By Andrew Knowlton
Dear BA Foodist,
I'm a bit of a snack food junkie. I'm bored with the bagged potato chips I usually opt for, and I'm looking for healthier options that will satisfy my cravings.
Wendy Lieberman, Phoenix
Fortunately, I wasn't born a snack food addict--unlike my father, who had a habit of polishing off a bag of potato chips, tortilla chips, pork rinds, or whatever just before dinner. My true snack food love is popcorn. Some folks crave chocolate or a pint of ice cream after dinner--I crave a giant bowl of popcorn. I'm not talking about that nasty stuff that comes from a bag or microwave or even a movie theater concession stand. Nope, I like popcorn made the old-fashioned way, with just a bit of salt and absolutely no butter. I'm on a crusade to get more people to make popcorn from scratch, so to speak. It's simple to whip up and healthy to boot.
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Here are a few popcorn pointers:
- Buy natural popcorn--lots of farmers' markets sell it, and you can order it online as well. My favorite brand right now is Boulder Popcorn (boulderpopcorn.com). The company sells three small-kernel varieties, which means that the hulls are smaller and less stuff will get stuck between your teeth.
- If you can't recall when you bought that bag of kernels in the pantry, it's time to buy a new one because the kernels might be stale.
And here's how to get started:
- To a thick-bottomed stockpot or specialty stovetop popper (I use a Whirley-Pop; whirleypop.com), add 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of oil for every 1/2 cup of kernels. Some movie theaters use coconut oil, but I prefer more neutral-tasting oils like canola.
- Cover the pot and cook over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to sizzle, give the pot a few good shakes.
- When the interval between pops slows to three seconds, remove the pot from the stove immediately.
- Liberally season with kosher salt or fine sea salt and nothing else. If you can resist finishing the entire bowl (including the unpopped kernels, a.k.a. old maids), you're a stronger person than I am.
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Andrew Knowlton is the Restaurant Editor of Bon Appétit magazine, where he writes features and monthly columns including The Hot 10 and The Dish. He has appeared as a judge on The Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef America" and "Iron Chef America" as well as on CBS, FOX, and NBC.
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