Great Big Bowl of Crack

Stop what you are doing.  Just stop.  Turn off the computer and proceed immediately into the kitchen and make this.  Right now. Baring that, proceed to Jeff’s place. Break in if you have to (if you can get past the Cat Lady on the front porch who will leer at you, you should be able to get inside) and use all necessary force to pry these crunchy, salty, cinammoneous (?) caramel-ey sweet little things out of my gooey, sandy, coma-induced fingers.

I suppose I should back up.

I hosted a WatchThis movie this past Friday evening.  You guys know about these, right?  Our friend Alex decided this past winter to watch his way through the AFI’s top 100 films, and along the way the project has just taken on a life of its own.  Large venues have signed on to host movies, Alex has been in the news a couple of times, and it’s been a really fun way to relax after work with a bunch of friends. Not to mention the change to make a few new ones along the way.  Small crowd this time, though – Alex’s email suggested that I have a much smaller apartment than I do, the movie itself is, admittedly,  disturbing, and with all that was happening in town this weekend, the audience was made up of just the usual suspects: me, Alex and Allison, along with my buddy Sam.

A Clockwork Orange is among my favorite movies.  It is confusing, tense, violently unhinged, and seeps with a contemptuous, darkly comic streak that always has me wondering if it’s okay to laugh (it is.)   I don’t know of too many other movies that work on such a visceral level (the brutish marina-walk scene is I think my favorite part of any Kubrick movie – right up there with the final duel in Barry Lyndon or the final frenetic minutes in the War Room) without sacrificing its powerful satirical ring.

Anyway, not that I never need an excuse… but I relished the chance to once again make large quantities of yum.

It happens that I have a unique and very dangerous set of skills:  The ability to memorize a decadent recipe (I can never have cocoa and brown sugar at the same time because brownies instantly appear), extrapolate it into a ratio, and prepare larger versions of that recipe without too much fuss.   And although, yes, these final products require tasting and tweaking, it’s fairly simple for me to replicate the taste of the original.

So. Two ratio-driven recipes.

A pitcher of margaritas is not THAT complicated, but it does have a nuance.  I think you have to remember that the pitcher is not being shaken or agitated with ice in the same way an individual drink might be, so it’s important to remember to let a bit of the ice melt just to “soften” it, or add a few tablespoons of water just to make sure it’s not too overpowering.

Most margarita recipes involve a 3-2-1 ratio where the two and the one are represented by freshly squeezed lime juice and some sort of orange liqueur.  They seem to split down the middle, however, between which is the two and which is the one.  I myself prefer the two to be lime, and the one to be the orange, and specifically, Cointreau.  Grand Marnier, while possibly my favorite spirit, is too overpowering here. Good-quality triple-sec is also fine.

Also, after a lot of testing, I’ve come to like Patron Reposado when I prepare these.  (Sauza Hornitos is also an excellent choice for margaritas).  But, really, any blanco or reposado tequila will work, as long as you understand that you will have a very different flavor depending on the age of the tequila. Blanco will be brighter and more floral, while reposado tequilas seem more rich and balanced.

Oh, a word about limes.  Choose the small spherical limes with the thin rind, rather than the larger and more lemon-shaped ones.  Both the IGA down the street and the Kroger up the hill just mix them together, but the smaller ones yield a lot more juice.

Anyway, for a pitcher of margaritas, squeeze the juice of 6-8 limes.   Measure how much you pour into a large pitcher (hold a few tablespoons back for taste-testing), and then add half that much Cointreau.  Finish with your three parts of tequila and stir vigorously with ice.  Taste.  You may wish to add simple syrup, additional lime juice for more zing, or even additional tequila if you wish.  Just find the balance that works for you.  Keep the drink iced, serve over ice with a salt rim and lime wedge.

Caramel Corn.

First things first, YES, if you have to use goddamn microwave popcorn, do it.  One bag will equal 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn.   Just don’t tell me about it.

4 parts dark brown sugar (light is OKAY but dark does taste better and yes I’ve made it both ways)
2 parts butter
1 part corn syrup
1 part unpopped popcorn
1/4 part cooking oil

(using 1/4 C unpopped popcorn is easy.  So that would equal 1 cup sugar, etc.)

Pop the popcorn in your usual manner and set aside.

Preheat oven to 250

Prepare your sugar syrup.  Melt the sugar, butter, and corn syrup over low heat until liquid, turn the heat up to high, stirring constantly, until the mixture looks about like this and moves around the pot in ribbons. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.  About like this:

Pour your popcorn onto a jelly-roll pan or half-sheet pan or rimmed cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking sheet.  Pour your molten caramel mixture on the popcorn, (Warning: THIS IS SOME HOT JUJU, MON) and spread around with your spatula until syrup covers as much popcorn as possible.

Place in the oven.  Now, strictly speaking, this step is not necessary.  You will have tasty, chewy popcorn with a gooey caramel glaze.  However, by dehydrating the corn a bit, you spread the mixture around more evenly, you allow the corn to soak up as much “sauce” as possible, and the corn “crisps up” quite nicely.  Just make sure to stir the popcorn every fifteen minutes or so.

After an hour, remove from the oven and try to break apart as much as possible on your baking sheet.

Allow the corn to cool slightly and add the cinnamon/sugar/salt sanding.  Allow to cool completely.

Your finished product will be a class-one controlled substance. It tastes sweet, salty, crunchy and rich,  and it has just enough of a surface grit to make it feel divine in your mouth.  Store it in a plastic bag, it should last for a day or so,  depending on whether or not Jeff is present.

I’ll be sure to make some more when I host Double Indemnity on Friday, August 13th. Hope I see some of you here.

5 thoughts on “Great Big Bowl of Crack

  1. Haha, thanks. You may console yourself, perhaps, that if you do make this, it will eventually run out. You will be sad, certainly, but you will stop eating (and the sugar coma will prevent you from making more!)

  2. Oh man. I love caramel corn. It’s the whole making making of the caramel that gets me…That and Dulce De Leches. Mmmmm. One day, one day, I will make this. When is the question : P