Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Smoky Snack

The California company Rancho Gordo is best known for selling gorgeous heirloom beans (yes, that's right, I used "gorgeous" and "beans" in the same sentence), but my personal favorite is their crimson popcorn. The kernels are a deep garnet color and pop up into a fluffy, snow-white miniature clouds. Normally I just cook them in vegetable oil and a bit of butter, liberally sprinkle coarse kosher salt over the pot, give it a good shake and enjoy!

The other night I wanted something a little more...exciting. I bought some wonderful ground chipotle from a spice vendor at Cleveland's West Side Market and was looking for ways to use the smoky, spicy, terracotta-colored powdered. I skipped the butter and drizzled some olive oil over the popcorn after cooking. I added one tablespoon at a time of the chipotle powder until it was just spicy enough, then gave it the mandatory saltiness required of popcorn. The smokiness of the chipotle wasn't enough to satisfy my craving, so I used applewood-smoked sea salt from Dean & DeLuca to finish it off.
You don't need fancy popcorn or expensive sea salt to make this snack. You can add these ingredients to microwave popcorn (but promise me you'll try the Rancho Gordo popcorn if you get a chance!). Most major supermarkets and probably every gourmet market sells smoked salt. Even Morton's makes a brand of large-crystal sea salt. It's too big to actually stick to the popcorn but you could use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to pulverize the crystals. In fact, while you're at it, mix the chipotle right in with the salt to sprinkle over the popcorn. You can make a big batch store the mixture in a ziploc bag for future use.

Use a 2-1 volume ratio of chipotle to salt, and adjust it to your personal taste. I used about 1 tablespoon of the mixture for every 2 cups of popped popcorn (roughly...how you season it will depend on the strength of your chipotle powder and your taste).

I made a huge batch and brought it into work for a snack. My co-workers loved it, and one even exclaimed "it's like there's a party in my mouth!" This would be a great movie night nosh, a sensational snack at work, or a tasty road trip treat. It's a terrific trio of flavors: smoky, spicy and salty.


  1. yum, yum, yum!!! it was SO delicious!! it's a good thing i sit on the other side of you, otherwise, i would've eaten that entire bag!!!

  2. Alyssa - I am loving your blog! Joel and I must try this combo soon. I am looking forward to your next post!