and blue kernels from Amish Country Popcorn, so I figured I’d use those up. I found a glass top that sort of fit my whirly pop.

Don’t do this… not necessary

This was done so that I could preheat the oil and look for those 3 kernels to pop. I keep reading about this method, but always just put the corn and the oil in cold and then turn on the heat.

This resulted in burning of the kernels, so my thought was that I needed to use a sturdier corn. On to using the Mushroom popcorn. I continued with the same method, only now yielding worse results! More burnt sugar, more burnt kernels!

So I decided to go back to basics, and go with my gut. Although it seems that adding sugar at the last minute is going to keep it on the heat less I found that adding the sugar and the kernels to the hot oil cooled the oil considerably, and then resulted in cooking the sugar actually longer and hotter. Also remember that sugar is temperamental, taking it in and out and to extreme temperatures is not ideal.

So I washed everything again and started from my gut. I added 1/4 of coconut oil this time, and 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/3 cup of regular popcorn kernels to the cold pan, closed the whirly lid and heat on medium flame. My whirly pop doesn’t quite reach the bottom so since the clamp clips on nicely I would give it a shake now and then. Other than that, I popped it per usual and just turned off the heat earlier than usual. And like magic, the simplest way, was the right way!

Kettle Corn

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Rating: ****
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A sweet and salty method to popping popcorn



Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup uncooked popcorn
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Add oil, sugar, and popcorn to cold pan
  2. Turn heat to medium and stir until the coconut oil loosens up
  3. Place the cover and churn until the popping slows down and immediately remove from heat
  4. Pour into a parchment lined baking sheet to cool
  5. Dress with salt over top to your liking

Toffee Popcorn!!

This is my signature popcorn. I say it started with a batch of caramel corn, but I was reminded that toffee popcorn is actually the favorite… So what else could I do but try to perfect a toffee corn! I got it on the first try and it was a home run!

Toffee Popcorn

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Rating: ****
  • Print

Popcorn coated with toffee candy


Similar to Caramel corn, but less chewy more crisp coating

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of popped plain popcorn
  • 2 cups of nuts (optional – any variety)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of light corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and heat popcorn in a cookie sheet lined with parchment
  2. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt until it just comes to a boil
  3. Reduce heat to low and boil for 8 minutes
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in baking soda and vanilla
  5. Remove cookie sheet of popcorn from oven, and pour the hot toffee coating and mix well
  6. Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, taking it out and stirring every 10 minutes.

Amish Popcorn

I bought this set from amazon, it’s an Amish Country Popcorn company. You can pop various types of corn and here we will review the results.

it actually came with 10 bags, the 10th was a melange of all the different types. Kind of fun, but not needed in this experiment.

Here is the first set I sampled. Based on size:

Left to Right: XL Caramel, Mushroom, XS Baby White

The Mushroom was the biggest and most bulbous of all the popcorns. It was very impressive in size and weight, but was very tough and hearty. The XS white was a very tender and very minimal as far as hull, and popped a very beautiful white! For gourmet popcorn varieties I think the XL Caramel is a nice compromise. It looks a lot like the mushroom, but is much more tender.

The next set is colors: Purple, Red, Blue, and Midnight Blue

The purple popped more yellow than the others. Red, Blue, and Midnight blue were all Snow White which I prefer if given a choice. The Midnight Blue I think is just a younger more tender version of the Blue. Coincidentally, I popped them in reverse order of preference. Midnight Blue being my favorite and Purple my least favorite. In all honesty though, these are all delicious and I really don’t think that I could tell the difference in a blind taste test.

The last category was the hulless popcorns. I added back the xs baby whites here:

Lady Finger, Medium White, XS Baby White (repeat)

From these, my favorite was the Medium White. They are very tender and yet still larger than the other varieties and really Snow White as well. I would say in terms of texture I would pick this to be my favorite of the lot. The lady fingers were darn cute though!!!

One thing to note, the smaller popcorns seem to have a hard time in the air popper. They don’t have enough mass to stay in the hot chamber and keep flying out the chute. The ladyfinger bowl was all that was yielded from 1/4 cup of kernels in the taste test. Maybe a better method for popping these would be in oil on the stovetop. I will have to try it!

On the flip side, the larger kernels got stuck in the chute and I used a chopstick to help with the bottleneck. If you don’t have a chopstick then you can use the back of the wooden spoon.

From the family, Brian’s favorite was the xs baby whites, he said the mushroom felt like he was eating a cotton ball, which I tend to agree with. Addison also liked the more tender corns and before I knew it the purple bowl was all gone, and he said that the midnight was his favorite in terms of texture and flavor. 🙂

Mushroom, Medium White, Lady Finger

Bacon Dripping Popcorn

Based on a recommendation from a friend of mine, Pete (of Greasy’s Garage… check them out at greasysgarage.com), I did a vlog on bacon popped popcorn!

I used the whirly pop style pop corn pan for this application

I usually have bacon drippings in the fridge at all times. I keep it in a mason jar and replenish it when I make more bacon. I took 3 Tbsp into this pyrex dis and microwaved it for about 40 seconds, just to loosen it up. I made sure to grab this little bits of bacon in the jar too.

I added the drippings and 1/2 cup of unpeopled kernels to the pan and then heated it on medium heat and started to agitate the arm with the crank.

The popcorn pops in about 3-5 minutes. The whole kitchen was fragrant, and the popcorn had a “buttery” quality to it and even some saltiness. It was delicious on its own!

You can even see the little bacon bits on the kernels, YUM!

I am pretty extra here when it comes to flavor, so I dressed this after with butter and salt, because we always like to party in flavor town. Before I turned around the bowl was devoured. So I call this 100% success!