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Spicy Sesame Kettle Corn
Spicy Sesame Kettle Corn

Kettle corn--that token snack of state fairs and flea markets--is poised to make its holiday debut. In his new cookbook, Hubert Keller’s Souvenirs: Stories and Recipes from My Life, celebrated French chef Hubert Keller dials up the flavor of ho-hum kettle corn by adding red-pepper flakes for heat and sesame seeds for a direct hit of nutty flavor. We whipped up a batch of the assertively spicy kettle corn on a weeknight and had time to spare to wrap it up in pretty bags to share with coworkers the next day. Even better, we had just enough left over to enjoy a bag of our own before bed.

Makes about 12 cups

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup popcorn kernels

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1½ cups sugar

⅓ cup sesame seeds (preferably a mixture of black and white)

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste

Sea salt

1. In a large, deep saucepan (but not a Dutch oven) set over high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the popcorn, cover, then gently shake the pot as the corn pops.

2. When the pot is quiet, reduce the heat to medium-high and, working quickly, add the butter and then sprinkle the sugar little by little over the popcorn, stirring constantly with a very large spoon or heatproof spatula. (The sugar will melt and caramelize, coating the popcorn.) Move the pan off and on the heat to regulate the temperature, if necessary. You want the sugar to caramelize but not burn. Keep adding sugar and stirring until the popcorn is evenly coated with a medium-brown caramel. While continuing to stir, add the sesame seeds.

3. Remove the pot from the heat and immediately sprinkle the red-pepper flakes and salt to taste over the popcorn, stirring and tossing continuously. Taste, then adjust the heat with additional red-pepper flakes, if desired.

4. Spread the kettle corn out on a baking sheet to cool slightly before serving.

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