Let me get the possibly obvious out of the way: I, Deb Perelman, unapologetically, shamelessly, unwaveringly love Chex Mix. Sure, the last time I made it to the letter I was in high school and decided to have a party where we’d invite boys too (yes, I was as cool in high school as you’d expect) and it seemed so strange to me, this aggressive mix of steak sauce, spices and butter, but holy moly was it good.
So, let’s not pretend this is anything but a Smitten Kitchen homage to this beloved mix — which I’m sorry to reveal, did not bring all of the boys to my
yard, er, parents’ wood-paneled living room. These days, I make it a little differently. At some point, the Chex cereal became popcorn, not because I don’t like crispy crunchy magically woven pillows of corn, wheat and rice cereal, but because I love popcorn that much more. I add nuts, pretzels and something cracker-y to it. And then, as should surprise exactly nobody, I brown the butter for extra toasty depth. I add some mustard, in both Dijon and powdered English mustard formats; smoked paprika, because it completes me, and sometimes a tiny bit of dark brown sugar too. I tend to make massive amounts of it and
…Hide it from myself. I can’t be around it. I’ve tried again and again but it never works. It always leads to awkward dinnertime conversations like “Why aren’t you hungry, mommy?” and then I have to lie to my sweet, impressionable child and tell him it’s because I ate too much broccoli at snack time
So, do the right thing: make this and bring it to a party, preferably at someone’s apartment, far from the clubby madness below. Think about what a weird — here might be some grievances, but even I cannot stand the sound of me complaining — but also wonderful year it’s been — a new Smitten Kitchen! a new book on the (distant) horizon! and maybe even a redesign at last! — with, I hope, an even better one ahead. Cheers to you, friends. This wouldn’t be any fun without you.
More New Year’s Eve Snack Ideas: Over here.
More New Year’s Eve Cocktail Ideas: Over here.
Popcorn Party Mix
3 tablespoon olive or a neutral oil
6 tablespoons (70 grams) unpopped popcorn kernels
1 cup nuts (I used peanuts, which weigh 140 grams)
2 cups bite-sized pretzels, or bigger ones, broken up
1 cup broken-up plain bagel or pita chips, oyster crackers or melba toast
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons (8 grams) dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, adjusted to taste
1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Heat oven to 250°F (120°C).
Pop your popcorn: Place 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 to 3 kernels in a 3-quart or larger pot and cover with a lid. Turn heat to medium-high. When you hear these first kernels pop, add the remaining kernels and replace the lid. Using potholders, shimmy the pot around to keep the kernels moving as they pop. When several seconds pass between pops, remove from heat. You should have just over 6 cups. Dump into a giant mixing bowl and add the nuts, pretzels, chips or crackers to the popcorn.
Brown your butter and make the sauce: Wipe out your empty pot and place the butter in it, set over medium heat (no lid needed). Melt the butter and keep cooking it, stirring occasionally and watching out for hisses and splatters, until the bits at the bottom of the melted butter puddle begin to turn golden and light brown. Remove from heat, and whisk in Worcestershire, sugar, spices and salt. If you ended up using pre-popped or seasoned popcorn with salt, or salted nuts or crackers, you might go easier on the salt. If you like your mix quite traditionally salty and none of your packaged ingredients were coated with salt, you might up it to a full teaspoon.
Pour butter-spice mixture over popcorn mix and toss, toss, toss, until all the ingredients are evenly coated. Spread out on your biggest baking sheet or two medium-sized ones. Bake for 45 minutes, tossing the ingredients around every 15 so that they cook evenly. Let cool completely on trays, then pack into jars and get on your way.