Now you have to admit, I have been very well-behaved in terms of the bacon recipes lately. I didn’t put any bacon in the pumpkin granola, or the marshmallow frosted cupcakes, or even in the spaghetti tacos. I am practically going through bacon withdrawal over here. And the only antidote might be this CRAZILY good popcorn. Bacon, cashews and popcorn, all held together with just a little bit of caramel and with a little red pepper tossed in just to keep you on your toes. It’s hard to describe how completely, totally, addictively good this is. All I will say is, one minute that jar was full up with popcorn, and the next it was empty. It’s all kind of a blur to me. A happy, sweet, salty blur.
This recipe comes via the wonderful Saveur magazine (who called out my little blog as one of their “Sites We Love,” so I in turn will love them forever), and they got it from someplace in Denver called Colt and Gray. I had never heard of Colt and Gray before this recipe, but based on this popcorn recipe alone, I love them too. It’s part of their bar menu (don’t you just love bar menus???) and I could easily eat it for dinner all by itself.
Here’s the deal. Pop up about 15 cups of popcorn (which is about 1/2 cup of unpopped popcorn kernels, which doesn’t make sense to me but it’s true.) This will mean your popcorn ends up with just a tiny bit of caramel on each kernel, which was perfect from my point of view, but if you like more caramel on your caramel corn, cut the popped popcorn down to 10 or 12 cups. Cook up some bacon, crumble it up and toss it in with the popcorn. Add in some cashews, some coarse salt and some red pepper.
Now comes the fun part: making the caramel. You bring some cream to a boil with a tea bag, and let it sit for a while. (Tea bag? I don’t know, and I wasn’t going to ask any questions.) Then you boil up some sugar, water and corn syrup in a large saucepan until the sugar melts and turns amber-colored. Now comes the dramatic part: pour in the cream… it will bubble up and then before your eyes you will have a pan full of beautiful molten caramel. Quickly pour it over your popcorn mixture, quickly stir it up to coat everything with just a touch of caramel loveliness. Now turn the whole shebang onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and let it cool until the caramel hardens. Then comes the hardest part of all: trying not to eat it all in one fell swoop. Good luck with that part!
Bacon Cashew Caramel Popcorn
adapted from Saveur
• 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, popped to make 12-15 cups popcorn
• 6 ounces bacon, cooked and chopped
• 1/2 cup cashews
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 1 tea bag (regular black tea)
• cooking spray
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1. Combine popcorn, bacon and cashews in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne and toss to coat.
2. Bring cream and tea bag just to the boil and remove from heat. Let sit for 15 minutes, press on tea bag and remove.
3. Line baking sheet with foil and coat with nonstick spray. Spray two large spoons with cooking spray as well.
4. Stir sugar, water and corn syrup in large saucepan over medium low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until syrup turns amber, occasionally swirling pan. This will take about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add cream – mixture will bubble up – don’t panic!
5. Immediately pour mixture over popcorn, being Very Careful – it’s hot. Toss with the sprayed spoons until well-combined and transfer to baking sheet. Cool completely and then break up into chunks.