Small Plates

By Madeleine Ignon | July 29, 2011

Photo: Madeleine Ignon

I associate the smell and taste of old-fashioned kettle corn more with farmer’s markets than I do with fairs or circuses, particularly the Hollywood Farmer’s Market that has made itself as much a landmark as Musso & Frank’s and Capitol Records. Hollywood itself can be a circus. Besides kettle corn to snack on, produce to sample and examine, and the always-welcomed latte truck, there are always people to watch there, people that to me are more interesting than anything a performance under a tent could conjure up.

I used to go to the farmer’s market nearly every Sunday with my mom and sister to stroll and people watch, and I remember thinking the people manning the kettle corn stand looked like they were stirring a gigantic potion together, creating clouds of sugar air all around them.

This recipe, although I did my research to make sure I had my ratio of sugar to popcorn to oil right, is sort of what just happened when I tried to make sugar-coated popcorn. I find that olive oil gives it a nicer flavor than the typical canola oil, and brown sugar creates richer sugar syrup than white.

Photo: Madeleine Ignon

  • 1/2 cup unpopped corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sea salt


1. Let the oil get hot in the bottom of a big pot, then add the sugar and corn kernels and stir well, letting the kernels get fully coated.

2. Cover the pot and wait for the first few kernels to pop. Take the pot, which hopefully has handles, on both sides (with pot holders-it will get really hot!) and sort of swish the kernels around in a circular motion inside so that the sugar doesn't burn. Do this periodically, taking the pot momentarily off the direct flame.

3. Once the popping slows down noticeably, turn off the flame and let it sit for a few minutes to cool. Scoop the popcorn into a large bowl and sprinkle immediately with sea salt.

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