This post was inspired by my good friend Naomi, who always has a bowl of homemade popcorn amped up with some great mixture of herbs and spices at the ready when her guests arrive for cocktails. I thought I’d try her technique with a few spice/herb combinations of my own, the first being marjoram -- one of the unsung heroes of the herb world, in my opinion -- and paprika. This is an easy hors d’oeuvre for when you just don’t feel like whipping up a tray of canapés or an elegant cheese plate. I’ve added some other flavor ideas at the end of the recipe, and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section! —Merrill Stubbs
In a large, heavy pot with a lid, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter melts and starts to foam. Add the popcorn kernels and stir to coat. Cover the pot and, using good oven mitts, shake it once in a while until you hear the popcorn start to pop.
Move the lid so it’s slightly ajar (so the steam can escape) and shake the pot gently but consistently until the popping subsides, which will take a couple of minutes. Take the pot off the heat and remove the lid, keeping your face away from the opening so you avoid any late-popping kernels.
Immediately sprinkle the marjoram and paprika (or whatever combo of herbs and spices you’re using) over the popcorn, rubbing the herbs between your fingers to release more of their flavor, and then add a few generous pinches of salt. Put the lid back on the pot and shake to distribute everything. Serve while still warm.
Try these other flavor combinations:
1 teaspoon dried oregano + ½ teaspoon garlic or onion powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme + ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon dried dill + ½ teaspoon lemon pepper, ½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika + ½ teaspoon cumin