When an ailing friend asked me to make him some grits, I went immediately to Anson Mills’ website to order some. Anson produces the best grits I’ve ever had, favored by chef’s across the country, and nearly impossible to buy other than directly from Anson Mills themselves, because they keep tight, obsessive, and justified control over their products. I bought three kinds of grits to make and to leave with my friend for future suppers. I also ordered a bag of their Appalachian Heirloom Sweet Flint Popping Corn, impelled by the sensuous description:

When was the last time you tasted popcorn that left impressions of sweet corn and honeysuckle rising from toasted corn, and a final palate statement of pure sweetness? When was the last time you experienced perfect light crackle and trace tenderness in a tiny white explosion?

I had to try it. And in doing so was reminded of my popcorn improvisations, when I went haywire experimenting with different flavorings. The night Anson Mill’s delivery arrived, I made a batch of the Flint popping corn in my trusty Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper. I ate the whole batch at one sitting and called it dinner. It is beautiful popcorn, full of complex, resonant flavor. Although I can’t say it called up honeysuckle, there IS a floral quality, as though corn could be a flower. It is a delight with just melted sweet butter and salt, and I expect would be a perfect marriage tossed with some melted ramp butter (recipe here). I would use the popped corn’s tender kernals as dippers instead of toast for soft-boiled eggs.

Ellen  Silverman
Ellen Silverman

My popcorn improvisations started the day I decided to try flavoring popcorn with the Sage-and-Garlic oil I’d made to dress some cooked white beans. The results were a revelation, with crispy shards of garlic and sage adding surprising counterpoints of flavor and texture. It proved to be an addictive, grown-up popcorn to serve with cocktails or wine, while watching TV, or anytime you want a crunchy snack. I’ve been known to take it to the movies.  It was the beginning of a continuing exploration into popcorn possibilities that included…

…Brown Butter Popcorn…
…Caramelized Shallot Popcorn…
…Rosemary Popcorn…
…Smoky Bacon Popcorn!…
…and the stupendous White Truffle Popcorn (a huge hit at dinner parties)…

I published the 6 simple recipes, a trove of possibilities, and the thinking behind them in The Improvisational Cook. Here, as a start-of-summer gift, is a PDF of The Popcorn Improvisations with all the info you need to devise your own. Perfect for any summer celebration.

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6 replies on “The Popcorn Improvisations + a Free 6 Recipe PDF

  1. Oh Sally! I just had to try the grits and popcorn too!! I’ll let you know how they are. Thanks for the tip. I love grits. And I am a popcorn junky ( any excuse to go to the movies!)
    Love you!

  2. Sally, thank you! Oh, an ode to popcorn. I grew up in a small Ohio town with Darrow’s, our local popcorn farm. My mom used to ship bags to me when I moved away to Boston and beyond. It was a sad day when after generations, the family sold the farm. A tip: if you want tender popcorn, don’t turn the heat up too high; you want a nice steady rhythm of popping kernels – not too fast, not too slow. I also tip the lid on my pan to let steam escape. I’m going to order some Anson’s!

  3. Sally, what kind of grits did you get? This is perfect because I’ve been wanting to buy some GOOD grits, but wasn’t sure where to start. Now I’m just not sure what kind of looking for…what would suit a shrimp and grits kind of dish?

  4. The link to Anson Mills in the post will take you to their offerings which are THE BEST grits I’ve had. Worth every pennie.

  5. I DID eat a whole bowl of that Anson Mills popcorn myself. And the grits cooked at my friends were totally devoured, not a spec left. Truly wondrous grits. Beyond comfort food.

  6. Hot tip from a popcorn afficionado. I didn’t know that. Thanks so much!

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