Bacon-fat popped corn, smoked almond toffee, and candied jalapeno salt are the prizes in this Cracker Jack recipe, which is courtesy of Chef Eric Babula with Bottleneck Management restaurants.
● 3/4 cup diced jalapeno (do not remove seeds)
● 1 cup white sugar
● 2 tbsp water
● 1 cup kosher salt, plus 1 tsp more for toffee
● 1 lb almonds, smoked 15 minutes
● 1/2 cup reserved bacon fat
● 1/2 cup white raw popcorn kernels
● 1 cup granulated sugar
● 1/2 cup honey
● 1 tsp baking soda
● 2 tsp vanilla extract
● 2 tbsp unsalted butter
1. Prepare the candied jalapeno salt: Combine jalapeno, sugar, and water in a small pot. Place over medium-high heat. Allow sugar to melt, and do not stir the pot. When temperature reaches 325 degrees, remove from heat and pour onto parchment lined pan. Allow to cool completely. Break sugar glass into small pieces and pulse in food processor until ground. Add 1 cup salt and pulse until fine and combined. Set aside. (Note: There will be leftover jalapeno salt, so save for future use.)
2. In large pot over medium high heat, melt bacon fat. Add popcorn kernels, and cover. When popping starts, gently shake pot until popping stops. Remove from heat and transfer popped corn to a pan.
3. Make the toffee: In a medium pot, combine sugar, honey, and remaining salt. Place over medium-high heat until temperature reaches 310 degrees. Add smoked almonds, cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add baking soda, vanilla, and butter. Stir quickly and carefully. Pour over popped corn, stir gently until all corn is evenly coated and toffee is cooled.
4. Generously dust coated corn with candied jalapeno salt until covered. Spread on parchment paper. Store at room temperature.
(Note: Take extra caution when melting and caramelizing sugar. If the substance pops or spills, do not try to wipe away, simply ice the sugar immediately and once cool, pull off.)
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