Sharing My Birthday | Smoked Paprika Popcorn
I suppose I could say I finished all my gift-wrapping today. All the gifts I’ve bought are wrapped and stacked neatly in my fireplace, lit by a strand of white lights. There is no danger of Mike peeking into a shopping bag and ruining a surprise. But “finished” isn’t entirely true, since I still have a few last-minute gifts to buy. There will certainly be more wrapping in my future, which I welcome. I find the matching of paper with ribbon, the folding, the creasing to be meditative and relaxing, certainly more so than facing the mobs at the shopping mall.
Despite the fact that I can’t even stop at Target for toilet paper without encountering these mobs, I love the holiday season. Our next-door neighbors have hung two giant candy cane decorations on the trees in front of our house and theirs, and they will always remind me of our first Christmas in our house. We had just bought our first home and moved in December last year. Our street is long and fairly busy, with several blocks of the typical Baltimore row-homes. The sight of those candy canes let us know when to start looking for a parking spot before we knew exactly where our new house was. At least, this is the story I repeat to myself when I think how tacky the candy canes look with the extension cord reaching out to the trees from the neighbor’s bedroom window. (This is the kind of thing that makes people call us “Charm City.”)
I love the gluttonous cooking and baking, drinking and partying that go on this time of year. I love searching for the perfect gifts for my family members and receiving surprises from them in exchange. But really, I love this season because all of this merriment occurs in time for my birthday.
People often ask me if I dislike having my birthday just four days before Christmas. On the contrary: I kind of love it. You know those kids who shared a birthday, and they got to have a joint birthday party? But rather than getting bummed out because they have to share the spotlight, they got to have a birthday that was twice as big, and they realized how lucky they were. Yeah, that’s pretty much how it is for me and the baby Jesus (not to be confused with this baby Jesus).
With so much going on this month, I still haven’t gotten myself back into my cooking routine. Luckily, I’ve discovered a snack that is so much easier to make than I suspected, and I’m kicking myself for being too intimidated by hot oil and jumping kernels to have tried it sooner. I’ve been relying on it a lot lately, and if you get a gift from me this year with a butter stain on the wrapping paper, well, now you’ll know why.
Smoked Paprika Popcorn
With a little help from Heidi
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup popcorn kernels
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Drop three kernels into the oil. When they pop, add the rest of the kernels. Shake the pot so all the kernels are covered in oil. Cover. Shake the pot every minute or so until all the kernels have popped. This usually takes about 8–10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the salt and smoked paprika, and stir well.
When all the kernels are popped, turn off the heat, uncover, and drizzle the seasoned butter over the popcorn. Shake well to season all the pieces.
Popcorn will stay fresh in an airtight container for a few days.