If everything goes according to plan at Thanksgiving dinner, your guests will leave feeling fully satisfied—but that doesn't mean you shouldn't send 'em home with a courtesy road snack (the holiday is synonymous with gluttony, after all). These genius candy-coated "Holiday Popcorn Balls" by chef Charlie Marshall of rustic-chic farm-to-table restaurant The Marshal in N.Y.C. combine hazelnuts and root beer to create the ultimate after-dessert dessert that'll quell any lingering late-night sugar cravings. Plus, they won't detract from the laborious cooking necessary to prep for the main event: The clusters can be stored in a closed container for up to one week in advance of being served. "You can make them, forget about them, and whip them out later," Marshall says. Here's to glorious make-ahead cooking.
Holiday Popcorn Balls
15 cups popped popcorn
1 cup salted hazelnuts, coarsely crushed
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup sorghum syrup (or light corn syrup)
1/4 cup salted butter
2 bottles of root beer (Marshall likes Not Your Father's Root Beer)
1/2 tsp salt
1. Combine the popped popcorn and the crushed hazelnuts in a large bowl.
2. Pour the contents of the bottles of root beer into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer until reduced to 2 cups, which should take about 10-15 minutes.
3. Next, butter the sides of a medium-sized saucepan. In the pan, combine the 2 cups of reduced root beer, sugar, sorghum syrup (or light corn syrup), butter, and salt. Attach a candy thermometer and set the burner to medium heat. When the liquid mixture registers 238 °F, drizzle the mixture over popped popcorn and stir to coat. Let mixture stand 8-10 minutes or until it can be easily handled.
4. Grease your hands lightly with butter and stir the mixture to distribute the candy mixture. Shape into 3-inch balls and place on a greased sheet pan, or on a surface lined with wax paper.
5. When completely cool, popcorn balls can be individually wrapped in waxed paper and tied with ribbon.