Microwave Brown Bag Popcorn

Sunday October 23, 2016

making popcorn with the family is almost an American culinary institution

The microwave is the true home for popping popcorn. While there are quite a few

Hallowe'en the magic night, when folly reigns supreme...

specialized types of microwave popcorn poppers on the market, the good old brown bag method reigns supreme in my mind, especially if you are without any other contraption in which to pop. Popcorn is best made in small batches in sandwich sized brown bags (not regular grocery bags which can contain metal flecks and do not staples or a paperclip closure which can arc and create sparks, igniting the bag).

Why does the bag work so well? It absorbs the wonderful natural moisture released in the popping process; in solid cookware, the moisture stays put and toughens the popped kernels. The best popcorn for popping in the microwave is fresh, since it has not dried out yet. There is no butter or oil needed with the brown bag method. Most microwaves will have an automatic labeled button just for timing popcorn since it is so popular.

All popcorn can be popped in the microwave. I recommend buying real popping corn in bulk or jars since commercial microwave popcorn has additives for the butter flavor that condense into a steam that is now considered unhealthy (Orville Redenbacher’s or JollyTime are fine and national brands). And you don’t have to just make yellow or white popcorn. There is a world of colored popping corn, such as red and blacks, each with their own particular flavor. There are bin organic popping corn at natural foods markets and there are a number of online buy options with non-GMO strains such as Baby Black Pearl (which is miniature kernels), Amethyst, Striped Coral, and Yellow Topaz (crownjewelgourmet.com, who have named all their strains after precious stones). Bob’s Red Mill has yellow and white varieties that are showing up in more and more supermarkets alongside his flours. Try hulless gourmet crimson popcorn from Rancho Gordo around the winter holidays (www.ranchogordo.com), the rainbow of colors or even their mini popcorn on a cob from Amish Country Popcorn (amishcountrypopcorn.com), and the famous extra-large, “flavorful as if you grew it in your own garden” White Cat Popcorn (whitecatpopcorn.com), which is also available at Whole Foods, TJ Maxx, and SurLaTable. Amazon.com carries half a dozen bulk specialty popcorns.

A tightly closed jar stored in a cool dry place will keep three years to infinity. Do not store popping corn in the refrigerator since the kernels will dry out, and since it is the moisture within the kernel that makes it go pop, you wont have fluffy delicious popcorn.

As a guide, 2 heaping tablespoons unpopped corn will yield approximately 3 to 4 cups popped popcorn, depending on the original size of the kernel. The general proportion for the butter is 1 teaspoon melted butter per cup of popped corn, but of course, there is no hard and fast rule since some like lots of butter.

Overview

Cookware: 1 new lunch-sized brown bag (use only unbleached bags), or microwave popcorn popper unit (see below, Beth Recommends)

Total Cook Time: 2 to 3 minutes

Standing Time: None

Makes about 2 quarts, serving 1 or 2

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, depending on how buttery you like your popcorn, salted or unsalted, as desired
  • 1/3 cup high quality popping corn
  • Salt, to taste for serving (see Popcorn Salt, below)

Instructions

1. Place the butter in a small bowl or custard cup and microcook on HIGH for 15 to 20 seconds to melt. Set aside.

2. Place the popping corn into a lunch-sized brown paper bag. Fold the bag top down two times about 1/2 inch deep and firmly close so it doesn’t open on its own.

3. Microcook on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes , or until the popping sound slows down to 2 to 4 seconds between pops. With the popcorn button, press the button and when done, microcook an additional 20 seconds. Do not overcook or your popcorn will burn. Your bag will be full of popped corn. Open the bag and drizzle with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt; stir or shake the bag to coat the kernels if you like. Eat out of the bag or pour into a bowl. Eat. Throw out the bag when you are done.

Beth Recommends:

Popcorn Salt

Popcorn gourmets have a world of comments on what type of salt to use on their popcorn. Good salt makes popcorn taste better by drawing out its natural flavor. When you think salt, don’t just think about accenting the flavor but adding a bit of texture as well. There is not only a plain salt, called popcorn salt, which is more finely ground than regular table salt so it can collect in the nooks of each popped kernel, but there are flavored salts as well (hickory is a great all time favorite). National brands are Diamond Crystal, Morton’s, or finely grinding kosher or regular table salt in a spice grinder. Look for popcorn salt by the popcorn shelf, not by the salt.

Websites that sell gourmet popping corn will usually offer their own recommended brand of popcorn salt. Crown Jewel likes a Natural Pink Mineral Salt (crownjewelgourmet.com) and White Cat has their own white sea salt (whitecatpopcorn.com). Unrefined natural sea salt and artisan salts are a gourmet treat and becoming more available all the time since they are the new darling of the restaurant set. Maldon sea salt flakes is a brand that is organic and flavorful. We like to either grind some Fleur de Sel French sea salt (Williams-Sonoma.com) with a little mortar and pestle or sprinkle with a very fine and tasty Himalayan Pink Salt (salttraders.com) and you get your dose of healthy minerals along with the flavor. Just remember that many sea salts are quite coarse and you want an extra fine salt for popcorn. An ordinary snack just became gourmet.

Variations

Popcorn The Way You Like It

Popcorn isn’t just for eating in front of the TV for a snack with soda or lemonade. It is also good flavored in a number of ways with cold beer and wine to ward off hunger before a group meal. It is great in a big bowl for potlucks too. It is the ideal snack since it is not too heavy or filling. Many popcorn lovers often jazz up a batch of popcorn and have it for dinner after a big lunch eating out or holiday dinner.

Popcorn just isn’t for kids anymore. Here are some all-time favorites and creative ideas. Feel free to invent your own flavor combinations. Dieters love plain popcorn for its fiber, satisfying taste, and nutrition. Its like a superfood now, too. How convenient. Like cheese powder on your popcorn? Penzey’s Brady Street Cheese is a favorite, as is the Vermont cheese powder from The Baker’s Catalog. Other ideas include Spanish smoked paprika, chipotle chile powder, soy sauce, Italian herb seasoning (for that pizza flavor), saffron butter, five spice powder and chow mein noodles, sesame salt, melted butterscotch morsels, and nutritional yeast. We’ve even seen green popcorn dusted with spirulina powder and another for a party sprinkled with edible gold dust. The sky’s the limit.

Margie’s Parmesan Garlic Popcorn

A real favorite. If you are a fresh garlic aficianado, press a clove or two of garlic into an equal amount of butter substituted for the olive oil, microcook HIGH for 15 to 20 seconds to melt, then drizzle.

Makes about 2 quarts

  • 1 recipe Brown Bag Popcorn
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil, light or extra-virgin as you like it
  • 1/2 to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or garlic salt, to taste

1. When the popcorn is popped in Step 3, open the bag and drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle in the cheese and the garlic powder; stir or shake the bag to coat the kernels if you like. Eat out of the bag or pour into a bowl.

Nut Butter Popcorn

A wonderful variation that will delight kids. You can substitute cashew or almond butter for the peanut butter. Add a cup of salted roasted peanuts, too.

Makes about 2 quarts

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 recipe Brown Bag Popcorn

1. Place the butter and peanut butter in a small bowl or custard cup and microcook on HIGH for 15 to 20 seconds to melt; stir together. If it is too thick, add a little bit of hot water. Set aside.

2. When the popcorn is popped in Step 3, open the bag and drizzle in the warm nut butter mixture; stir or shake the bag to coat the kernels if you like. Eat out of the bag or pour into a bowl.

Wasabi Popcorn

Wasabi is Japanese horseradish and is usually served with seafood. Due to its unique flavor associated with heat somewhat like chile peppers, it is now used in everything from dips to mayonnaise to salad dressings. Here you make the paste fresh, a lovely green color, then stir it into the butter for the popcorn. You can add more wasabi to the butter if you like its spicy hot flavor more pronounced.

Makes about 2 quarts

  • 1/2 tablespoon wasabi powder
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 recipe Brown Bag Popcorn
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

1. In a small bowl, mix wasabi powder and water to form a thick paste that mounds. Turn the bowl over on the counter (the wasabi will stick to the bowl) and let sit for 10 minutes. If you like, you can use 2 teaspoons of prepared wasabi which comes in a tube.

2. Place the butter in a small bowl or custard cup and microcook on HIGH for 15 to 20 seconds to melt; stir in the nob of wasabi paste. Set aside.

3. When the popcorn is popped in Step 3, open the bag and drizzle in the wasabi butter, then sprinkle with salt; stir or shake the bag to coat the kernels if you like. Eat out of the bag or pour into a bowl.

Bombay Curried Popcorn

I like a dish called Bombay Curried Noodles, which is lots of curry butter melted on wide noodles. It was one step to translating it to the popcorn.

Makes about 2 quarts

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon curry powder, to taste
  • 1 recipe Brown Bag Popcorn
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons dried currants
  • 3 tablespoons toasted coconut or sliced almonds, optional

1. Place the butter in a small bowl or custard cup and microcook on HIGH for 15 to 20 seconds to melt; stir in the curry powder. Set aside.

2. When the popcorn is popped in Step 3, open the bag and drizzle in the spicy flavored butter and sprinkle with salt; add the currants and coconut or almonds. Stir or shake the bag to coat the kernels if you like. Eat out of the bag or place popcorn in a large bowl.

Mexican Popcorn

You can use the taco seasoning from a package (such as McCormick’s) or buy as a spice mixture in a jar; both are delicious as can be when fresh. The package, which is amazingly fresh flavored and a delightful blend, will contain salt with the finely ground spice mixture, so none is necessary unless you like more naturally.

Makes about 2 quarts

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons taco seasoning
  • 1 recipe Brown Bag Popcorn

1. Place the butter in a small bowl or custard cup and microcook on HIGH for 15 to 20 seconds to melt; stir in the taco seasoning. Set aside.

2. When the popcorn is popped in Step 3, open the bag and drizzle in the spicy flavored butter; stir or shake the bag to coat the kernels if you like. Eat out of the bag or pour into a bowl.

Popcorn with Green Chiles and Olives

This is popcorn for dinner, filling and satisfying. Get a fresh bottle of chili powder for this or use a single ground chile, such as chipotle. If you like fresh chiles, roast and peel a large Anaheim chile or two, then dice.

Makes about 2 quarts, serves 2 to 4

  • 1 recipe Brown Bag Popcorn
  • Chili powder
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced roasted green chiles, drained
  • About 1 1/2 to 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, or Monterey jack and cheddar blend
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 to 4 green onions, minced with plenty of green

1. Set out 2 to 4 shallow soup bowls that can be placed in the microwave. Divide the popped popcorn equally between the bowls.

2. Sprinkle each with some chili powder, then half of the olives, green chiles, and then the cheese.

3. One bowl at at time, microcook on HIGH for for 40 to 60 seconds, to melt the cheese. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onion and eat fast with your fingers while the cheese is warm.

White Chocolate Pecan Popcorn

Popcorn drizzled with melted chocolate has become a rage. And it is easy. Makes a great gift as well as dessert style, out of hand treat. The oil is necessary to make a pourable consistency.

Makes about 2 quarts

  • 8-ounces white chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe Brown Bag Popcorn
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted if you like, or dry-roasted peanuts

1. Place the white chocolate chips and oil in a 4-cup measure and microcook on DEFROST for 60 seconds, then at 15 second intervals until shiny; stir to melt.

2. Place the popcorn on a large baking sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle with the pecans then drizzle with the melted chocolate; stir gently with a wide spatula. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, until chilled and chocolate is set. Break into small clusters before eating, or store in a covered tin or plastic container up to 1 week.

Beth Recommends

Presto 04830 PowerPop Microwave Multi-Popper

My readers have informed me there seems to be some problem finding brown lunch bags that are not recycled. If you are uncomfortable using the brown bag method, there are a number of great microwave popping units, easily available and inexpensive from amazon.com. These are okay for the dishwasher and make 2 to 3 quarts of popcorn without oil. Use the recipes as written as the timing stays the same.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Microwave Cooking, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2010, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Text copyright Beth Hensperger 2011

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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