So normally, Sean and I like to skip Valentines day. Our anniversary is in a few weeks so that is when we choose to celebrate our love. Plus, who needs Valentines day anyway? You can love each other and spoil each other when ever you feel like. Or spoil your single self if that's the state you are in. I always like to celebrate the day after Valentines when all of the delicious chocolate is on sale. Much more fun! Anyways, This year I decided to switch things up and surprise him with a tasty treat in lieu of all the chocolate I will inevitably buy tomorrow. Sean is more of a savory snack eater than sweet. I love sweet and salty combined. This is how Bacon Chipotle Caramel Corn was born.
This recipe is just a few simple steps. Here are some of my notes:
First you should cook some bacon until its crispy. Want to know my trick to fool proof crispy bacon every time? Always start your bacon by laying it on the pan or skillet while it is still cold. Yes, no heat, put your bacon in the pan first. Then turn the heat on high and let the bacon render. As it cooks and the fat renders out, you will start to see the crispy brown bacon show through the uncooked white fat. When you see crispy edges or centers, turn the heat off. Flip the bacon and let it cook on the opposite side for about 30 seconds. Then remove it from the pan. This will ALWAYS result in perfect crispy bacon. Try it and let me know your results below!
Be sure to reserve the fat from cooking the bacon to make the popcorn. I make mine by putting two tablespoons of bacon grease into a large pot with the kernels. Heat on high and shake the pot every 30 seconds to roll the kernels around. When the popping begins reduce your heat to medium low and keep the lid on to contain the popcorn. Turn off the heat when the popping starts to die off.
For the chipotle, I like the grind my own. It results in a deeper more fresh flavor than buying pre-ground chipotle, but either one will do. I usually take the dried chipotles and put them in a coffee grinder (that I only use for spices or if you've got a spice grinder that's great.
Be safe when making caramel. Sugar burns are the worst kind of kitchen burns. Since sugar likes to bubble up as it cooks, make sure you've got a big enough pot that there is at least 5 extra inches for growth. The key is to not leave the pot. Keep an eye on it, if it is bubbling up fast grab the handle and lift it off the heat while stirring the bubbles down.
Bacon Chipotle Caramel Corn
3/4 cup popcorn kernels
6 slices bacon plus 2 tablespoons reserved bacon grease
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp course sea salt
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp ground chipotle
Cook bacon until crispy. Crumble or chop until fine. Set aside.
Pop popcorn. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and set aside. When the popcorn is done, pour it onto two prepared baking sheets.
Melt butter in a small sauce pan over high heat. When melted add brown sugar, sugar, vanilla, and vinegar. Whisk to combine, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cook stirring occasionally for 6 minutes until thick and bubbly. (WARNING; do not leave the caramel unattended. Stay near the pot and stir often to stop the sugar from boiling over. Remove from heat when necessary.)
Pour the caramel evenly over the two trays of popcorn.
Sprinkle with salt and chipotle powder.
Use a large spoon or your hands to turn and coat the popcorn evenly.
Let set for about 10 minutes.
Make this for your man (or lady) on Valentines day and serve with a beer. He/she will not be disappointed.