Bacon peanut caramel corn for #SundaySupper Holiday Cocktails & Appetizers

I wrote this post before the terrible tragedy that took place on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, where an unimaginable number of lives were taken. Sadly, another story was circulating on the same day – 22 school children were stabbed in China at a primary school as they arrived in the morning at 8 a.m. This stabbing in China was apparently the latest in a string of assaults against school children since 2010. It’s apparently “a thing” in China to assault kids – how is this possibly a thing?! How is it that we live in a world where devastating events such as this are now a constant?

A few members of Sunday Supper are taking this week off in the emotional aftermath of Friday’s events. It was disconcerting for me to write a post about celebrating Christmas against a backdrop of turmoil and sadness. However, I decided to post my original entry as is. One thing I learned long ago is that the holidays are a time to spend with and truly appreciate family and loved ones. In the spirit of the season, I know how truly lucky and blessed I am. And if this entry can bring a smile to someone’s face, then I’ll be glad that I posted it.
This week’s Sunday Supper is being hosted by Conni from the Foodie Army Wife and it’s featuring a delectable assortment of appetizers and drinks, perfect for holiday indulging.

I’m not usually the one to make appetizers or drinks for events (even though I’ll happily devour and slam back those made by others) so it took me a while to think of something appropriate for this week. I was looking through Bon Appetit’s website when I saw a photo of bacon cashew caramel corn. My first thought was “get in my belly” so I knew I found the perfect recipe to try.

This one's my own photo.  I hope it makes you think "get in my belly" too!

This one’s my own photo. I hope it makes you think “get in my belly” too!

Since nothing says sexy-times like bacon, here’s an old school Christmas jam by the incomparable Boyz II Men for you to enjoy while you drool over these photos:

I’m gonna tell ya – it took me bloody forever to make this caramel corn. I just had to be ambitious and popped my own popcorn in a pot on the stove instead of buying the microwaveable kind. Heck, each different component was pretty time consuming but the end result was definitely worth the effort!

Bacon Peanut Caramel Corn (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 cup popcorn kernels (cooked in two 1/2 cup batches) or 1 to 2 bags of unbuttered & unsalted microwave popcorn
5 tbsp vegetable oil
9 ounces bacon, chopped (approximately 9-10 slices)
1 1/2 cups honey roasted peanuts (you can use whatever nut you want)
1 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Earl Grey tea bags (you can use whatever tea you want or omit it altogether)
butter or vegetable spray
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp light corn syrup

Chop up the bacon into squares about one inch in diameter. Fry until it reaches your desired texture (I prefer my bacon still slightly chewy). Set aside on paper towel to sop up some of that delicious grease.
In a heavy pot with a lid, pour in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I supplemented mine with some bacon grease, since I figured this dish wasn’t decadent enough). Heat on medium high. When the oil is hot and shimmering, lower heat to medium, throw in a 1/2 cup of the popcorn kernels and immediately cover the pot with the lid, leaving just a tiny crack open to let out steam. When you hear the first few kernels popping, put on a pair of oven mitts and shake the pot until all the kernels have stopped popping. You don’t have to shake the pot continuously but make sure you do it every 5 seconds to keep the kernels moving in the hot oil. I burned the first batch I made because my heat was too high and I wasn’t shaking the pot enough. Oops.
Remove the popcorn from the pot and place into a large bowl. Repeat steps with the second 1/2 cup of kernels. This yielded me about 4-5 cups of popcorn. Mix the popcorn with the bacon and peanuts. Sprinkle the mixture with the salt, cayenne and pepper. Mix to combine. In a greased rimmed pan or a rimmed pan lined with foil, parchment paper or a silicone mat (I used my silicone mat for ease of process and clean-up), pour the popcorn mixture in an even layer. Set aside. Begin preheating your oven at this point to 300 degrees F.
For the caramel, begin by heating the 1/2 cup of whipping cream to a boil over medium high heat. Take off the heat when it reaches a boil and throw in the 2 tea bags. Press with a spoon to start the steeping process. Set aside to cool. When ready to use, remove the two tea bags, squeezing out all the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, combine the 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp corn syrup. Stir together and then leave on the stove at medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to high and boil without stirring until the syrup turns a deep amber. You can give the saucepan a swirl every now and then, making sure to brush down the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush so that sugar doesn’t burn on the side. It’ll take approximately 10 minutes to get the caramel to the right colour. As soon as it’s a deep amber, remove the pan from the heat and pour in the whipping cream. It’s going to bubble – just stir it until it’s well blended.

Brush the sides of the pan to prevent sugar from sticking and burning.

Brush the sides of the pan to prevent sugar from sticking and burning.

Working quick (because my caramel started stiffening pretty fast), drizzle the caramel over the popcorn. Put the pan into your preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Take the popcorn out of the oven and quickly toss it with wooden spoons or heat resistant rubber spatulas to make sure that all the popcorn, bacon and peanuts get coated in caramel.
Bon Appetit says this can be made 2 days ahead and that it should be stored in the fridge. Others who have tried this commented that they kept it out on the counter for weeks and it still tasted fine (without giving anyone food poisoning). Because I’m paranoid, I’ll keep mine in the fridge, although it’s so freaking good I don’t think it’ll last too long.
Ah, Earl Grey caramel, where have you been all my life? This popcorn is the perfect blend of salty, sweet and spicy. It’s got a fantastic tooth-shattering crunch and every bite yields a different texture and taste sensation. You’ll be hard-pressed to stop eating it.
Check out all the other amazing drinks and appetizers from the Sunday Supper team that will be perfect for all your holiday events.

Holiday Cocktails

Holiday Appetizers or Hors d’oeuvres

In honor of the Sandy Hook victims and their families, we have cancelled our regularly scheduled #SundaySupper Chat this week.

Let this be a time when we renew our faith in the power of love and realize the importance of time with our families.

55 thoughts on “Bacon peanut caramel corn for #SundaySupper Holiday Cocktails & Appetizers

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