To get cheese to stick to popcorn, you need melted butter. The problem is, the melted butter makes the popcorn soggy. To solve this, we drizzle popcorn with some spicy butter, coat it with lots of finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, then bake it in the oven for half an hour. The cheese melts and the popcorn gets crispy again. Serve this savory snack for happy hour with a mezcal–apple cider cocktail to wash it down.
Game plan: If you’re popping your popcorn on the stovetop, place 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large pot with a tightfitting lid over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, cover, and shake to evenly distribute. Once the kernels start popping, gently shake the pot until the popping subsides, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- 15 cups plain popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup kernels), unpopped kernels removed
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 3 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated on the spiky or smallest holes of a box grater (about 1 cup)
1Heat the oven to 250°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the popcorn in a large roasting pan.
2Place the butter, red pepper flakes, and salt in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the salt has dissolved and the butter has melted.
3Drizzle the butter mixture over the popcorn, making sure to scrape it all out of the pan with a rubber spatula. Using a flat spatula, toss the popcorn to coat it in the butter mixture. Sprinkle with the cheese and toss again.
4Bake, stirring every 10 minutes with the flat spatula and scraping up any cheese from the bottom of the pan, until the popcorn is crispy and well coated with the cheese, about 30 minutes total.
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