Let’s realtalk today. In cooking, much as in life, it’s not a difficult thing to find yourself in a total and complete rut. You know what I’m talking about. You make the same staples again and again, because your pantry always has the same ingredients.
A rut like this can also be what zaps the joy out of cooking. There’s no excitement, no looking forward to standing in the kitchen for an hour, making something you could make with your eyes closed, and maybe even your hands tied behind your back.
And to get out of a rut, you have to try something new. For me, mustering up that motivation to do so typically happens when I stumble on a recipe that’s like nothing I’ve ever made, and that contains ingredients I always have on hand.
Enter Mexican Popcorn!
Mexican popcorn is a twist, that I never would have thought of, on my favorite snack . My default flavor setting is olive oil, garlic and herbs. But if you want to make Mexican popcorn, you have to add spices! Cumin, oregano and paprika to be exact. And lime zest. I’m a sucker for anything with zest.
It takes this snack to new heights. Or maybe they’re old heights you’ve been trying to avoid when it comes to eating between meals. Maybe you’re used to reaching back in the bowl for one more handful. Maybe you like licking your fingers of all the flavor that remains. Maybe you often have to throw food in the trash so you don’t finish it all yourself. I’ve gotten so much better about admitting that since it’s been on Sex and the City. Maybe you ate enough of this as a snack that all you had was an apple for dinner. Maybe.
Mexican popcorn. Addicting stuff.
To make enough for 2 hungry people, you will need:
- 6 T coconut oil, divided (No coconut oil? Use butter.)
- 1/3 C popcorn kernels
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika (I used regular)
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. cumin
- zest of 1 lime
- juice of 1/2 lime
- Kosher salt
Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt 3 T oil* and stir in spices. Let things hang out for about a minute, stirring once or twice. Off the heat, add lime juice. Set this mixture aside.
Place 3 lonely popcorn kernels in the bottom of a medium saucepan. Pour in remaining 3 T coconut oil, secure your lid, and heat over medium heat. Be patient. Eventually, you’ll hear those 3 kernels pop. That will tell you the oil is good and ready for the rest of the popcorn. Pour in remaining kernels, secure that lid again, and shake the pan over the burner. I keep one hand on the handle and one hand on the lid for this part. I don’t want popcorn and hot oil splattering all over my kitchen.
When popping slows or stops, remove pan from heat. I vent the lid a bit to let some of that initial steam escape, and give any unpopped kernels one last chance to get the job done.
After 30 seconds to a minute, pour popcorn into large bowl. Add oil and spice mixture. Listen to it sizzle. Sprinkle popcorn with lime zest and top with a generous helping of Kosher salt. Snack happy.
*Coconut oil is this wacky fat that is a solid at room temperature, and liquid when it’s heated. Go figure. For this recipe, you’ll want it heated so it becomes the consistency of any other oil, like vegetable, canola, or olive.