Category Archives: Slumming It

Delicacies of Dallas: Caramel Corn

On our first night here (in Dallas) we had to stop at Patty’s local grocery store to pick up some essentials (Diet Coke, Diet Coke, ice cream, Diet Coke). As we were waltzing down the aisles, something caught our eye. Readers of IPB Proper may remember that we have a bit of a habit of impulse buying strange foods when we find ourselves in grocery stores while on vacation. In Buffalo, it was mochi. In Dallas, it was Orville Reddenbacher’s Caramel corn.

Patty was shocked that we didn’t have this particular item in New Jersey. I suspect its sphere of influence includes NJ, it’s just not part of our daily sphere of concern. And for that reason, neither of us could say no to trying it out. I mean, it’s microwave popcorn that has scads of prep instructions!

It should be noted that we were both recently struck with a completely-out-of-the-blue craving for microwave popcorn. Picking over the options at our grocery store, we selected Newman’s Own Butter Boom.

While it wasn’t half-bad — the flavor was good at first but lingered with a nasty aftertaste, and the overall consistency was rubbery — it also wasn’t so good that we felt like it was worth trying again. Evidently, we were wrong. After a bit of a microwave mishap and one bag of burnt popcorn left on the back porch to cool down, we had a bowl of fluffy white (probably rubbery) popcorn. And we had a packet of caramel. Pardon me, a “caramel flavored wafer”. The scads of instructions said to the wafer in fourths…

… And then place the resulting pieces strategically atop the popcorn…

… And then microwave it again to get the caramel wafer “bubbly and frothy”.

I’m not sure this is the very picture of “bubbly and frothy”, but it was melted enough for the next step — stirring with heat proof spoons. Patty tried to throw Schnookie off her game by shouting, “Don’t use those wooden spoons! They’ll catch fire!” But even that bit of kitchen tomfoolery didn’t keep Schnookie from stirring that popcorn-caramel concoction like a pro.

The ten minutes spent waiting for it to cool were tense and anxious. Would the popcorn be a better or worse culinary experience than the mochi? Were the off-putting aromas coming from the bowl a preview of the taste? Was the time and trouble spent making the treat utterly misspent? There was only one way to find out.

Initial reaction? Not bad! Certainly better than expected. Schnookie said it best when she said, shocked, “It’s like… caramel corn!” I’m sure Orville’s relieved we won’t sue them for false advertising. But seriously, our expectations were so low, the fact that it did briefly resemble caramel corn is a huge point in its favor. The fact that it hardened too much, too fast is a point against. The caramel was stronger than the popcorn, making it very, very difficult to pull the kernels apart. After settling some more, the caramel took on less of a caramel-y flavor and more of a toffee. Which is not a bad thing. The popcorn itself still had the rubbery microwave popcorn problem, but the coating of caramel/toffee/chemicals covered it up. All in all, it was a fun thing to try and to eat most of, but not a culinary endeavor worth repeating. So endeth our momentary infatuation with microwave popcorn.

The final review is: Microwave Caramel Popcorn – .5 stars, Mochi – negative 100 stars.

Update: 30 minutes after we finished the popcorn it became clear that it was… not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

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Filed under On The Road, Slumming It, Taste Test

An Improvement On A Good Thing: Schnookie Burritos

When we were youngsters, Boomer used to make tacos as part of our regular rotation of dinners. She rocked them traditional-Midwestern-upbringing-style, browning up some ground beef, dicing up some tomatoes, sauteing some onions and opening a bag of shredded cheese, then serving them with taco shells. Everything then got topped with a nice layer of Ortega mild taco sauce, for that authentic touch. When the exotic foodstuff “tortillas” was introduced to our grocery store, we graduated from hard taco shells to burritos. And when we stopped eating beef, we healthied things up by using ground turkey. This culinary treat became known as a “Boomer Burrito”.

During the year that I was at Oberlin, Pookie and Boomer were left to fend for themselves, food-wise. I’m told Boomer Burritos were relied on heavily for sustenance. When I moved back home, the request was put in for me not to neglect Boomer Burritos when I was meal planing, even though they were sort of “slumming it”. And for years, I made them just the way Boomer did (isn’t it nice to have family recipes passed down between the generations?), but I recently made a break with tradition. The impetus for the change was browsing through Penzey’s Spices, where I found their taco seasoning blends. I decided to try out the Chicken Taco Seasoning and the Bold Taco Seasoning.

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I alternate between the two (tonight I used the Chicken seasoning), and brown up some thin-sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts with a generous shake of the seasoning. And with that go the traditional additions: the onions, the tomatoes (plasticine and pink, this time of year) and the cheese (now freshly grated, none of that pre-shredded crap).

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Of course, the secret to a perfect Schnookie Burrito is the same as the one for a Boomer Burrito — the Red Gold:

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Everything gets layered up inside a warm tortilla:

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And after about 20 minutes of prep, from start to finish, it’s time to devour dinner.

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I go through phases where sometimes I make these every week and sometimes I can go a month or two without thinking of them, but lately they’re my go-to lazy weeknight meal. Perfect for a cranky Monday evening.

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Filed under Slumming It