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Monday, January 16, 2012

My Weekend with Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte, and Orville

I fully realize I'm opening myself up to some serious critiques given my most recent film selections, however I'm going to put it out there that I spent a good portion of Sunday morning curled up on the couch with Nichole and Sex and The City, The Movie.

This weeks digression - I promise I really do have quite a long list of classic film favorites. Audrey, Grace, and Leslie are confidantes of mine.

I was having a glorious time of it with my hot cup of tea until the first food scene popped on the screen, and I was immediately infected with the worst kind of food envy. So was Nichole. We settled on popcorn given that we were watching a movie and she really likes to lick the air best when it tastes of popcorn.
Given that the SATC ladies looked like THIS
We couldn't settle for popcorn that looked like THAT
So, naturally, this weeks competition is one of jazzed out proportion - fancy schmancy popcorn, worthy of witnessing a two hour stream of McQueen, Westwood, and Lagerfeld.

Who is participating in the walk-off this week? In THIS corner, we have the king of chocolate, Mister Jacques Torres with his Chocolate Caramel Popcorn. And, in THAT corner, the queen of butter, Miss Paula Dean is here to knock y'all's socks off with her Grandma Paul's Caramel Corn. We'll finish it off with ANOTHER option or two (or five) to really amp up your movie-watching treats.

Also, this is Nikki, or Nichole as I like to call her in the hopes that one day she'll have an air of sophistication about her if I say it often enough.
she isn't always this happy, but right about here, she thinks she's eating the luscious caramel popcorn by licking the would be so sad if it wasn't so comically endearing
For both recipes, we start out with oodles of popped popcorn. You can pick your favorite popcorn-making-method and go for it, however, as a friendly reminder, do not use already flavored popcorn.
I used my handy dandy air-popper that my astute younger siblings gifted me for Hannukah. She's my new favorite toy and we're very happy together.
I started with Jacques' chocolatey delight. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. No offense, Paula.
sneak peak alert. that's right, go get yourself a box of tissues for the onslaught of drooling that's getting ready to commence
Recipe Ease: I was a little bit nervous prior to beginning because Jacques is such a master and I, alas, am not. However, as the great Al Einstein noted, (I'm paraphrasing) if you can't explain it simply, you don't know it really well at all you nitwit, Jacques is a gloriously fabulous teacher. I had not difficulty at all.

In total, this recipe took around 30 minutes to get to cooling time which was dually awesome as I had SATC on pause at a very captivating moment (no worries, I'm not plot spoiling, but it may or may not have involved a Pretty Woman-esque fashion show) and I have very limited patience between chocolate making and chocolate eating.

As you know, Jacques received at least two brownie points (popcorn kernels?) for ditching the candy thermometer.

the sugar mixture beginning to caramelize - this is the time to pause the movie because caramelizing sugar is very needy and will go full-on golden-brown within seconds of this point
Yumminess: As a self professed chocolate and popcorn lover individually, THIS is the equivalent a food Mecca in my world, that lovely place where worlds collide in the most fabulous of ways. What I love most about THIS, is it's not overwhelmingly sweet. The bittersweet chocolate allows for  a more sophisticated (if popcorn can be called sophisticated, which, in my book, it most certainly can) flavor as opposed to a 'two bites and you're in a sugar coma' flavor. The caramel isn't so much a noticeable flavor as it adds a nice thin layer of crunch to the popcorn.
oo and ah for a moment or two and then get this thing off the burner before it gets mad and sours on you (literally)
Health Benefits: Truly, you could do much worse. Popcorn is jammed full of fiber and the bittersweet chocolate avoids adding additional sugar. Overall, THIS is lower in sugar than THAT, but let's not fool ourselves, they're both treats.
cooling caramel - it will be super sticky so don't fret over separating it out. just give it a good plop onto the parchment papered pan while you double broil or microwave the oblivion out of your chocolate of choice
$$$: I had absolutely every ingredient in my kitchen. THIS is definitely a great choice for those in earnest search of penny-pinching treats because even if your pantry is lacking in corn-syrup or chocolate, it requires minimal amounts which translates to minimal dinero.
drizzling the chocolate - avoid the urge to bathe in it. I know it's difficult, but just remember "deep breaths". I drizzled in batches because I was too lazy to get a big enough bowl. Feel free to follow suit.
Best In Show-worthy: In my faux-grown-up world, THIS is the hands-down winner. It took significantly less time, involved less temperamental ingredients (baking soda is such a diva- stay tuned), and provided an incredibly delicious treat worthy of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte's approval.
so chi-chi
THAT is one of Paula's best dishes from her kitchen to ours. It is a buttery (surprise, right?), smooth and creamy-sweet caramel popcorn recipe from her quite famous although never seen grandmother, Paul. I still find the fact she has a grandmother named Paul shocking. Does no one else?
warning - do not, even for a fraction of a minute, find yourself disappointed in the lack of total caramel coverage. trust me, you will need the break every bite or so given the only thing sweeter than the caramel is lovely Paula.
Recipe Ease: THAT is a wonderful caramel corn recipe for one reason in particular - no thermometers involved. While it has a few more steps than THIS, it should be nearly full-proof even for the most novice cooks out there. It does take siginificantly longer than THIS with the hour in the oven, however by that point, it requires very little babysitting.
pretty boiling caramel - like ooey gooey deadly in a different way lava
To maximize multi-tasking, I fully support pilates rotations during the fifteen minute bake periods. By this point, Carrie and the gang are in Mexico and you'll be totally distracted from any muscle failure that may be threatening.
try not to find yourself totally distracted by the chemical reactions that occur after adding the baking soda. as I mentioned, she's a diva, so just let her smooth out and raise the caramel and diligently pour it on the popcorn as instructed
Yumminess: THAT is carnival caramel popcorn on steroids. It is so incredibly smooth and creamy, almost as though you melted candy caramels all over the popcorn. Unlike THIS, it does not create a crunchy cover. THAT is incredibly, almost to the point of overwhelmingly sweet. And this is why Paula and her oddly named grandma Paul deserve a gold star. Somehow, they reached the very climax of sweetness without killing it. Kudos ladies...or butter sticks, whichever you'd prefer.
when you first mix the popcorn prior to putting it in the oven, you may worry as big globs of the caramel are not easily spreadable. DON'T. That's what the oven is for. It melts the caramel slowly, allowing it to fully coat the popcorn over the course of the hour. Don't be fooled by the accents, readers, we're dealing with genius.
Health Benefits: just look away
$$$: I also had all the ingredients for THAT and wouldn't be surprised if you found you did too.

Best in Show-worthy: THAT is the perfect treat for children of all ages. It will take you back to the best of your carnival days and then some. While it is not quite as sophisticated as THIS, I would be shocked to find any complainers in the crowd. And, if you do, I'd highly suggest having their heads checked. What is not to love about caramel corn? Unless you hate caramel. Then maybe avoid this whole post.
how could you not smile?
There are so many options with these two treats, and I've had the hardest time waiting to tell you about them.

For THIS, consider adding crushed nuts, shaved coconut, a light spreading of sea salt or spicy peppers if you're feeling daring just after you've drizzled. To amp it up even more for the true chocoholic, add a drizzle of white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate after it has cooled.

For THAT, why not make it chocolatey? Add a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate after it has cooled. I would avoid adding milk or semisweet as it could take the sugar content overboard for most tastebuds. You can also add chopped honey roasted peanuts just prior to putting it in the oven.

Do you have any favorite popcorn recipes?

What is your go-to movie watching treat?

And, most importantly, which SATC character are you? Just call me Charlotte York McDougal Goldenblatt the second.

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