Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
~ Harriet Van Horne
I hadn't made popovers in a couple years and was craving them last week. Having just started a corned beef glazing in the oven, I thought "I think I'll whip up some cheddar popovers to go with dinner." Sounds harmless enough, doesn't it? Well, this is where I really got my blonde on. There are a couple of secrets to making popovers "pop." One of them is a hot oven and another is, for the first 20 minutes of cooking, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.
So, naturally I crank up the oven to 450 degrees and stick my newly filled popover pan in there, then sit back and lick my chops. Wrong! Thus began my epic fail. Ten minutes in, I smell smoke. 15 minutes in and a haze is looming below the kitchen ceiling. I can see that the corned beef glaze is beginning to burn. I start wringing my hands. After all, I CAN'T open the oven door...that would be breaking the cardinal rule of popover baking. And I'm jonesing for my cheddar pops! I peer in the window of the oven. I can't see much, because it's dirty. The middle rack was up a notch so I could fit both items in the oven and the popovers were working their magic, but were also now precariously close to the top oven element. Sort of starting to burn, I think. Or is that just grime and soot on the window?
|What to do?! What to do?!|
I had to break the cardinal rule, may the popover gods smite me. Haze was beginning to fill the house. The smoke alarms were going off. When I opened the oven door, an acrid cloud of smoke billowed out into my face, burning my eyes and temporarily blinding me. I'm bent on saving those popovers, damn it! So I grab the corned beef quick to get it out of there and slam the oven door! I feel a tingle and look. Somehow in the mayhem I had burned the skin off a two-inch strip of my forearm, leaving a white stripe where my meager tan had been. It didn't hurt yet....wasn't bleeding...I'd deal with that later. I really should know better. Really. But I have a theory that the blonde gene is dominant and occasionally surfaces, tempting me with stupid ideas, taking over and making me do blonde things, such as backing my new car into immovable objects like other cars, trees and curbs, and testing the sharpness of knives with my finger (OK, that was a long time ago).
The corned beef didn't look too bad. A little black on the corners where the glaze burned. I could call it Candied Corned Beef (Candy Corn Beef?) My primary concern was the popovers. They were not happy. Definitely starting to shrink. It reminded me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz where after the house falls on the witch her toes and feet wither and curl up then retreat under the house. Ugh. Not good. Not pretty. Definitely not blog-worthy. But not too bad if you like burnt cheddar, which, oddly enough, I do. I even got a "Good cheesy bun-thing, Mom" out of Keith. I'll take it.
So here we are. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I knew I would be making the popovers this week. This time with no fire hazards competing for oven space. I would give them my full attention and devotion....coaxing them to pop their little heads off. And to make it interesting, I would compare the ages old "Never Fail Popover" recipe to the box mix for Traditional Popovers from Stonewall Kitchen.
You know, they're actually easy when you do them right. Just a few things to remember.
1. Preheat oven AND popover pan
2. Have eggs at room temperature and milk warmed on stove.
3. DO NOT open the oven door for 20 minutes.
If you follow these basics, you end up with the unique and delicious popover. Inexpensive, but delightful. Crispy on the outside, crepe and souffle-like on the inside. I like them made with cheddar for dinner, but they are fabulous with butter and jam, honey or lemon curd for breakfast.
My introduction to them was 10 years ago at Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park http://www.thejordanpondhouse.com/. There, serving popovers is a tradition that dates back 130 years. It's a charming place that has outdoor seating overlooking Jordan Pond. The dining experience was so unique, I've never forgotten it, and have been a popover lover ever since. If you end up anywhere near Bar Harbor in Maine, it should be on your short list.
|Never Fail Popovers Recipe|
|Stonewall Kitchen Traditional Popover Mix|
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk, heated on stove to warm (but not hot enough to cook the eggs)
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place popover pan or muffin tin in oven while preheating. Break eggs into a mixing bowl; add milk, flour and salt. Mix well with whisk. Remove popover pan from oven and quickly brush cups liberally with butter. Fill well-buttered muffin pans ¾ full. Place in oven on middle or middle-lower rack and shut door. DO NOT OPEN DOOR. At 20 minutes, turn oven down to 375 and cook popovers an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until puffed and dark golden brown. Makes 6.
To make cheese popovers, just take a cup of cheddar or grated Parmesan and sprinkle popovers before baking.
*Disclaimer: The author of this blog does not have any relationships with brands, companies or advertising agencies. Any mention of brands are purely the authors own opinion.