February 2010

Pop-Pop-Popcorn!

There’s a whole lot more to a film lover’s favorite food than you might think

Lora
Zarubin

mad for, popcorn Brian Leatart

Serious cinema or otherwise, seeing a movie is an incomplete experience without popcorn. And because awards season is all about the best—what with watching screeners at home or catching buzzworthy films on the big screen before the Big Night, you need really spectacular popcorn. But before anyone pulls out that nasty microwave pack, know this: There’s nothing easier to prepare than good popcorn...

RANCHO GORDON CRIMSON POPPING CORN
Simply a must for popcorn connoisseurs, the nearly hull-less crimson kernels pop up beautifully white and have a great flavor. 16 ounces: $2.95, ranchogordo.com.

479º SCHOLYARD POP
Here’s a way to enjoy a delicious blend of organic heirloom popcorn and do some good for kids at the same time. Proceeds from the sale of 479º Schoolyard Pop go to Urban Sprouts, a nonprofit organization that plants edible gardens in schoolyards across San Francisco. 32 ounces: $14, 479popcorn.com.

FARMER STEVE’S ALL-NATURAL MICROWAVE
For those who must use a microwave, I recommend Farmer Steve’s. They use only USDA organic popcorn and salt. And they’ve gotten the proper moisture content in the kernels while keeping out all of the trans fats and chemicals often found in microwave popcorns. Three 2.8-ounce bags: $5.39, farmersteve.com.

AMISH COUNTRY ON THE COB
Another alternative to traditional microwave popcorn—all you do is put several cobs in a paper bag, zap on high for a few minutes, and, voilà, you’re good to go. Eight ears: $3.49, amishcountrypopcorn.com.

AMISH COUNTRY LADY FINGER
An open-pollinated varietal, Lady Finger has a cult following—and for good reason. The small kernels—and these are smaller than anything you’ve seen—pop up into tender, tasty corn with knockout flavor. It melts in your mouth. 32 ounces: $3.49, amishcountrypopcorn.com.

ARCLIGHT CARAMEL CORN
No, this isn’t a corn you can make at home, but since L.A. takes its movie viewing seriously, it’s one worth mentioning. The cushy ArcLight theaters—best venues in town, bar none—serve up a decadent, top-notch caramel corn. My advice: Take a friend, get both their caramel and regular popcorn and do sharesies. I’ve heard some people smuggle in their own dark-chocolate M&M’s to add to the mix. We don’t encourage it, though—that would just be wrong. Quart-size: $5.50, arclightcinemas.com.

Back to the homemade varieties, if you do use oil to pop your corn, it’s important to use one that can withstand a high heat. My first choice is coconut oil, which also lends a great flavor to the finished product, followed by peanut oil. If you can’t eat your corn without a little butter flavoring, try ghee (clarified butter). I actually prefer the taste to regular butter. To finish off my own popcorn before serving, I toss on some melted ghee and a sprinkling of sea salt.

PRESTO POPLITE HOT-AIR POPPER

COOK'S CABINET


So, yes, the raw ingredients you choose are critical, but when it comes to kernels, your popcorn is really only as good as your tools...


PRESTO POPLITE HOT-AIR POPPER


For those who must have their popcorn au naturel—meaning completely oil free—the Presto Hot-Air Popper is the tool of choice. My only qualm? I wish they would hire a crackerjack product designer to make it a bit more visually appealing. Also would be nice if it could produce larger quantities. $29.99, Walmart and Kohl’s citywide; walmart.com, kohls.com.

LEHMAN’S STAINLESS-STEEL STOVETOP POPPER

LEHMAN’S STAINLESS-STEEL STOVETOP POPPER

If you want perfect popcorn with a minimum of oil, stocking your kitchen with a Lehman’s is a no-brainer. Plus, it’s a fun hands-on experience even the kids will love: The popper has a manually turned crank that sweeps the kernels across the heavy gauge bottom of the pot, ensuring uniform popping without burning. When you consider cost per use, it’s the best investment you can make. $54.95, lehmans.com.