My first recipe pick from Susan Feniger's Street Food (Clarkson Potter, July 17) was Thai Tea Pudding with Lime Caramel and Caramel Cashews and i keep walking down the caramel trail today.
Play Kid Creole and the Coconuts while cooking it.
Coconut Curry Caramel Corn
This is the recipe to think about if you are going to a party—it would make a great gift instead of a bottle of wine. I recently prepared this as a party favor for a luncheon of 750 women, and they loved it. Even more note-worthy: I still loved it after making such a huge batch! That says a lot. The combination of sweet and spicy in the popcorn is what makes it different from anything else you’ve tasted.
Olive oil spray
1½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut
3 tablespoons canola oil
¾ cup popcorn kernels
2 cups Candied Peanuts (page 21)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons chopped fresh curry leaf (see page 20; optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (see page 78)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg (optional)
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Makes 18 cups
1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Liberally spray an extra-large mixing bowl (not plastic) with olive oil spray.
2. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast it in the oven, stirring it once or twice, until it is golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool, leaving the oven on.
3. Put the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot, add the corn kernels, and set over medium-high heat. Cover, and shake the pot occasionally until the popping begins, about 5 minutes. Once the popping starts, shake the pot continuously until the popping slows down dramatically, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, but continue shaking it until the popping stops entirely. Dump the popcorn into the prepared mixing bowl, trying not to let any unpopped kernels fall into the bowl. Add the toasted coconut and the candied peanuts.
4. Before beginning the caramel process, spray a rubber spatula, a wooden spoon, and 2 cookie sheets liberally with olive oil spray.
5. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with the oil-sprayed spatula, until the butter is melted. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and being careful not to splatter the hot caramel, until the mixture thickens and a candy thermometer registers 255°F, about 7 minutes. (If you do not have a candy thermometer, you will know it is ready when the bubbles of the mixture get noticeably larger and slower.) Remove from the heat. Add the salt, baking soda, curry leaf, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, turmeric, mace, paprika, cayenne, and cinnamon. Stir quickly to incorporate, and then immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn mixture. Stir with the wooden spoon until all of the popcorn is well coated.
6. Pour the mixture onto the oiled cookie sheets and spread it out evenly. Bake for 1 hour, stirring it every 20 minutes to keep it from burning.
7. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let the popcorn cool to room temperature. The popcorn will crisp as it cools.
8. When it is cool, you can serve the popcorn immediately or package it in airtight bags for storage. It will keep well for 4 days.
Used in curries in India and Sri Lanka, curry leaf is fried along with chopped onion in the first stage of cooking. Usually called “curry leaves,” they are also called “neem leaves” or “curry neem leaves.”Curry leaf is what they call the “mystery ingredient” in India. Used everywhere but hard to describe, curry leaf has a slight nuttiness that adds backbone to the flavor of a dish. There really is no substitute, so if you can’t find the leaves, simply omit them from the recipe.
(* Recipe from Susan Feniger's Street Food published by Clarkson Potter-Random House- July 17, 2012- Photographs by Jennifer May- All rights reserved)