When you’re feeling crabby

As a paranoid mother of tiny children, I have one vice that I save for after they’re tucked in their beds, and that’s the ultimate, delicious choking hazard, popcorn. As far as they’re concerned, popcorn is just one more mythical item that they only encounter in books, like talking toads that wear waistcoats, and I hope to keep it that way for as long as possible, like perhaps college.

But I digress before I even begin. If you haven’t made popcorn at home for a while, you may have forgotten how much fun it is (I’m talking about loose kernel popcorn, not those creepy microwave bags that will give you black lung). Shaking the pot while that tell-tale movie-house aroma fills the air, and the satisfying crescendo of pops—it’s all part of the treat. But recently, I stumbled upon a version that really made me look forward to getting those kids into bed. Inspired by the classic combo of lemon juice and Old Bay Seasoning with crabs, I sprinkled a little of both on my popcorn, and oh, dear reader, oh. If you close your eyes, you can almost believe that the crackling of the baby monitor is the lapping waves of the Chesapeake Bay.

You don’t need any special equipment. (I used to use a Whirley Pop, and they are swell, but I once mentioned this to the great Ruth Reichl and she said, “You can just do it in a regular covered pan–give it a little shake and the popped kernels float up and the unpopped kernels fall to the bottom.” Oh. That’s why she’s Ruth Reichl.) So with that in mind, this is how you do it:

Put about 2 tablespoons of some oil (I like peanut) in the bottom of a medium saucepan, and add about 1/2 cup of unpopped popcorn. Heat over medium heat, COVERED (don’t forget that part, or you’ll be starring in an I Love Lucy episode), and shake the pan every now and then. When the popping slows down significantly (it’s just like with the microwave bags), take the pan off the heat. Give the pan a few more shakes, then pour it into a huge bowl. Squeeze half a lemon over the top, and dust with a generous sprinkling of Old Bay. Toss and sprinkle some more. You’re welcome.

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