A-maize balls’
Popcorn an original U.S. snack food

WENDELL BROCK
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Modified: October 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm •  Published: October 31, 2012
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Per serving, based on 6: 443 calories (percent of calories from fat, 74), 15 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 38 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 984 milligrams sodium.

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GLADYS’S POPCORN BALLS

Hands on: 20 min.

Total time: 20 min.

Makes: 8 to 10 balls

Atlanta’s Watershed restaurant executive chef Joe Truex, a native of Mansura, La., credits this recipe to the woman who took care of him and his sisters while his parents worked. If this sounds like a lot of bacon grease, well, it is. But the fat really flavors the popcorn and gives it shelf life. You may cut back to as a little as 1 tablespoon if desired. Feel free to mix in peanuts, cashews or pecans, too.

1 cup sugar

1 1/3 cups cane syrup, preferably Steen’s

2/3 cup water

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

4 quarts popped corn, preferably not microwave popcorn, lightly salted

12 ounces bacon, fried and chopped into crumbles (should have about 1 cup), fat reserved

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for coating hands while shaping balls

¼ teaspoon baking soda

In a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, melt sugar, syrup, 2/3 cup water, vinegar and salt over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 250 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully so mixture does not boil over.

In a very large bowl, toss popcorn and bacon. Cover a work surface or large baking tray with waxed paper. When syrup mixture is ready, turn off heat and stir in butter, reserved bacon fat and baking soda; it will foam up. Mix well.

Pour about 2/3 of the syrup over popcorn and bacon. Working very quickly, mix well with a wooden spoon. Grease hands with butter. Being very careful not to burn your hands, shape the popcorn mixture into softball-size balls and place them on prepared surface to cool; this is best done by more than one person, so syrup does not have time to harden. As the mixture begins to dry, stir in the remaining syrup.

Cool and serve. Or wrap individually in waxed paper and store in an airtight container.

Per ball, based on 8: 575 calories (percent of calories from fat, 37), 15 grams protein, 77 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 24 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 44 milligrams cholesterol, 1,069 milligrams sodium.

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FRIED HOMINY

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time: 2 ½ hours (plus overnight soak time)

Serves 8-10

This recipe calls for soaking and boiling the hominy as you would with dried legumes. It’s time consuming but well worth it. Just make sure the kernels are as dry as possible before frying, and have a lid handy to cover the pot and avoid splatters. Dried hominy can be found at Latin food markets; I like the large Peruvian variety labeled as “peeled mote corn.” The next time I do this, I am going to add a hint of cinnamon to the spice mix.

1 pound dried hominy (pozole), soaked overnight

1 large white onion, cut in half

1 head garlic, cut in half

1 carrot, cut in half

2 bay leaves

½ teaspoon dried thyme (or about 15 sprigs fresh thyme)

1 tablespoon salt, divided

¼ cup paprika

½ teaspoon mustard powder

½ teaspoon ginger powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon chipotle or other chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ tablespoon sugar

Cooking oil for frying (canola, corn grape-seed or any flavorless oil)

Lime wedges

Drain hominy and combine in a stockpot with onion, garlic, carrot, bay leaves, thyme and water to cover. Cook 1 to 1 ½ hours, until kernels are tender and just beginning to split. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste). Let sit for ½ hour, then strain and remove vegetables. Continue to strain as kernels cool; hominy can be refrigerated at this point for up to two days.

Mix paprika, mustard powder, ginger powder, garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle or chili powder, cumin, coriander, sugar and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Taste to adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Make sure kernels are as dry as possible. (You may want to dab or roll them in paper towels or a dish towel). Pour about 2 inches of oil in a deep pot, and heat to 375 degrees. Pour hominy into pot, in batches if necessary. If oil spatters, partially cover pot. Fry, stirring occasionally, until kernels begin to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Toss with salt and spice mix. Serve with lime wedges.

Variation: Use sweet smoked paprika (pimenton) mixed with a little ancho chili powder and salt. Or sprinkle with salt and your favorite vinegar.

Per serving, based on 8: 140 calories (percent of calories from fat, 51), 2 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 926 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe in The New York Times.

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