It wasn’t that I didn’t like the fluffy corn I had popped in clarified butter. I just found it slightly disappointing (at least until I added salt, but more on that in a bit). “It’s because you drown your popcorn,” my boyfriend suggested, shoving another handful into his mouth. “That’s why you don’t like this. You’d rather drown in it butter.”
Somewhere on the internet, I had encountered the claim that using ghee as a popping oil would give your popcorn a buttery flavour without leaving it soggy or greasy, and they weren’t wrong. The popcorn did have an unmistakable buttery flavour…but it was subtle, and I am not one for subtlety. It tasted lightly buttered. Reasonably buttered. Buttered by someone who likes, but would not bathe in, the dairy-based fat. It was, and is, my boyfriend’s ideal buttered popcorn.
If, like my boyfriend, the notion of incredibly crunchy, lightly buttered, but not greasy popcorn appeals to you, I highly recommend popping your corn in ghee or clarified butter (the two are almost identical, with one key difference). And even if you’re an unreasonable butter fiend (like me), you’ll probably like it once you add a little salt.
Use a lot of ghee
If you’re going to pop corn in ghee, be generous with it. Using a lot of the fat results in a popcorn that is very close to fried, with a crispy texture approaching that of a potato chip.
There are two ways to measure your ghee: the precise way, and the Cameron Diaz way. The precise way uses a ration of 1/2-cup of fat for every 1/3-cup of unpopped kernels. It seems indecent, but it leaves the popped kernels ultra crispy, but not greasy. The Cameron Diaz way also requires a fair amount of fat, but no measuring cups are involved. Just melt ghee in your popping pot until it comes up “around the curve of the pot,” then add popcorn until the fat barely covers the kernels.
However you measured, next you need to cover the pot and let the corn pop, without shaking. The kernels will pop and rise — you may have to hold on to the lid to keep it from spilling out. Once you hear the popping die down, dump it in a big bowl and season.
You must season it with salt
Salt doesn’t just make things taste salty; it enhances other flavours, especially butter. Tasting the ghee-popped popcorn without salt was a real letdown — I had to squint my tongue to detect the butter — but a few pinches of fine sea salt took care of the issue, amplifying the clarified butter and giving the popcorn a rich flavour my tongue could detect with ease.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be a completely reformed popcorn drowner — I like mine to be almost saucy — but it’s nice to have a more reasonable approach to buttered popcorn in my back pocket. (Certainly I’m not known for being reasonable. Maybe this popcorn will change that.)
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