Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.
Popcorn is one of those foods that sort of drops off my radar and then, blammo, one day I get a fearsome craving for some, nice and hot with a sprinkle of salt if you please. (Also, if everyone could please say, 'how to pop popcorn in a pot' three times quickly, I'd really appreciate it.)
Yesterday was one such day. As I shook those kernels over the stove, it occurred to me that some might not know how to prepare popcorn in such a way. I know that when I was young and single and my cooking skills consisted of boiling water for pasta and opening a can of spaghetti sauce, I had no idea. And then I lived in Taiwan for a couple of months with a bunch of girls who'd get occasional hankerings for American food. I'm guessing we couldn't buy it in the microwave variety. Or perhaps we didn't have a microwave. At any rate, people would pop it up in the pan and I learned how too.
Which is great for so many reasons. It takes popcorn from processed to whole food (or, rather, you are in complete control of most of the processing). It's much much cheaper than popcorn in a bag. It makes it so you don't have to buy the one-use gadget that popcorn poppers are. And you have no idea how wickedly fun it is for toddlers and young children to watch (just be sure you've got the old lid on first). It's, like, the best magic trick ever.
My oldest daughter asked to have some in her lunch and my youngest daughter was grunting in demand for the popped corn, and it occurred to me that this was a tidy snack to take on walks or send in lunchboxes. And it is much healthier than fruit snacks. Can I get an amen?
How to Pop Popcorn in a Pan
Oops--I'll take pictures to go with next time I make popcorn, but I promise that it's such an easy thing, you don't really need them.
1. You'll need a pot with a handle and a lid that fits well.
2. Pour enough oil (I use canola) into the bottom of the pot to coat the bottom. It needn't be thick, but it should cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Set heat at medium and place 2-3 kernels of popcorn in the bottom of the pot. Put the lid on and wait for them to pop. When they pop, you know you're oil is at the right temperature. (Of course, if they immediately burn, your oil is way too hot and if they take forever to pop, you've got it too low or a bum bag of kernels.)
4. Add enough kernels to cover or almost cover the bottom of the pan in one layer. Be sure--as in absolutely positive--that you don't have more than one layer of kernels. Err on the side of too little. If you've got too much and it's more than one layer on the bottom of the pan, your kernels will likely burn.
5. Put the lid on and give the pan a gentle shake (side to side, not up and down) so that the kernels roll a bit and get coated with the oil. Let the pot sit on the heat until the kernels begin popping--it should only take a few seconds.
6. Shake the pan gently side to side every few seconds. You can pick it up slightly off the burner to do this. The kernels will go nuts and pop away. When the pot is full (and it will get full--another reason not to layer up the popcorn kernels), take it off the heat, remove the lid (watch for any stray poppers), and salt it. You can also add butter, but I usually don't as I find the oil gives it all the fatty oomph I need.
7. Eat it. It's much better hot.