From: Executive chef Kenneth Thompson, The Memphis Country Club, Memphis, TN. Yield: 4 salads. This recipe was a winner in the Southern Peanut Growers 2011 Chefs' Recipe Contest.
Peanut Caramel Corn Croutons:
3 Tbsp. popcorn, unpopped
½ cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1½ tsp. salt
2 oz. unsalted butter
⅛ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 Tbsp. sambal chile sauce
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, ground
½ tsp. garlic, granulated
1 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. ginger, fresh, minced
½ cup peanut oil
¼ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
4 oz. petite watercress, washed
2 oz. yellow corn shoots, quartered lengthwise
2 oz. carrot, peeled, julienned
2 oz. red bell pepper, julienned
For Peanut Caramel Corn Croutons: Pop popcorn according to manufacturer's directions and pour into an appropriate bowl for tossing. Discard any unpopped kernels.
Place brown sugar, corn syrup, salt and butter into heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat and cook to 250°F, stirring constantly. Remove mixture from heat and add baking soda, vanilla, peanut butter, roasted peanuts, sambal chile, cayenne pepper, granulated garlic, and black sesame seeds. Stir with a whisk until all ingredients are completely incorporated. Pour mixture evenly over the pre-popped popcorn and stir with a wooden spoon until popcorn is evenly coated. Pour coated popcorn onto a lightly oiled sheet pan and bake at 300°F for 5 minutes. Stir to distribute and separate the popcorn. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and allow to cool to room temperature. Place Peanut Caramel Corn Croutons in an airtight container; shelf life is 1 week.
For Asian dressing: Combine ginger, peanut oil, rice wine vinegar, kosher salt and hoisin sauce in a nonreactive bowl; whisk until blended. Shelf life: 48 hours at 40°F.
For salad: Combine watercress, corn shoots, carrots and red pepper in nonreactive bowl and toss in the dressing. Place the salad on a serving plate and arrange the Peanut Caramel Corn Croutons over the salad. Serve immediately.