Chef News

Rainbow Chocolate Bacon Pecan Caramel Corn: Fair Food Showdown


With the Arizona State Fair headed our way tomorrow, we at Chow Bella decided on our latest challenge: Create a "fair food" that kicks it up a notch No one dared to cook with bugs, but we did have some creative entries. Check back later this week, when critic Laura Hahnefeld will choose her favorite.

Today: Amy Silverman shares her little popcorn experiment. 

For the latest Chow Bella showdown, I decided to go with an "elevated" version of a carnival/fair classic: caramel corn. After a long hunt, I landed on a recipe from Real Simple magazine, which I chose primarily because there was no candy thermometer involved. 

Find out what went right -- and what went wrong -- after the jump. 

First of all, you need to know that I cheated. I did not make my own popcorn. I bought a bag of Vic's pre-popped white corn at Safeway. That worked out nicely and allowed me to go straight to the caramel process. 

That worked out nicely, too. Basically (you can see the recipe I linked to for details) you boil brown sugar, corn syrup and butter (I know -- super healthy) and a few other ingredients and toss the popcorn in it. 

I made a second batch of caramel next, and tossed the pecans (a small bag, chopped) and crumbled, cooked bacon (a small package of the pre-cooked Oscar Mayer variety; if I was doing it again I'd spring for something applewood-y from Whole Foods) in the caramel, then mixed the two batches. 

And then I really screwed up. The whole idea of adding chocolate at all was hotly debated at the office before I made the caramel corn. I was advised against it, but figured everything's better with chocolate, right? 

That might have been the case, had I allowed the popcorn/pecan/bacon mixture to cool completely before adding a small bag of mini chocolate chips. 

Whoops. I wound up with a melted chocolate mess, and no time to re-do the recipe. Luckily the popcorn stayed firm and crunchy even after the chocolate assault. so it wasn't a total loss -- I was able to bag it, add festive rainbow sprinkles (I thought they were festive, anyway), and save the whole thing looks-wise with some trendy bakery twine. 

But I won't be winning any awards. Or making that mess again. 

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at