Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bayou Popcorn & Book Review

I recently had the great opportunity to check out a new cookbook released by Universe Publishing entitled Popcorn! 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes by Carol Beckerman. This artisan popcorn book features everyone's favorite movie snack and delivers it in a variety of exciting creations.

First up is the chapter I have utilized most. It's entitled Bar Snacks & Appetizers, and will probably get the most use in my kitchen and yours because it yields approachable snacks that are easy on time. I have tried several recipes in this chapter and here are some of my thoughts.

The Lemon-Basil Buttered Popcorn was tasty, but pretty mild in flavor. It's good for a "light-tasting" popcorn option. On the contrary, the Indian Curry Popcorn was quite spicy. For the chili powder, I used an Indian chili powder as opposed to a Southwest chili powder blend (I assumed this was what the recipe was calling for when it stated "chili powder") but found it to become overly spicy as I snacked more and more. I would cut down the chili powder next time. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Spice Popcorn was just mediocre. It contained a lot of great spices but just missed the mark for me. I'd pass over that one next time.

I think my favorite recipe I tried so far is for the Bayou Popcorn. It had a nice balance with a touch of sweet and a bunch of savory flavors compounded together in one delicious snack. For both this recipe and the Tex-Mex Popcorn (which was also packed with a lot of great flavor) I cut the quantity of butter in half because it called for more than some of the other recipes. I have addressed that concern below.

The recipes in this chapter that use the same quantity of popcorn sometimes use vastly different amounts of fat to adhere the seasonings. Case in point: several recipes range from using only a few tablespoons of fat, to a majority that use 1/4 or 1/3 cup, and yet some that use a full 1/2 cup.

For what it's worth, any recipe I tried that called for 1/2 cup, I immediately cut back by half because I just wanted to make it healthier for my own sake. Honestly, it turned out just fine and I'm not sure I would ever want to add all that fat in the future (especially since I end up snacking on massive portions of the resulting popcorn... teehee). Just something to keep in mind while exploring the book.

The following chapters are entitled Balls & Bars, Savory Dishes & Desserts (utilizing ground up popcorn in dishes like meatloaf in place of breadcrumbs, and to crust things like tilapia and chicken), and Chocolate & Candy. I look forward to a bit of decadence in the final chapter.

Puppy Chow, a snack mixing chocolate and peanut butter and using it to coat the popcorn before tossing in powdered sugar sounds pretty amazing. I know I will be indulging in that one of these days. Candy Cane popcorn is on my list for next Christmas, while Apple Pie popcorn uses dried apples and can be made any time of year (and therefore I will probably make it soon).

Overall, I think this is a really fun book that I plan on using regularly. I love the variety of ideas from savory to sweet and everything in between, and I love that most of the recipes come together very quickly and easily. This is definitely a book I will revisit regularly.

I think using your own judgement when measuring the fat (and perhaps even salt and spicy ingredients) won't hurt, but otherwise this book is an excellent starting off point. As a movie buff, I love eating popcorn while watching my favorite flicks and have already tried out quite a few recipes and look forward to trying many more.

Bayou Popcorn
Makes 15 cups
(From Popcorn! 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes)

Bayou Seasoning Mix:
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

15 cups popped popcorn (I use an air popper--for me about 1/2 cup plus 1 to 2 T. yielded the 15 cups)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (I use 1/4 cup or 1/2 stick instead)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

To make the bayou seasoning, in a medium bowl, mix together the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, thyme, oregano, black pepper, and nutmeg. The mixture can be stored in an airtight container and used within 1 month.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the popcorn in a large serving bowl.

In a small pan, over gentle heat, melt the butter and pour it over the popcorn. Sprinkle on about 2 tablespoons bayou seasoning mix, add salt to taste, and toss gently until evenly distributed. Spread popcorn on 1 or 2 large cookie sheets and bake in the oven for 15 minutes (I halve the baking time). Either serve warm or let cool before serving. The popcorn can be stored for up to 3 days.

*Tip* Try adding 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the spices. As Cajun cooking is synonymous with “heat with flavor,” you could also add a pinch of cayenne pepper.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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