When we were in Colorado we worked with a popcorn puree which we served with seafood. That seems like ages ago. Still, popcorn resonates in our cooking. We have made smoked smoked popcorn and ground it fine to use as a crisp. We have made popcorn stuffing for game birds and a caramelized popcorn crust for lobster.
Often times I am a slow learner. When Dani Garcia made an emulsion of olive oil and tomato water and froze it in liquid nitrogen to create "popcorn," I was struck by the aesthetic. Frozen popcorn, quite clever and with a different taste.
At the movies, I always order a large cola and share popcorn. My issue with popcorn, particularly at the movies, is the tough kernel skin which gets stuck in between my teeth and my gums at the back of my mouth. I tend to mindlessly eat the popcorn until this happens. Then I spend what seems like forever trying to free the lodged piece of nuisance from its crevice. Thankfully I have the cold cola to act as a rinse and to help dislodge the popcorn. With the piece free, I hand off the popcorn and resume watching the movie and sipping the cola.
These three reference points were the building blocks for our most recent evolution. We have made a popcorn gelato base, thickened in the Sicilian style with the naturally occurring corn starch present in the popcorn itself, and enriched with caramelized white chocolate. The base screams popcorn and the the caramelized white chocolate adds sweetness and big brown butter flavor. Since this is a puree, we have eliminated the kernel fragments which distract me from the pure enjoyment of eating popcorn. Finally, we use the inspired technique of freezing the popcorn puree in liquid nitrogen with the help of a whip cream canister to recreate the shape of the popcorn. The quick freeze prevents large ice crystals from forming and the aeration from the canister lightens the gelato base, creating some overrun and allowing the gelato to melt smoothly and intensely across the palate. As an added bonus, those of you joining us at Astor Center on Tuesday evening will get to taste this latest inspiration.