Spice Up the Oscar Race with Spicy Popcorn

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not have gotten a best picture Oscar nod in the recently announced nominations for the February 28 event. However, the film vying to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, is certainly a popcorn-worthy flick that has fans vying for how many times they can view it. One Austin, Texas, enthusiast saw it nine times in the first weekend alone.
If you are in such a viewership race, or just in a sprint to see as many nominated films as possible before the big night, why not spice things up a bit and bag your own zesty popcorn blends? Snack on them as you complete your own ballots, bring along as hostess gifts to an Oscar party or serve at your own bash.

The cheddar cheese popcorn that follows gets a further perk from cayenne pepper and mustard powder. Sweet caramel corn-peanut clusters enhance their performance with curry powder.

Yields about 12 cups.

2 Tbsps Vegetable oil, plus more for oiling aluminum foil in baking pan
⅓ cup Popcorn kernels
1 stick (½ cup) Unsalted butter
1½ cups Light brown sugar, packed
½ cup Light corn syrup
¾ tsp Salt
½ tsp Curry powder
½ tsp Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp Baking soda
1 cup Salted peanuts (5 ounces)

Heat oil with 3 kernels in a 3-quart heavy saucepan, covered, over moderate heat until 1 or 2 kernels pop. Remove lid and carefully and quickly add remaining kernels, then cook, covered, shaking pan frequently, until kernels stop popping, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and uncover.
Line bottom of a large shallow baking pan with foil. Lightly oil foil. Melt butter in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring, then boil, without stirring, until syrup registers 300 F on a candy thermometer, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

Using a wooden spoon or a heatproof spatula, stir salt, curry powder, black pepper and baking soda into syrup, then quickly stir in peanuts and popcorn to coat. Immediately spread mixture in baking pan as thinly and evenly as possible. Cool completely, then break into bite-size pieces.
-Adapted from Epicurious.com

Caramel corn clusters are sweet and spicy.

Yields 4 servings.

3 Tbsps Melted butter
¼ cup, plus 1 Tbsp, Cheddar cheese powder (see Note)
¼ tsp Mustard powder
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper
4 cups Popped popcorn
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, combine the butter, cheddar cheese powder, mustard powder, cayenne pepper and the popcorn. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Note: Cheese powders are sold in many supermarkets as popcorn toppings and are available online from companies like The Spice House and The Great American Spice Company.
- FoodNetwork.com

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including Mrs. Cubbison’s Best Stuffing Cookbook and The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook.

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