More Popcorn Please


Doug and I visited Extremadura, a remote corner of southwest Spain, with San Francisco friends in the fall of 2010. The six of us chose the destination with a specific food objective in mind, and although we were foiled in our mission—that’s another story—we had a great time, partly because nobody else goes there.

      The region’s main claim to fame is its ham, which we couldn’t legally bring home. But a close second would be the pimentón, or smoked paprika, which we bought in abundance. Overbought, you could say. It was harvest season, and some of the villages with pepper-drying warehouses wafted a sweet, smoky scent that I couldn’t resist.

       Back home, I looked at all the tins of pimentón and thought, “Now what?” I love it sprinkled on hard-cooked eggs, omelets, or anything eggy; on fried potatoes; on steamed cauliflower; on fish and shrimp. I add it to tomato sauce and sprinkle it on bean soup. But everybody does that. The brilliant breakthrough, I thought, was when it occurred to me to shower pimentón on warm popcorn. Et voilà, as they would say across the border.

       In a few brisk shakes, popcorn went from humble ballpark nosh to Champagne fare. I kid you not. At our next dinner parties, we are proudly presenting our popcorn hors d'oeuvre. So, please, bring a bubbly worthy of it.