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Desi Jacks

Desi Jacks 16.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Oct 24, 2017

Rest assured that what seems like a huge amount of this sweet and Indian-spiced snack will disappear quickly at any gathering. It was inspired by chef Preeti Mistry's love of Cracker Jack.

Using an air popper, as she suggests, reduces the risk of burnt popcorn bits. For the nuts, toast them in a pan on stove top over low heat to prevent over-roasting that might occur once the Desi Jacks mix is in the oven. You'll need an instant-read or candy thermometer.

Make Ahead: The popcorn can be popped a day in advance and stored in an airtight container; the Desi Jacks can be stored in an airtight container up to 6 days.

Where to Buy: The recipe calls for Kashmiri chili powder, which is a bright, mild spice available at Indian markets. If you can't get it, do not substitute with the red chili powders in the grocery store. But you could use a ground cayenne pepper -- and adjust the amount, accordingly, because it is more pungent. Ghee, a type of clarified butter, is available in the international aisle of some large supermarkets.

16 - 18

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 16-18 servings; makes about 25 cups, with clumps

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 cup shelled, roasted unsalted pistachios (may substitute almonds or hazelnuts)
  • 2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or bran oil
  • 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 16 cups popcorn, preferably popped using an air popper (see headnote; may substitute plain microwave-popped popcorn)
  • 1/4 cup ghee or clarified butter (see headnote and NOTE; may substitute melted unsalted butter)
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toast the cumin seed in a large, dry skillet over low heat for several minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching. Remove from heat and quickly grind to a fine powder.

In the same skillet, combine the pistachios, peanuts, oil, half the toasted ground cumin and half the chili powder, tossing to coat evenly. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt. Toast on the stove top for 5 or 6 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently, until the nuts are a darker shade of brown. Let cool for 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, toss the popcorn with ghee, the remaining toasted ground cumin and chili powder. Taste and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt. Transfer the mixture to a large, flat roasting pan.

Combine the brown sugar and corn syrup in a large, ovenproof saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches 250 to 260 degrees; it will look like caramel. (This is a hardball stage for candy. Keep a bowl of water handy to test if you’ve arrived at the right consistency. Drop in a bit of the caramel; if it forms a ball you’re able to pick up from the water, it’s right.)

Fold in the nuts, then transfer the saucepan to the oven; bake (middle rack) for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the saucepan from the oven, then pour the caramel over the popcorn in the roasting pan, tossing gently to coat and using a wide spatula to keep from squishing the popcorn. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of salt evenly over the mix, toss to incorporate. Let cool. Clumps will form; this is okay.

Finally, break apart any large clumps into bite-size pieces.

NOTE: To clarify butter, melt unsalted butter over low heat, without stirring. Let it sit for several minutes, then skim off the foam. Leave the milky residue at the bottom and use only the clear (clarified) butter on top.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from “The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul,” by Preeti Mistry with Sarah Henry (Running Press, 2017).

Tested by Lavanya Ramanathan.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (based on 18): 300

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 12g 18%

Saturated Fat: 2g 10%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 390mg 16%

Total Carbohydrates: 47g 16%

Dietary Fiber: 3g 12%

Sugar: 37g

Protein: 6g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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