I never know what to get for my brother-in-law. Clothes are sort of daunting -- the man is six-foot-five, a towering height that barely-five-foot me can't really comprehend. Books and the like I'm similarly unlikely to touch: he tends to read about politics and policymakers, whereas I tend to stay naively oblivious. Then there's the fantasy football... need I say more about that?
But fortunately, we do see eye to eye on one topic: food. He likes food, I like food. I can work with that. Last year, I made him a variety of sweets, including raspberry truffles and these gorgeous chocolate-mint tiddlywinks. I packed them in cute little boxes that looked like miniature hat boxes, stacked the boxes into a tower, and tied it all with a pretty ribbon. The presentation was impressive, and I think there's some childlike fun to opening one box after another. And your own stash of chocolates that you don't have to share with anyone is a pretty nice prize.
This year, I was at a loss. Then, from somewhere in the December barrage of products vying for my attention and paycheck came inspiration. I happened upon a company selling 'gourmet' popcorn. Popped in olive oil, fancy flavors. Intriguing. After all, my brother-in-law loves popcorn. A lot. He lurves the stuff. It's great. I tasted the stuff these people were selling. It was... meh.
But the idea was sound. So, this year, I made him popcorn. Four different crazy wonderful flavors. I know he's not the only one with this particular hankering, so for any popcorn lover, it's a fun homemade gift, doesn't take too much time, and allows you to get creative. I started my flavor research with the trusty Improvisational Cook, who suggests amazing things like sprinkling popcorn with truffle oil, or with the godly liquid gold that is brown butter, or popping it in bacon fat.
I went with four flavors:
- riffing on her brown butter, I added sea salt and sugar;
- an orange spice flavor with chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and orange zest;
- Italian herb: drizzled with good olive oil that had been infused with rosemary, basil, garlic, and crushed pepper, then tossed with grated parmesan cheese;
- and breakfast-flavored popcorn, the funkiest of all: tossed with melted butter, real maple syrup, and that magical kosher, vegan wonder, Bacon Salt. Yes, a little crazy, but quite a satisfying salty-sweet treat!