Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Chef Speaks: How to make Microwave Popcorn (from scratch!)

I have decided to augment my blog with cooking instruction. Today I take on the awesome challenge of making microwave popcorn (from scratch!). I know, this sounds really hard. For those faint of heart, look away now. For the rest of you up for this culinary challenge read on! Today we cook!

This is what you will need.

  • A plain brown paper bag
  • bag of bulk (unpopped) popcorn
  • butter (about a tablespoon)
  • salt (in a shaker)
I know some of these may not be in your kitchen, as they are truly unusual ingredients. Well, I must tell you that any prospective chef that does not have these is not worthy of wearing big hats. So, if you don't have these, go to Costco and buy a pallet of each. Got them? Good - now we can proceed.

The first step is to measure out 1/3 of a cup of popcorn. If you don't have a proper measuring cup, or if you were drinking shots out of your measuring cups the night before and they are all dirty, that's fine. You shouldn't really need a measuring cup anyway. Real chefs can estimate such measurements.

This next step is tricky. Place the popcorn in the measuring cup into the brown paper bag. If you can execute this deft trick without spilling a single kernel, then you can promote yourself to master chef as you have great promise. Note: they bag must be open to accomplish this task. Throwing the kernels in the air and attempting to catch them in the bag just makes you look stupid and the dog laughs at you.

Summoning you inner origami, fold the top of the bag thusly so it will fit in the microwave and constrain the popped popcorn. Chaos theory being what it is, the bag will immediately attempt to unroll itself. Do not let it get away with this. Re-roll it immediately to show it who is boss. Repeat this process until it is clear you are not smarter than a plain brown paper bag.

Place the paper bag upright in the microwave. This is critical: upright! Now comes the hard part. I have conducted hours of research with my microwave and have determined that the optimum popping time is 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Beyond this the popcorn becomes a smoking mess, under that and the there are a disappointing number of unpopped kernels. I could beguile you here with tales of wattage and other scientific nonesense, but why bother. Just set the timer for three minutes, and when you can count to three-mississippi and have not heard a popping sound, you know that it's done. Note: do not start counting until at least 2 minutes have passed. Another Note: Only you can prevent microwave fires!

Opening the microwave you may notice that the bag has fallen over. DO NOT PANIC! This is normal as plain brown paper bags get tired after being in the microwave for so long. Remove the bag from the microwave and place your butter in there.

I find that butter melts nicely in my microwave in about 30 seconds. Do not overcook the butter in the microwave! It tends to explode, then everything you cook in that thing for the next week has a weird buttery taste. Not that I've ever done that. Ever. Honest.

Now open up the bag - ummm - popcorny smelly steam escapes and there is all that yummy popcorn. Time to put the finishing touches on this and plate it.

First add salt. A lot of salt. Then shake the bag and add more. This ensures that you are getting your daily requirement of salt and the salty goodness is spread evenly throughout the cooked popcorn.

Next add the butter. I usually drizzle about half of the butter in, shake the bag, then add the rest. This again distributes the yummy buttery flavor throughout the popped popcorn.

That's it! If you have carefully followed these steps you are entitled to call yourself a microwave popcorn chef and garner all the prizes and adoration that title deserves. Just don't forget to share the spoils of your efforts with your long suffering assistant chef:

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