Don’t worry, I haven’t let you down. I’m bringing snacks to The Bachelorette finale viewing party: sticky bacon caramel corn. As Chris Harrison promises at the end of every season, this will certainly be the most dramatic finale in Bachelorette history. So it probably goes without saying that I needed the most dramatic snack I could get my hands on.
I’ve watched the show religiously for as long as it’s been around. Yes, I even watched the first season with that dirtbag Alex Michel. The only season I’ve missed is Deanna’s season. She has the energy of an aging Coonhound. I know, not so nice, but I think it’s fair game when you sign up to have helicopters, designer clothes, and reasonably good-looking, if not somewhat creepy dudes thrown at you for six weeks straight. And yes, shockingly, that’s how long filming lasts, from the courtyard meet and greet, to getting down on bended knee. Six weeks! It would take me that long just to learn how to make a proper espresso, let alone meet, date, and become engaged to my life partner.
These days I don’t have much time for TV, so I’ve had to narrow it down to one show. And I just can’t part with The Bachelor. Lucky for me, Rodney has the same addiction. He’s the only guy I know who’ll actually cop to watching the show. Ever see the episodes with a live studio audience? There’s a reason why all of the guys are wearing baseball hats and fake mustaches. Guys do not like to be associated with this show, unless they’re an actual cast member of course. At which point they’re desperate to be associated with it.
See what I mean? It’s like they took the audience from The Ellen DeGeneres show and drove them over on a party bus to the dark, candlelit, fire hazardish studio where they film The Bachelor.
I sometimes wonder about the inner workings of these shows. For instance, do they conduct a quick tutorial for the audience before the show begins? This is the smiley face you must make when you’re happy! Please make a sad face when one of the characters has been spurned. Or when you’re completely shocked, feel free to make the surprise face. It will definitely get you more airtime.
The woman at the top right of this photo was clearly aiming for airtime. Acceptable causes for this reaction could include:
A) She just watched a man turn down the offer for the fantasy suite.
B) There was a wardrobe malfunction in one of the scenes. (Which she may have realized was not a malfunction at all, which could also account for the surprise.)
C) Chris Harrison just announced that a member of the studio audience will be chosen at random for the upcoming season of Bachelor Pad. Hell or high water she’s going to get that spot. Claws are out, sisters, watch out!
For whatever reason, Rodney and I laugh like two hyenas when we watch the show together. Tears streaming. Mascara running (mine of course, although you probably weren’t sure given that he watches the show in the first place.)
Our conversations usually look something like this:
RODNEY: “Does the one in the pants have a beard?”
ME: “No, that’s from when she fell during Roller Derby.”
RODNEY: “There’s no way the orphan has fake boobs.”
ME: “Sorry to disappoint, fake as processed cheese. Did Chris Harrison just smoke some weed? Why is he squinting like that?”
(By the way, if you can’t get enough of Chris Harrison and a few beloved contestants from seasons past, follow this link. Oh, you’re welcome, please, stop it. I’m not that generous. It only took a little digging in the archives of pop culture wizardry to get you this gem.)
Aside from all of the knee-slapping, we also like to complain. We gripe about how the guys seem like psychos, that they use too much hair gel, that they clearly spend 8 hours a day working out. Most of all, we complain that show has gotten too formulaic. We’ve seen it all at this point. The rooftop hot tub sessions, the jigs in European city squares, the yelling in unison from the mountaintops “Hello Interlaken!” And of course, the tears, the backstabbing, and the post-rejection drunken limo confessions.
This season was a little different. Our heroine Des admitted well before she’d given out her final rose that she’d fallen for one guy, that she’s saving her heart for Brooks. I immediately felt a kinship with one fan who Tweeted during the show that it seemed like Brooks has more teeth than the average person. I had just made that comment myself as I shoved a fistful of popcorn into my mouth.
And then Brooks surprised us all. Spoiler alert if you’re behind a few episodes, but Brooks, in a shocking turn of events, sent Des packing last week. Or rather, he packed up his own stuff and said goodbye to the sunny island of Antigua. Leaving Des on the dock, crumpled and weeping, her tie-dyed, aqua tank blowing listlessly in the breeze.
After watching in stunned silence, Rodney and I both asked ourselves, how can the show go on? How will it end? Is there a twist we don’t know about? And how will she ever get to experience a wedding ceremony as beautiful as ours? Other than our pastor’s little oversight, but details, details.
Drama, surprise, shocking twists. THIS is why we watch this show. And THIS is why we need good snacks for tonight.
So to those of you who will be watching, here’s a little secret. Bacon, Earl Grey tea and Caramel make the best popcorn of all time. It takes some work to pull it together, but trust me, for a night like this, you’ll want the good stuff.
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8 Ounces bacon, chopped
- 3/4 cup unsalted raw cashews, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 Cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 Early Grey 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 amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 10 minutes. I like my popcorn pretty dark, but if you like yours lighter, take it off the heat before it reaches this amber color. 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 15-20 minutes.
- Cool completely on sheet on rack, tossing occasionally to break up large clumps.
- Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight in refrigerator.
Photo credit: The Brayn of Chalayn (chalayn.blogspot.com)