As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I tried out quite a few caramel popcorn recipes to decide which variety I would serve at our holiday party. In the end, the choice was easy -- Colt & Gray's recipe for Bacon and Cashew Caramel Corn earned rave reviews, and I love the fact that it offers something different from a standard caramel corn recipe.
To make this caramel corn, you cook some chopped bacon, drain and cool it, and toss the bacon along with the popcorn, cashews, salt, and cayenne pepper. You then pour on some caramel that is made from sugar, water, corn syrup, cream, and oolong tea (you basically steep an oolong tea bag in the cream before adding the cream to the caramel). After a little time in the oven and some stirring to make sure that all of the popcorn is nicely coated, you cool the caramel corn and break it up into chunks.
This caramel corn is awesome. The cayenne gives it a strong spicy kick, and the bacon and cashews contribute loads of flavor and texture. In particular, when the bacon is coated with the caramel, it is a crunchy bit of candied salty-sweet heaven. I seriously considered skipping the popcorn and just serving candied bacon at our party, because it is so tasty. Founding Farmers restaurant in D.C. offers cinnamon-brown sugar glazed "bacon lollies" as an appetizer; I think the caramel-covered bacon in this popcorn is even better.
This caramel corn definitely has a more adult flavor profile than the run-of-the-mill variety, especially because of the spice from the cayenne. I know some people feel that bacon is becoming overly trendy these days, but its contribution to this caramel corn is nothing short of inspired.
Recipe: "Bacon and Cashew Caramel Corn," from Colt & Gray, available on epicurious.com.
Previous Post: "Break Out the Holiday Tins: Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts and Chocolate," December 10, 2011.