It's easy to use a particular ingredient the same way every time—until an experience comes along that opens your mind and lets you see what you've been missing all along. (It's like watching The Sixth Sense all the way through. Or, you know, going to college.)
You eat olives cold until you try them stuffed and deep-fried; you eat kale raw until you try it cooked to death; and you eat avocado as guacamole until you
try it warm inside bacon-wrapped chicken breasts cut it into a beautiful rose.
And popcorn. You inhale it by the shovelful, avoiding signs of sog or staling at all costs. But chef Nir Mesika at the restaurant Timna in New York shrugs off these usual standards for popcorn—the crunch we chase—and instead narrows in on its salty, buttery flavor. Airy, snappy popcorn, be damned: Mesika is about to soak it to the point of no return.
Boil popped popcorn in half-and-half, sugar, and salt (haters of damp popcorn, look away), then let it chill out overnight; the starch from the popcorn will leach into the dairy, thickening and flavoring it. Some hours later, obliterate the kernels—now pillow-soft and fat with milk—in a food processor and strain the mixture. You're left with a pure popcorn flavor in the body of a cold, frothy drink.
Add a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or a crumbling of halva, like they do at Timna, or a few popped 'corns. Splash in some rum or bourbon (popcorn eggnog!) if you want. Turn on a movie. You won't think of popcorn in the same way again.
- 6 1/2 cups popped popcorn (from about 6 tablespoons unpopped kernels, popped with a small amount of neutral-flavored oil)
- 1 quart half-and-half
- 6 ounces sugar
- 1/4 to 1/2 ounces salt, to taste (I prefer somewhere right in the middle)
- Popped popcorn, ground cinnamon, and crumbled halvah, for garnishing