Ghee, or clarified butter, has a higher smoking point than regular butter.
It also has a slightly nutty flavor, which means it brings more than a simple buttery edge when used to pop corn. You can buy ghee, but it tends to be on the pricier side, and it’s beyond easy to make. Melt a few sticks of butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Skim off and discard the white foam that forms on the butter. Let it bubble and more little bits of white will appear on the surface—skim it off as it shows up. Keep going, adjusting the heat so it only bubbles gently, until it stops producing any more foam. That foam is the milk solids, and getting rid of them yields a “pure” fat. It will keep, covered and chilled, for months.
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1/2 cup popcorn
- salt to taste
- Melt the ghee in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Once it’s melted, add the popcorn and cover with a splatter screen or a tight left slightly ajar so the steam can escape. Shake the pan once in a while. When you hear the popcorn start popping, reduce the heat to medium-low and shake the pan more or less constantly to keep the popped corn from scorching on the bottom of the pan. Continue until the popping slows down. Remove from the heat, remove the lid, and transfer the popped corn to a large serving bowl. Season to taste with salt. (Consider grind-ing some salt in a spice or coffee grinder; once it’s more of a powder, it sticks to the popcorn much better.)
- Hot “Cheesy” Popcorn: Double the amount of ghee to 1/4 cup. Add 1 tablespoon New Mexico chile powder or another mild ground chile, as well as 1/4 teaspoon cayenne along with the popcorn. Shake the pan more frequently than usual to keep the spices from burning. Sprinkle popped corn with 1/4 to 1/2 cup nutritional yeast for a surprisingly cheesy flavor.
- Sweet Curry Popcorn: Double the amount of ghee to 1/4 cup. Add 1 tablespoon each curry powder and sugar along with the popcorn. Shake the pan more frequently than usual to keep the spices from burning. Sprinkle with salt to taste.