Friday, February 5, 2010

"P" is for Partnering Popcorn with Wine

I commissioned a local potter to make a handcrafted popcorn bowl for me. The perfect bowl is long and narrow, more like a pail than a bowl. The narrow bottom fits comfortably on one’s lap. The narrow rim tells people that this is a personal, rather than a community bowl! I hate other peoples’ hands digging through my popcorn. The depth makes room for lots of popped corn.

I pop my kernels in a large pot on the stove. I use corn oil, due to its high smoking point, to pop my corn. I also prefer organic popcorn and sea salt. Organic popcorn seems crunchier to me -- my personal opinion.

Popcorn is a good source of fiber and is low in calories. Sea salt is full of trace minerals that enable our bodies to effectively utilize the water we consume and to utilize the nutrients in our food.

I heat the pot until just before the oil starts to smoke, between 400-460 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil burns and smokes at about 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the oil is heating up, I place a large tea towel around the inside of the lid, holding the four corners on top. When the kernels release their moisture, the steam is trapped by the tea towel. This ensures crunchier popcorn.

I drop a kernel or two into the pot to test the heat. When the kernels pop, I add the remainder, pouring in just enough to coat the bottom. I cover the pot with the tea towel lid and shake to coat all the kernels with oil. After reducing the heat slightly, I continue to shake the pot until the sound of popping dramatically slows down, and then pour the popped corn into a bowl.

The appropriate wine depends on how you like your popcorn. Popcorn with lots of salt and little to no butter requires a crisp, dry white wine with good acidity, such as pinot gris, sauvignon blanc or a dry riesling. The sourness from the acidity offsets the saltiness in the popcorn. Bone-dry sparkling wine is also a good choice, as well.

Popcorn with heavy butter calls for a white or red wine with lots of oily or buttery texture. A big, fat white wine, such as a barrel fermented and/or aged chardonnay with high alcohol is a good match. Reds with forward fruit character with soft acidity and soft tannin work nicely, too. A creamy, fruity shiraz or merlot would be ideal.

Processed cheese topping for popcorn is generally more salty than fatty and so requires a crisp, dry white, such as the ones mentioned above. Organic popcorn sprinkled with sea salt also works nicely with an organic chardonnay with no oak aging.

Sometimes I pour hot butter on my popcorn and then sprinkle it with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and sea salt. Delicious! This Italian style popcorn calls for a big, austere Italian red, such as barbaresco.

Jamaican popcorn seasoning combines a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and pinch of cayenne. An off-dry gew├╝rztraminer or a sparkling wine with some sweetness is perfect. The sweetness offsets the heat and spice.

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