Of all of the awards shows I love to watch (and I love to watch them all), the Oscars is my favorite. And it's a great excuse to throw a party. Many of my friends do the "red carpet" thing for their parties and ask guests to dress in their black-tie best. I prefer watching in comfy clothes and snacking on simple but satisfying nibbles.
This year, I am going to make popcorn the old-fashioned way - on the stovetop - and flavor the hot kernels a variety of ways. Everyone loves popcorn, and there is no other food that is so closely associated with movies. Even though I sometimes make microwave popcorn just like the rest of the world, when I make it from scratch, I can't believe the difference in taste. [0x0b]
Start to finish: 10 minutes; servings: 1/2 cup corn kernels will produce about 12 cups popcorn
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (depending on the size of the pot)
1/3 to 1/2 cup popcorn kernels (depending on the size of the pot)
Fine-grain sea salt or other seasoned toppings
Heat an empty cast-iron Dutch oven over low heat for 2 minutes.
Add enough olive oil to the pot to thinly coat the entire bottom. Add a single layer of popcorn kernels. You want them to be touching but not more than one layer thick. Increase the heat to medium and place the lid on the pot. Wait until popping begins, then turn the heat down slightly.
Shake the pot every 30 seconds or so. Start shaking a bit more when the popping starts to subside. When the kernels stop popping in unison and you only hear one pop every couple of seconds, it is done.
Pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Season generously with toppings. Toss the popcorn in the bowl and sprinkle with additional seasoning several times to make sure you have an even coating. Serve immediately or let cool.
DRY POPCORN TOPPINGS
Maple sugar and crispy bits of smoked bacon
Mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and chopped salted peanuts
[0x1e]Mini M&Ms, chopped roasted almonds and dried coconut
A Cajun spice mixture
Italian spice blend and finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
WET POPCORN TOPPINGS
Add melted butter to hot or warm popcorn. For other toppings, spread the popcorn flat on a baking sheet before adding wet toppings, then let it set before serving.
Melted chocolate and peanut butter
Melted caramels and a pinch of salt
Pair your gourmet popcorn with a flute of sparkling wine. (See a suggested recipe on L6.) They make the perfect high-low party combination.