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February 17, 2013

Red-Carpet Popcorn: Make the snack favorite Oscar worthy

Making the movie-snack favorite Oscar worthy

Of all of the awards shows I love to watch (and I love to watch them all), the Oscars is my favorite.

It’s also a great excuse to throw a party. Many of my friends do the “red carpet” thing for their own parties and ask guests to dress in their black-tie best. I prefer watching in comfy clothes and snacking on simple-but-satisfying nibbles. After all, it’s a very long show!

loves popcorn and there is no other food that is so closely associated with movies. Even though I sometimes make microwave popcorn just like the rest of the world, when I make it from scratch, I can’t believe the difference in taste. Microwave popcorn is a mere shadow of the original.

This year, I am going to make popcorn the old-fashioned way — on the stove top — and flavor the hot kernels three different ways. Then, there are basically two ways to top popcorn — wet and dry.

Wet Toppings

Melted butter is always a crowd-pleaser, but you have to make that version just before serving or else it gets soggy. Plus, buttered popcorn is best hot. Other wet toppings, such as melted chocolate, should be applied to popcorn spread flat on a baking sheet, then allowed to cool. Otherwise it becomes soggy.

Dry Toppings

The advantage of dry toppings is that you can make the popcorn a few hours in advance, then serve it room at temperature. Just make sure to add the spices while the popcorn is hot. My three favorites are truffle salt, Parmesan cheese and a sweet-and-spicy barbecue rub.

To cook the popcorn for use with a dry topping, I use a heavy enameled cast-iron Dutch oven set over medium heat. I heat the empty pot for about 2 minutes over low heat, then pour in the olive oil and the popcorn, increase the heat to medium and immediately place the lid on the pot. The heavy pot helps prevent the popcorn from burning and almost all of the kernels pop. I find that a good olive oil gives the popcorn a great flavor and that you won’t even want to add melted butter.

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