Game Day Pretzel Popcorn Caramallo Squares

I wish I liked hamburgers. I feel like people who eat hamburgers have an easier time in life. There’s something so casual and convenient about a hamburger. They couldn’t be easier to find. Road trip? There’s always McDonald’s. Quick bite after the movies? The pub near the theater has a great one. How nice for everyone. But me. Biting into a burger is never anything I want to do. Maybe I was scarred by my mother’s super-hot, cast iron pan version: crusty and burnt on the outside, pink and soft on the inside. I’d eat half and she’d finish the rest. But there is something almost embarrassing about not being a hamburger eater. I can’t blame it on being a vegetarian so I just come off as “difficult.” Which I guess I sort of am. “Oh, do you not eat meat?” They’ll assume. “Well, only in lasagna and spaghetti Bolognese, “I’ll confess. “But I eat turkey burgers!” As if I’m somehow making up for my arbitrary aversion by suggesting a substitute that hasn’t even been offered. But the other thing about being a non-burger person is the sense that I’m somehow un-American. It’s exactly how I feel about football. I can’t imagine volunteering to watch a game but at the same time I’m embarrassed that I have no desire to do so. That was, until now.
A few Sundays ago I was sinking into both my couch and Downton Abbey when I heard some cheering from the apartment across the hall. Unlike in years past when I haven’t had a clue what all the hollering has been about, I knew it was the night of the big football playoffs. How did I know? Because earlier in the evening, when I was attempting to watch The New Adventures of Old Christine on the tiny TV attached to my elliptical at the gym, the guy on the machine next to me was shouting at his own tiny TV, as was every other person in the cardio area. Something big was happening and I wanted to know what it was. After learning from the trainer manning the front desk that this game was going to determine whether the Giants were going to face the Patriots in (or is it “at”? What’s the right lingo?) the Super Bowl, it all made sense. And a few hours later, so did the shouts from apartment 1403.
Although I was annoyed that my Edwardian England reverie was disturbed, I was also a little curious. I have to admit that I paused PBS for a quick switch over to FOX. I have never checked a score in my life. From what I could tell it was a really close game but, as always whenever I pass a football game on TV, no one was actually playing football. They were all kind of standing around while something was being decided. I went back to England. (A big thanks to the inventor of the DVR. Talk about a life-changer.)

But at 10pm, when my show was over, the shouting was still going on. I’m nothing if not nosy, so I checked a score for the second time in my life. The teams were tied and the clock was ticking. Seemed kind of exciting! So I watched the rest of the game. Really. I haven’t told anyone that because I have a certain contrarian non-sporty reputation to uphold. But I did. And I had no idea what I was watching. So many able minded people have tried to explain the rules of the game to me. In fact some of them are quite successful in professionally communicating sports to the public. But nothing sticks. Yes, I understand what the goal is (ooh, double meaning), but the rest of it? What’s the difference between a quarterback and a running back? I have no idea, other than dating a quarterback seemed to mean a lot to Marcia Brady. But none of these little details really matter. I was still caught up in the game and found myself actually rooting for a team. I’ve never done that before either.
I’d like to thank the inventor of the DVR again because I owe him or her a lot. I had to rewind several times in order to understand what was going on with that winning field goal (new term for me). I still don’t really get it but all I know is along with my next door neighbors, I could hear cheering from a brownstone across the street. They sounded very happy.

So the big game is this weekend and I think one of the reasons I actually care, even if just a tiny bit, is specifically because the Giants are playing the Patriots. I went to college in Connecticut where an enormous percentage of students hailed from New York or Massachusetts. The team rivalries were often discussed, again a conversation in which I did not participate, and the year the Mets played the Red Sox in the World Series the whole campus was glued to the dorm televisions. If memory serves, things got a little ugly when New York came out on top.
The whole NY/Boston thing has played a big part in my life what with so many friends and boyfriends coming from Beantown. But this Sunday I will not be in a dorm living room in New England but at a Super Bowl party in New York. Wendy, my dear friend and former roommate, is giving the soiree and what is hilarious to me is that in the 5 ½ years that we lived together we never once watched a single sporting event on our 19” Toshiba television. I guess things change when your house is filled with a sporty husband and three equally sporty kids. Wendy is truly the hostess with the mostess and even if we never watched sports she knows me well enough not to serve me a hamburger. She also knows me well enough to know I will not arrive empty handed.
Of course you have to have pretzels and popcorn to munch on while you watch the game. These chewy bars are like Rice Krispies Treats without the Rice Krispies. Crunchy, salty pretzels and squishy popcorn are bathed in a caramel sauce tarted up with marshmallows and sprinkled with coarse salt. Salty and sweet, (okay, very sweet and a little salty), they will be gone before you finish putting them out. As for Downton Abbey, I’ll be enjoying 2012 American football on Sunday evening. 1918 England will have to wait until Monday. Go Giants! (Who said that?!)
Game Day Pretzel Popcorn Caramallo Squares
Adapted from Everyday Food, October 2010
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Nonstick cooking spray
12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels (I put mine in a Ziploc and banged them with a rolling pin)
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups mini marshmallows
More coarse salt for sprinkling

Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside
Spray a large piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Set aside
In a very large bowl, toss together popcorn and pretzels.
In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium-high. Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color. Start checking it at 8 minutes but it could take as long as 13 to become the proper color. Don't stop cooking it until it really is a medium-almost dark golden amber, otherwise these bars will taste like nothing and have the consistency of sand.
Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter).

Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.
Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat.

Transfer mixture to dish and use the piece of plastic wrap to press evenly into dish.
Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Let cool completely before cutting into squares.
Yield: 24 squares

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

will definitely be making these this weekend miranda! you are the best! loved this!
x margie