I’m going to see “Gravity” tonight.
I’m no Hollywood historian, but this must have been the easiest movie pitch ever. I can get that film greenlighted in three words, Jim:
“Clooney in space.”
And… we’re done.
To spice up the moviegoing experience and to incorporate a little excellent food thrift, I’m making bacon popcorn.
Yeah, that’s right.
I’m not one of those dudes that puts bacon on everything – for example, I think bacon chocolate ruins both the bacon and the chocolate – but bacon popcorn is a real synergy.
Before we even get to the bacon: you should make your popcorn from scratch. There is absolutely no reason to go microwave on this. The process is so easy, so much tastier, and so much less greasy and chemical-y*, and so much more effective (the ratio of popped kernels to total kernels gets to Heisenbergian levels) than the prepackaged stuff that there is no reason to go any other way.
Here’s how you do it: Get a big pot with a somewhat heavy bottom (I use the same 16-qt pot I use to boil pasta in; you can get away with a smaller pot too). Add 1 cup of popcorn and 1/3 cup of oil for a group; adjust the quantities if you’re poppin’ for one, but keep the rations the same. If you’re using a smaller pot, also adjust the quantities down as necessary – the kernels should fit in a single layer). Cover the pot. Put the heat on high. Give the pot a shake – horizontally, along the metal grate the pot is sitting on – every 15 seconds or so.
Nothing will happen for awhile – popcorn pops as a result of the water inside the kernel turning into steam, and that steam generating enough pressure to make the kernel explode:
For this to happen, the internal temperature of the kernel has to get above 212 degrees and beyond – you shake the pot to keep the outside of the kernels from burning from the much-hotter-than-212 oil while the inside heats up. Youre trying to keep the little dudes shifting around so the part of the popcorn that’s in contact with the bottom of the pot keeps changing.
Once you start to hear some popping, start shaking the pot constantly, back and forth. From there the sound of kernels popping is your guide: r(P), the rate of kernels popping, will follow a pretty standard Gaussian distribution, which is just fancy-pants talk for “it’ll start out sparse, then will turn into a cacophony of pops, then it will slow down to sparseness again.” Once you get back to more than 1-2 seconds between pops, take the pot off the heat. Add salt. And voilà.
If you want to get advanced, you can slide the lid off the pot once or twice during the process for a second to let some steam escape. Not sure if that’s necessary, but it seems like a good idea.
Beginning to end, this is about a six-minute process.
Ready to take it to the next level? Bacon popcorn? It’s just as easy. Just remember the next time you make bacon to save the drippings – and use that as your oil. Sometimes (often, actually) the best ideas are the simplest: this one comes from Lord of Bacon Erik Nearhood.
*I go through life with very few absolute rules, but “avoid foods with anything called tert-Butylhydroquinone” is one of them.