I crave hot buttered popcorn all the time. No, not the convenient microwavable type, but the back-to-basics-on-the-stove kind with salt and lots of butter. Next time you have a popcorn craving, make extra and try this amazingly simple flavor-in-your-face recipe that pairs all my favorite tastes and textures.
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In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water with the sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla seeds. Heat on low heat until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high and boil until the caramel is amber in color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, whisk in the heavy cream, reserved bacon fat, and vanilla bean pod.
Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Discard the vanilla bean pod. Using the oiled spoons, mix well. Divide between the 2 sheet pans. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until the popcorn is shiny and the caramel is golden brown. Stir once or twice to ensure the caramel is evenly distributed.
Remove from oven; let cool on a rack. Once cool, break into large pieces. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the pieces. Store in an odor-free airtight container in the refrigerator. Best if eaten within one week.
Omit the chocolate drizzle, add 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin with the spices, and sprinkle Maldon sea salt over the pans while still hot from the oven. Once cool, break up into smaller pieces and serve as a cocktail snack.