Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Poppin' Caps in your Puddin'

A two-post day! Wow.

I forgot to mention that last night E. and I made Yorkshire pudding. Yes, despite what you've heard, there is good English food out there (apologies, it's bash England week what with St. Patrick's day coming up and all), and yorkshire pudding is about the best of it.
I remember having a really good one in London in about 2002. There was a nice pub near my sister's place that, like all pubs in London, closes at 11 p.m. sharp (though I hear they're extending that to 12 now). The food was mostly unpalatable, and it was an especially high risk time for BSE (although you'd never know it by talking to the crowd I hooked up with the minute I hit the street there. "Have a steak! They're really good!" No thanks, but I'll let you buy me another beer, mate). In England they cook Yorkshire pudding the old fashioned way, in a sort of pie tin so that you get one huge pudding. This ain't the pudding your gramma makes out of a box either. It's salty, eggy, and floury. Matter of fact, add milk and butter to that and you've got all of the ingredients.

A big ol' trad English Yorkshire Pudding

I managed to get mine served with a circular pork sausage inside. It was awesome. When we were young and stupid and ate beef all the time, we would put pieces of beef inside the pudding and eat it like a sandwich. Now that I'm oh-so-grown up and don't eat beef much, I had the idea to cook them with a bit of lamb. To E.'s delight, this did not affect the plumping process at all, and the result was delicious. Of course, this is not a weight watchers' meal at all. I didn't eat between 4 and 10 and worked out for an hour and a half just to justify eating six of these puddings last night.

Now on to the criticism. I'm nothing if not a critic.

On the foodie blog Culinary Epiphanes, a sugar-coated romp through various baking procedures and clearly a halfway house for post-Mollie Katzen refugees who woke up one day and remembered that they actually liked butter before Ol' Moll Katz led them up the enchanted broccoli path, there was a discussion of what they termed "popovers". Now, as a budding linguist, and especially one who studies language change over time, dialects, and the like, I am perfectly willing to accept that this may be what the name for Yorkshire pudding is becoming in these here lower 48. However, in a bout of schoolmarmly "It's 'whom' not 'who'", I have to point out that the American nomenclature is not the correct, original one. Rather than thralling you with a diatribe on my opinions regarding the subject, I'll instead just reproduce what I wrote on the site:

Posted by Dr Five Pints @ 03/11/2005 07:15 PM PST
Using this recipe, these are actually mini-Yorkshire Puddings.
We made them this way (in the popover pan) my whole life, and
now as a grown-up I make 'em that way too. The traditional way
to grease them was to cook them beneath a beef roast and let the
fat drip down into whatever reservoir you would be using to cook
the puddings until it was 1/8 to 1/4 full. Since I hate beef (and since
no one cooks that way anymore), I just put a pat of butter in the
bottom of each. Or, if I'm cooking duck, about a teaspoon of duck fat.
They are MM-MM good. I forgot to mention...for the problem Julie
is having, the solution is simple. First, DO NOT open the oven, ever,
until they are done. The 30-minute rule is a fallacy. Do what you have
to do to make that oven window clean enough so that you can tell if
they're a-poppin' or not. Also, as with so many things, keep the batter
nice and cold until the minute you put it into the hot pan (yes, you should
heat the pan to melt the butter, please see my other comment).
Furthermore, an alternative cooking method (one my grandmother
doesn't approve of but I've been having quite a lot of success with) is to
skip the changing of the heat and just cook all the way through at 350-
375. Try these variations and you'll have success!

Sure, I wrote that entry in a much nicer tone than I wanted to. Sure, I'm dismayed that someone like me who hardly bakes at all can make this dish better than my mother, my grandmother, and all of these women on the Culinary Epiphanes site who apparently have nothing better to do than gab about baked goods. But what really bugs me is the etymology of the term for these hot little babies. It's like everyone thinks they were dreamt up in the American south by someone who was short on ingredients and had to feed the chillin's less paw not return with a hunk o' bear. It's like how people think Italy invented noodles, or that the French have always used tomatoes. Irksome. Some sources will call them "Popovers Yorkshire Pudding", some "Popover Puddings". I like to call them "Yorkies" but that makes people think of eating dog ("Oooh! Did you find the meaty treat in your Yorkie? Woof"). This woman is supposed to be an expert, and the photography on her site is excellent. So excellent, in fact, it shows how crappy her puddings are. They should never fall like in her picture. The best thing about the Culinary Epiphanes' coverage of these 'popovers' is that it has a photo of them as they should really be:

Image used strictly without permission.

But all dissing aside, these are some very good little popover-like puddings to make and enjoy. I guess I got hostile because this is considered a family specialty, rather like all those people who get all hot under the collar if I don't like their recipes on the Asian homestyle cooking list I'm on. I'm sure they have nuances that their grandmother taught them that I could never guess at. That's how I am with this dish--none of the recipes you find will convey to you what ol' granny Ryan passed down to me.


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