Monday, October 25, 2010

Popovers and other impromptu party fare

Man, the 70s must have been rough.

I make this grandiose assumption not based on my own childhood, the tales of family and friends, or any real evidence. Instead, my hunch comes from the Betty Crocker Recipe cards circa 1971 that I have tacked up on my kitchen wall.

"Hurry Up Main Dishes" (favorites like liver with piquant sauce!), "Family Breakfast Brighteners" and "Dessert Spectaculars" are just a few of the categories of recipes. I can feel the pressure to provide good, fun and exciting food for every meal just ooze off these cards. Michael Pollan may say that America's food disorder stems from our overwhelming abundance but I think back then it was about being able to produce culinary awe at any hour of any day no matter what the status of your pantry, budget, or to do list. Sheesh.

My favorite is the set on Impromptu Party Fare. The idea is that anytime guests stop by you could be ready. Yes, there is a reference to when "guileless husbands turn up smiling with a dinner guest at six". Right. The recipes themselves are basically dressed up regular meals but one card has haunted me: Creamed Chipped Beef on Popovers.

Yes, that's right, SOS with the shingle being replaced by a popover.

For the record, I love chipped beef (dude, bechamel makes everything good). So I knew I would love this. And I did. But what got to me, as it does every time I make them, is how wonderful popovers can be. Why don't we make them more? I have no idea. It's super easy, can be sweet or savory and is strangely fascinating. I mean, the recipe is almost exactly the same as my favorite crepe batter, but because of the way it is cooked, it becomes a big, crusty, poofy pocket waiting to be filled.


1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 c. milk
2 eggs
1 c (140 g) all purpose flour
a good pinch of kosher salt

The only real key to this recipe is make sure your oven is good and hot when you put these puppies in, no skimping on the preheating, and make sure you give them the time to brown so they don't fall on you.

1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Grease up a muffin tin. Yes, popover pans exist, but I use a muffin tin that makes big muffins and it works out just fine.

3. Whisk up the eggs in a bowl until light and frothy.

4. Add everything else and whisk together until smooth. It's going to look like thin pancake batter. Don't be alarmed, that's how it is supposed to be.

5. Fill up muffin tins no more than half way. They will puff up significantly, so don't overfill them.

6. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then drop the temperature to 350 and bake another 20 minutes or so until well browned, crusty and crisp outside. Steam is what makes them puff, so don't be tempted to open the oven early! Better to check them after they have had some time at the lower temperature.

Let them sit a few minutes in the pan before popping them out on a rack. These are awesome with all sorts of butters or with soups and stews, and are available for parties. What more could a good hostess need?


Stella said...

Oh so awesome! I'll admit, I was kind of hoping some of your lard would end up in the popovers, but... Old timey cookbooks are the best! I have one called "the new American woman" and some of the recipes start out, "Have your servants prepare a brisk oven..." I think you need to make a 70s dessert next. Something with gelatin, obviously.

queenofsheba said...

I'm saving my lard for some scones, although I did grease the muffin tin with bacon fat.

I have a pastry brush just for bacon fat. That makes me so happy.