This recipe is for my own sake as much as anyone else’s; I’ll go for a while without making it, and then I’ll forget how to do it, and I’ll go on the internet for instructions, and they’ll be bad instructions, and my first batch will be crap.
So. Home-popped popcorn. Infinitely cheaper (and more ecologically friendly) than the packaged microwave variety, not to mention less greasy and more delicious. This recipe looks simple, but when it’s just right, the olive oil and butter are a gentle symphony in the background of the light, crunchy popcorn.
plain popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (*)
1) Take out a large, heavy, wide-bottomed saucepan with a lid. (I use my Calphalon everyday pan.) Heat on high-medium-high heat (i.e. not quite full flame, but close). Add butter and oil. The butter should immediately sizzle and steam, but you should never smell a burning smell; butter and olive oil both have low smoke points, so be on guard for this.
2) As soon as the butter has melted, add popcorn kernels, enough to make a single layer on the bottom of the saucepan. Cover the pan and shake vigorously to coat all the kernels in oil.
3) Wait, shaking the pan occasionally, until you start to hear popping. Then, two or three times a minute, hold the lid slightly off-center on the pan (so that steam, but no popcorn, can escape) and shake it gently. Use oven mitts to avoid burning your hands on the hot lid.
4) When the popcorn is almost finished, you’ll hear the difference: instead of kernels rolling around in the pan when you shake it, you’ll only hear the shuffle of popped corn. Once it gets to that point, listen carefully to the frequency of the pops. As soon as they die down – so you can count to five seconds without hearing a pop – take the popcorn off the heat (**).
5) Sprinkle salt generously on the popcorn, and shake well to distribute it evenly (***). I find that it’s often easiest to transfer half the popcorn to a bowl first, then salt and mix the two halves separately. Enjoy!
(*) – You can use less butter or oil if you’re feeling virtuous or using a smaller pan, but I promise that the result will already be less greasy than most movie popcorn or microwave butter popcorn.
(**) – If you smell burning popcorn at any point, take it off the heat right away; don’t try to re-pop it. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that if my popcorn’s burning before most of the kernels are popped, it’s because my heat is too low, not too high. Of course, you don’t want the oil to smoke or burn, but until that point, hotter is better.
(***) – There are some popcorn recipes that involve adding other things: garlic powder, cheese powder, herbs, cayenne pepper, melted butter, etc. You’re welcome to try them, but I’ve never tried anything that beats the original recipe.