Kernels pop up everywhere

Popcorn gets dressed up in post-microwaving craze

Popcorn gets dressed up in post-microwaving craze

January 09, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

When it comes to popcorn, more people are thinking outside the microwave bag.

"There has been a renewed interest in stove-top popping," said Wendy Boersema-Rappel, spokeswoman for The Popcorn Board, a non-profit Chicago-based trade group.

People also are soothing their popcorn fixes at specialty shops.

"It might be the fastest growing segment in the popcorn business," said Bryan Casey, who co-owns Catoctin Kettle Corn in Frederick, Md., with his wife.

Casey said his business has steadily grown since it opened in 2001, thanks to people who were seeking something other than the microwave-popped variety.


Catoctin sells kettle-cooked popcorn at its factory in Frederick. When they started, they only sold kettle corn off roadsides and at fairs. They now sell 32 flavors of popcorn, including barbecue sauce, and popcorn with dark and milk chocolate.

Chocolate-covered popcorn is a big seller at Gardners Candies at Valley Mall and at the mall in Chambersburg, Pa., said owner Ryan Branham.

"It seems like people in this area really like popcorn," Branham said.

Fueling recent interest in nonmicrowaved popcorn might be recent concerns over the flavoring agent diacetyl, Boersema-Rappel said.

Diacetyl is an additive found in microwave popcorn that gives popcorn its buttery feel and taste.

The Food and Drug Administration has determined that diacetyl is safe to eat, but the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has linked the additive to lung disease among factory workers who were frequently exposed to the additive.

Makers of several popcorn brands - Jiffy Pop and Orville Redenbacher, among others- have chosen to remove the additive from their products out of concern for the potential harm it might cause employees.

Another reason for the renewed interest in non-microwaved popcorn is the broadening of American society's palate, Boersema-Rappel said.

Though butter, caramel and cheese are the most popular popcorn flavors, alternatives are holding their own in the popcorn industry, Boersema-Rappel said.

The general interest in trying new flavors has spurred a new generation of stove-top popcorn makers, who've learned that they can create custom-flavored batches in about the same time it takes to toss a bag in the microwave, Boersema-Rappel said.

Plain, stove-popped popcorn is a blank canvas. "It plays a good supporting role," Boersema-Rappel said.

Toss the batch in a savory mix of seasonings. The Popcorn Board's recipe for Savory Popcorn de Provence, for example, incorporates herbs de Provence: marjoram, thyme, summer savory, basil, rosemary, sage and fennel.

Even substituting different oils - using olive oil or a rosemary-flavored oil - will yield a different flavor.

The adventurous cook can incorporate popcorn in dinner dishes, such as Thai Peanut and Popcorn Crusted Chicken.

Tips for making popcorn on the stove top

Stove-top popping is about as labor intensive as microwaving, said Wendy Boersema-Rappel, spokeswoman for The Popcorn Board, a nonprofit Chicago-based trade group.

All you need is a skillet, oil and kernels for popping - which can be found near the microwaved popcorn at the local grocer.

"Whatever oil you have in your kitchen will probably work," Boersema-Rappel said.

· First, lightly coat a skillet with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of oil, just enough to cover the bottom. Do not use butter. Some people sprinkle salt into the oil; Boersema-Rappel does not recommend this because it makes the popcorn tough.

· Once the oil is hot, add the kernels. Use just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

· Cover with a lid and shake continually. Crack the lid to allow steam to escape (failing to do this might lead to a soggy batch).

· Pour into a bowl, season as you like and serve.

Savory Popcorn de Provence

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoon herbs de Provence (a blend of dried marjoram, thyme, summer savory, basil, rosemary, sage and fennel)
8 cups popped popcorn

Melt butter in small saucepan. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in herbs de Provence.

Place popcorn in bowl. Toss flavored butter mixture over popcorn and serve immediately.

Serves 8.

- Courtesy of The Popcorn Board

Thai Peanut and Poporn Crusted Chicken

2 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1 egg
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the peanut sauce:

3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make peanut sauce, mix peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, lime juice and hot pepper sauce in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

Process popcorn in a blender or food processor until ground. Pour ground popcorn into a shallow dish. Stir in peanuts and set aside.

In another shallow dish, whisk egg, soy sauce, garlic and hot pepper sauce until blended and set aside.

Heat oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Dip chicken breasts first in egg mixture and then in popcorn mixture until well coated. Place in skillet and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Place skillet in oven 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with peanut sauce.

Serves 4.

- Courtesy of The Popcorn Board

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