A few months ago, I went to Colt & Gray in Denver and had a dangerously scrumptious snack with my Woodford Reserve (neat, thank you very much). The snack was - drum roll please - Bacon and Cashew Caramel Corn! Ever since I was introduced to this heavenly treat, I have not been able to stop thinking about it. And what makes matters even worse is that my mind now links the taste of Woodford to this jazzed up popcorn. It's my new milk and cookies or beer and pretzels. Every time I drink Woodford, which is quite often, I crave Colt & Gray's masterpiece. I just can't shake it!
As I desperately searched for ways to replicate the recipe, I was shocked to find the exact one from Colt & Gray in Bon Appetit magazine. I immediately put on my chef's hat and got to work. Here is the recipe from Bon Appetit, or you can find it below. I dare you not to try this!
The sweet and salty combination in this caramel corn is absolute perfection. I must warn you that you will end up eating all of the popcorn. Your will power will indeed be shot. Speaking of shots, where is my Woodford?
•1/2 cup popcorn kernels
•2 tablespoons vegetable oil
•6 ounces bacon, chopped
•1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews (one 2.5-ounce package)
•1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt •1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
•1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
•1 oolong tea bag
•Nonstick vegetable oil spray
•1 1/2 cups sugar
•1/4 cup water
•2 tablespoons light corn syrup
•Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat popcorn and oil in covered heavy large pot over medium-high heat until kernels begin to pop. Using oven mitts, hold lid on pot and shake pot until popping stops. Pour popcorn into very large bowl. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until almost crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain; cool. Add bacon and cashews to bowl with popcorn. Sprinkle with coarse salt and cayenne; toss to coat.
•Bring cream and tea bag just to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; let steep 15 minutes, occasionally pressing on tea bag with back of spoon to release flavor. Discard tea bag.
•Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; coat with nonstick spray. Coat 2 wooden spoons or heat-resistant spatulas with nonstick spray; set aside. Stir sugar, 1/4 cup water, and corn syrup in large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high; boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 13 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add cream (mixture will bubble up). Stir until blended. Immediately drizzle caramel over popcorn mixture; toss with sprayed spoons until evenly coated. Transfer to sheet.
•Place caramel corn in oven and bake until caramel is shiny and coats popcorn, tossing mixture occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on sheet on rack, tossing occasionally to break up large clumps. Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight in refrigerator.