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Cracker Jeff

This is Jeff’s adult spin on an American classic, the Cracker Jack. Popcorn still plays the leading role in his recipe, with the humble peanut swapped for cashews, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans. Traditional, sticky-sweet molasses receives an upgrade from its pomegranate cousin. Complex, exotic spices and heat come from adding sumac, cayenne, and ground pomegranate seeds – anardana.

Even with these tweaks, the Cracker Jack slogan registered in 1896 is still fitting, “The more you eat, the more you want.” We seem to want this snack with a bit of rosé.

Ingredients

Equipment

2 sheet pans
Parchment paper or Silpat
Silicone spatula
Large heavy pot with lid

Ingredients

3 tablespoons neutral oil
¼ cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
6 teaspoons brown sugar
3 teaspoon ground sumac
1 ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
3 teaspoon anardana (optional)
1 cup raw (unsalted, unroasted) whole cashews
½ cup raw (unsalted, unroasted) shelled pecans
½ cup raw (unsalted, unroasted) shelled pistachios
½ cup raw (unsalted, unroasted) halved walnuts
Maldon sea salt for finishing

How To Make

1
Preheat the oven to 300ºF/150ºC. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or Silpat.
2
Pop the corn. Follow package instructions, or place a large, heavy-bottomed pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the neutral oil and a few test kernels. Once kernels pop, remove popped kernels and add ½ cup of kernels to the pot. Gently shake the pot to coat all the kernels, and cover it with a lid. The corn will begin to pop; once pops are less than 1-2 seconds per pop, remove from heat, gently shake, and crack the lid to release some steam. Set aside.
3
Place butter, pomegranate molasses, brown sugar, sumac, cayenne pepper, salt, and anardana into a small saucepan over medium heat and melt butter, mixing with a silicone spatula to incorporate the brown sugar until it is no longer grainy about three minutes.
4
Place nuts into a medium-sized bowl. Pour ⅓ of the butter mixture over nuts and gently toss with a spatula until well coated, about a minute. Place popped corn into another medium-sized bowl. Pour the remaining butter mixture over the popped corn and gently toss with a spatula until well coated, about a minute.
5
Pour coated nuts in a single layer onto a sheet pan lined with parchment. Pour coated popped corn in a single layer onto the second sheet pan lined with parchment. Place nuts on the top rack of the oven and the popped corn on the bottom rack.
6
Bake for 9 minutes, remove popped corn, and set to cool. Rotate the pan of nuts and bake for 9 minutes more. Remove from the oven.
7
Tip nuts into a large bowl and sprinkle with additional Maldon finishing salt, turning occasionally with a silicone spatula for five minutes as it cools to prevent clumping. Add popped corn and stir to combine. Serve warm or store in an airtight container for up to a week. Note: The nuts can burn quickly; watch carefully if you are unsure your oven temperature is accurate.