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If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.
Today: The snack everyone wants to eat this time of year -- and how to do it with only 4 ingredients and no special equipment.
Kettle corn is a multigenerational food, much like peanut butter and chicken fingers. (Before you disagree with me about the latter, try to tell me you wouldn't eat these.)
It's a food you can make with your kids, for them -- on top of them, if you're Nicholas Day. You can also make it all for your adult self. You can pile it high in a big bowl and nestle it in your lap and drink a beer with it and be happy, and if you're doing everything correctly, a little high from sugar. Isn't it the time of year for that, anyway?
You can give it to your kids before, during, or after they trick-or-treat tomorrow. Or you can eat it huddled in the dark, lights-off, curtains closed, anxiously hopeful that the little bumble bees and ghosts walking around outside the window don't come to your door. Everyone likes kettle corn.
If you do not have these ingredients in your pantry already, you will get them. You will heat a slick of oil in a large pan (overachievers, put your kettles away -- you do not need them), and when it's nice and hot, you'll dump in your kernels. Tip your sugar in. Convince yourself that those bumble bees and ghosts outside your window are likely consuming at least double this much sugar. Continue popping, like so.
In a very important, split second, you'll realize you've just made the plebeian version of caramel corn: as each kernel popped, its sugar caramelized into a light, nutty brown, coating the crown of each not unlike a sugary Ancient Roman commoner pileus. And instead of being hands on and worrying about wet caramels and candy thermometers, you're cool, calm, casual. Take another sip of beer.
I bet you're wondering where the seasonal ingredients are, and why, if I wanted to give you nostalgia-inducing seasonal fair food, I didn't just give you caramel apples. To which I will say that yes, you're right -- I'm mean. Here are your caramel apples. Go pop this now, and you'll forgive me.
Serves 4 to 6
1/4 cup neutral oil (like vegetable)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
Photos by Eric Moran