Monday Night Martha: Alinea's Liquefied Caramel Popcorn

The new cookbook from Alinea certainly topped a lot of Christmas lists, and some of us were lucky enough to get it.

For those not completely obsessed with molecular gastronomy, Alinea is the hoity-toity Chicago restaurant that's famous for its ueberly deconstructed food. The twenty-five course menus include oddball delectables such as English peas served on a pillow of lavender scented air, or bacon fat compressed into a powdery bite the size of a Starburst candy and wrapped in pineapple glass.

The cookbook recreates the dinner menus exactly, which is a slight problem for the home cook whose kitchen isn't stocked with, say, an Anti-Griddle (used for instantly cooling items to -45F) or a "volcano vaporizer" (don't ask). The pages are gorgeous to flip through, even if you're not a big fan of food porn. I studied the recipes and came across what seemed like the easiest and most manageable one to begin with: Liquefied Caramel Popcorn.

Basically you bring to a boil a mix of simple syrup, butter and several cups of popped popcorn. You let it soak for a while, strain it to get rid of the kernels, and you're left with a rich, off-white bisque. You're also supposed to make a caramel froth that involves sugar, water and something called soy lecithin.

Unfortunately my emulsion broke and froth was not achieved, so at the last minute, I changed the name of the recipe from "liquefied caramel popcorn" to "popcorn soup" and served it in small bowls instead of shot glasses, omitting the froth.

The soup was velvety and tasted exactly like popcorn. It was certainly delicious although it left behind a mountain of dirty dishes. 

Thanks to Google Book Search, the complete recipe for Liquefied Caramel Popcorn is online. And if you'd like to see another home cook's attempts at this recipe, check out this awesome blog. It's a relief to know her caramel emulsion was also unsuccessful.