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Particular charm

From soup to nuts, from turkey to trifles, we are done.

With family both near and only slightly-far, the Christmas holiday stretched over a number of days, our merry band of revelers moving from house to house, from city to city, in celebratory caravan. The journeys and visits rushed by in a blur of sparkle and shine, with spirited carols and a chorus of laughter our theme.

In that wonderful blur there were moments, those treasures in time when your breath catches and click, it's forever in your memory.

A tree groaningly, gloriously laden with ornaments, most especially at the precise height of a three-year-old who is thisclose to turning four. A pair of slender glasses that chimed when clinked, filled with berry-hued bubbly drinks to be sipped over the quiet hours of mid night. That bite of shortbread cookie, swirled with raspberry jam and finely chopped almonds, buttery and tender and tart and perfect.

Full, happy days they were.

After all of that joyous hubbub, the time that follows seem quiet. But is a lull that is not without its own particular charm, as anticipated as the holiday itself.

These plaid flannel pajama days are not meant for rushing about, but for settling in. The first day after our celebrations Mother Nature granted us the gift of the First Proper Snowfall we've had this winter, amounting to far more than all of the dustings we'd had up until that point. Out our windows all was white, white, white, with the spiky tips of evergreen poking through the backyard drifts here and there.

Once finished with the business of the obligatory snowball fight and tromp through the powder, we were content to retreat to the house, with excuse to spend time on the comfy couch by the fire, warming ourselves with a blanket pulled up to our laps and a snacks nearby.

Yesterday, the snack was popcorn to go along with movies. It's another tradition of our family - someone (usually that's plural) always gives someone else a movie (also often plural) in their stocking, watched after a lively debate as to the order in which they shall be screened. Ensconced upon the aforementioned couch, these movie marathons require a snack that can be eaten out of shared bowls with little messing about. This popcorn fit the bill nicely.

It was inspired by the famous spiced nuts served at the bar of Union Square Café in New York, and the result was highly-flavoured and equally-addicting. Spiky needles of rosemary, fitting for the season I thought, were chopped into the tiniest of evergreen specks and then combined with crunchy Demerara sugar. A sprinkling of cayenne and salt added heat and savoury depth to the mix. As the adornment for mounds of hot, buttery popcorn, the combination was met with murmured praise as everyone's mouths were stuffed full.

Just in case I don't see you before Friday, all my best wishes to each of you for the coming year. 2010 looks singularly grand on paper, don't you think? Let's make sure it lives up to that. Until then, if you need me, the end seat, closest to the fire, is where you'll find me.

By the way, did you know that the Menu for Hope campaign has been extended until December 31, 2009? You can still bid on raffle items, here, with full details on how everything works here. And oh! I have added more items to my personal contribution to the effort, raffle item CA03; I will be including some vintage copies of Gourmet magazine along with paper ephemera from lovely design in my collection of a few favourite things.

Union Popcorn
Please consider these measurements a rough guide, and more of a suggested combination of flavours. I like the inclusion of a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes at the end; the capricious flecks of firecracker heat add an element of (mild) danger that makes this more than just a mindless munchable.

8 cups freshly-popped popcorn, still hot
2 teaspoons Demerara sugar
1 teaspoon finely-chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
a good pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional)

While your popcorn is popping, mix together the rosemary, Demerara sugar, salt and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.

With the popped popcorn in a large bowl, drizzle a some of the butter over the top and toss to coat. Repeat, drizzling and tossing, until all the popcorn is coated. Now continue this process with the spice mixture, scattering on some, then tossing the popcorn lightly, then adding more until it is evenly seasoned. Sprinkle over the red pepper flakes, if using, and serve.

Makes 8 cups.


• Although I've not tried the method with this recipe, Lara's Chile Lime Tequila Popcorn (by way of Heidi) uses the method of drying the seasoned popcorn in a low oven for five minutes. I'll be trying that next time. (And by the way, that chili lime popcorn is super good.)
• If you do not have Demerara, turbinado or raw sugar would be best. Do not use brown sugar or Muscovado instead; Demerara lacks the sticky quality of those, and you need something granular here.
• The recipe for the original spiced mixed nuts can be found here, via Nigella Lawson.

Reader Comments (21)

sounds like a wonderful time with family and friends! this looks amazing...and popcorn is one of my top foods, hands down. happiness & joy to you in the coming year!

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkickpleat

anytime read your posts, it feels like an actual conversation from your sweet heart, i love it. I also enjoy the time after the holiday, feels like a much needed deep breath. Enjoy your couch spot :)

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersara

Oh how I wish I was on that couch with you. You however may not like it as much because I would rarely share the bowl of popcorn.
Happy New Year dear friend!

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Absolutely LOVE popcorn and this is a must try recipe! Happy New Year!

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa this recipe, and your writing as always. You have such a way with words my dear...I feel as if I were curled up on that couch with you, bowl full of popcorn in my own lap. Thank you for the lovely visions!

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea [bella eats]

I can say no to brownies, cookies, cake and candy. I can NOT say no to popcorn. The flavors here sound absolutely incredible. I will have to make this when there are lots of people present, otherwise I will eat the whole thing. I'm glad you got a snowfall! And very happiest of new years to you.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

we're on the same wavelength. I didn't make this combo, but it was good nonetheless--fresh thyme, parmesan, garlic salt, butter, and a drizzle of truffle oil. Happy New Year!

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Leftoverist

You described this time of the year so beautifully! Enjoy the winding down of 2009 :)

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersyrupandhoney

kickpleat, the same wishes sent to you for 2010! I'm not much a chip person, popcorn is definitely where it's at.

sara, I love that thought of a deep, calming breath. We'll call these the yoga days of December.

Ashley, I'll keep a spot warm. And I'd make an extra-big bowl, just for you.

Lisa, I hope you like it! All the best to you.

Andrea, you are such a kind one. You're always welcome.

Dana, I can say no to most on your list .. save the brownies. Believe me, your Brownie Wars still has me swooning. I'm planning on the Baked brownies soon. I'll trade you popcorn for some.

The Leftoverist, I love the combination of thyme and Parmesan, your popcorn sounds delicious. Happy 2010 to you!

syrupandhoney, I read your name and immediately have the song of the same title in my head. Lovely tune. Hope you're enjoying these last days of the year.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertara

I basically can never eat enough popcorn. Except that uber-salty movie theater kind. yuck.

this looks delicious. happy new year!

January 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKari

Wow... loving the story that went along with this. I love to hear about other people's family traditions... it seems like such a private glimpse into their life.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremiglia

Popcorn is my favorite salty snack and I am looking for ideas past salt or butter. Thanks for the inspiration and happy new year!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfresh365

Popcorn is one of my favorite! Sometimes, popcorn helps me release my stress. Happy New Year!

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhope chest

I've made this three times now, and just posted about it tonight. Thanks for one humdinger of a good recipe!

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMama JJ

I love reading your posts. They seriously make my day.

That popcorn looks delicious.

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhannah | honey & jam

Reading your post today, on the 6th of January, I can still feel all of that -- the whole of the lovely holiday STUFF that made it all worthwhile. Thanks for the snapshot. And for the wonderful introduction. Just stumbled upon your blog today, but I'll be doing some catch-up reading for sure --and will doubtless be back again!

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLo

This is an absolutely darling capture of the holiday spirit and comfort. I hope you celebrated a lovely New Year’s Eve. Stay by that fire. There’s more snow a-coming.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer J

Kari, happy new year to you too! Funnily enough, we went to the movies a few days after this post; I was feeling nibbly, but actually had the wherewithal to turn away from the concession stand. I knew that their popcorn just wouldn't cut it.

emiglia, I am so happy to hear you liked what I had to say. Thank you.

fresh365, I have a weakness for popcorn, as do my little ones. It's always nice to change it up a bit.

hope chest, I love the thought of popcorn as a stress reliever.

Mama JJ, I adored your post. I was smiling the whole time.

hannah, and that made mine.

Ele, thank you for the compliment. I like both salty and sweet versions of popcorn, so saltysweet seemed the next step in my addiction.

Alina, please report back if you do! I would love to hear more about your popcorn-recipe collection.

Lo, it's lovely to have you. Thank you so much for commenting.

Jennifer J, we had three straight days of snow earlier this week, and more on its way. You were so right. I hope you're cozy and snugged in someplace good.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertara

Yum! Looks like a good snack!

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I got a popcorn maker for Christmas and am having a love affair with popcorn. This recipe is a keeper. The flavours are impossibly amazing together.

January 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVox

Thank you for this--it was beautifully written, and it got me thinking about popcorn which then led to this post on my own blog...

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Rowdy Chowgirl

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