Like any normal human being, I love caramel corn. I also love my roasted lentils AND I love gochujang, that magic, sticky, sweet, spicy Korean hot pepper paste. I bought my first tub of gochujang in a mall called K-Town so, naturally, I am calling this confection "K Corn". Props to my Korean grocery store peeps who are responsible for igniting my love affair with Korean food.
This candied popcorn is sweet, it's spicy and it's crunchy, thanks to crispy roasted french lentils and nutty sesame seeds. I had to hide this stuff just so I could have enough to photograph because both of my guys wouldn't stop wandering into the kitchen to sneak handfuls of this caramel corn all night. This is the only snack you will ever need again.
It took me a few tries to get the caramel just right but using the base recipe from The Kitchn as my foundation, it finally all came together. You can find gochujang at any Korean or Japanese grocery store as well as most general asian grocers. In a pinch, you can even order it online but if you have someone who likes you who happens to live in a city with an asian grocery store, you might want to think about calling in a favour.
This is my entry in the wildcard category for the Recipe Revelations Recipe Challenge because, let's face it, caramel corn with lentils and fermented hot pepper paste is what pretty much what you will see if you look wildcard up in the dictionary.
Caramel K Corn
makes 10-12 cups
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn
3/4 cup uncooked french lentils
1 tbls olive oil
2 tbls toasted sesame seeds
3/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup gochujang
1 tbls apple cider vinegar
pop your popcorn however you like to pop it. I use one of these poppers but you can pop it in two batches in a brown paper lunch bag in the microwave, air pop it or go old school in a pot on the stove. When it's popped you will have approx 10 cups of popped corn. Feel free to make it the day ahead if you like as long as you store it in an airtight container.
For the lentils, put them in a pot of water, bring to a boil and turn down the heat until you get a light simmer. Partially cook them for about 10 minutes, drain well and let dry on some paper towel while you preheat the oven to 450F
Toss the dried lentils with about 1 tbls of olive oil in a bowl and then spread out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put it in the oven, on the lowest wrung, and roast them for about 15 minutes. Start checking them after 10 minutes - you want them crispy but not burnt - in my oven, they are perfect after 15. Remove from the oven.
Spray a really big bowl with cooking spray or rub with some oil using a paper towel - you just want a light coating so nothing sticks. Put the popcorn in there and then add the roasted lentils and the sesame seeds. Put aside while you make the caramel.
T urn the oven down to 250F. Put a fresh piece of parchment down on the baking pan and spray it with cooking spray and you should also spray a wooden spoon for stirring your caramel and a spatula for spreading out your caramel corn. (if your sheets are small, you might have to use two baking sheets) Set aside.
Melt the butter over medium heat and then stir in the brown sugar, mixing well until it's totally combined and turn the heat up to med high. Once the mixture comes to a real boil, turn your timer on for 3 minutes and then boil it, stirring and scraping the caramel the entire time. I checked the temperature and cooked it until it reached about 265F but three minutes should do it if you don't have a thermometer.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the gochujang and mix it really well with your wooden spoon until it's totally blended in. Now add in your kosher salt, baking soda and cider vinegar, stir robustly until you have a nice, glossy sauce and start to pour the mixture over your popcorn/lentil/sesame seed mixture in the bowl, stirring the popcorn the whole time. It's really much easier if you get someone to stir while you pour but you can do it yourself if you have to, just work fast because it starts to set up very quickly. Once all the caramel is in there, keep stirring, making sure you are bringing up all of the lentils and sesame seeds which will be at the bottom of the popcorn bowl. When the popcorn is completely covered in caramel and you don't see any more white use the spatula to spread the popcorn mixture out onto your parchment lined baking sheet until you have an even layer.
Now, pop it into the oven and cook it for an hour, stirring it a bit every 15 minutes. After you remove it from the oven, let it cool down to room temp on the baking sheet.
Store up to a week in an airtight container but it won't last a week so don't worry about that.