When Soggy Popcorn is a Very Good Thing

April 14, 2016

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.

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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.

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Top Comment:
“I had a wonderful popcorn ice cream sundae with home made cracker jacks at Canoe Restaurant in Atlanta. Hope I can come close to that wonderful dessert. ”
— Joe S.

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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Uncle Chris
    Uncle Chris
  • Maggie
  • Pastraminator
  • Joe Spears
    Joe Spears
  • Ecuacan
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Uncle C. May 15, 2016
Ummm... so what's half-and-half? I assume half of it is milk, but what is the other half?
Keith B. May 15, 2016
Half whole milk, half light cream. You won't have any trouble finding it, it's in virtually every dairy case.
Maggie May 15, 2016
In the US, half and half is a product produced by dairy companies (10-18% M.F.) potentially also containing the following: emulsifiers, stabilizers, sweeteners, natural and artificial flavoring
Uncle C. May 18, 2016
Thanks for that, Kieth and Maggie. Looks like something I might have to knock up myself. At least I know what's in it now.
Maggie May 13, 2016
It's just like cereal milk.
Pastraminator May 13, 2016
I wonder what kind of icecream base that would make?
Laura415 May 22, 2016
Exactly what I was thinking. The possibilities: Stale salty sweet caramel corn ice cream. Perhaps with fresh crispy caramel corn on top and a few flakes of maldon salt. Otherwise I might freeze some of the popcorn milk mixture and blend it with unfrozen cold popcorn milk for a milkshake as described here.
Joe S. May 13, 2016
Can' wait to try this. Want to make some popcorn ice cream. I had a wonderful popcorn ice cream sundae with home made cracker jacks at Canoe Restaurant in Atlanta. Hope I can come close to that wonderful dessert.
Ecuacan May 13, 2016
In Ecuador, they serve ceviche of all kinds with toasted corn nuts and yes, popcorn. You stir both in and somehow it works. My daughter is a popcorn fiend so we will go out on a limb and try this.
nannydeb May 13, 2016
My first thought when I read this was "stoner food". Like discovering that cold gravy was great spread on saltines or that tortilla chips dipped in mustard tasted like fried chicken if you smack your lips (someone actually made me try this). I'm pretty sure that's how "burnt toast" became a good thing too. Not that any of these are not delicious!
mrnsttn May 13, 2016
That's sounds absolutely disgusting, but interesting enough that I WILL give it a try...
Ilana H. May 13, 2016
There is a scene in "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder (it's the one in the series about the boyhood of Alonzo, who grows up to marry Laura), where he and the family are around the fire popping corn, and he drops it into his milk. One of his favorite foods. I read those books when I was 10 and here 45 years later I STILL remember her description of his delight!!
Amy W. April 16, 2016
I wonder how it would work as an ice cream base? Pretty good I bet!
Joe B. May 13, 2016
Add some tiny piece of cheese (strong or medium taste) then add a lot of cocoa / chocolate base... and let me know your comments on this... Give it a try!!!!!!
Pastraminator May 13, 2016
lol, i just wrote the same thing about icecream base, didn't see your response till afterward.