Recipe for Popovers. And preparing for a move to London.
In three short months, three VERY short months, we will be packing up and saying goodbye to our family home in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. My husband, three children and I are moving back to London. I have lived there before, I met my husband there, our son was born there, and all three children, and my husband, have dual American-British citizenship. We spend summers and holidays there. Wherever we are in the world we watch rugby and football (soccer) and we drink Pimm’s Cups and Gin & Tonics (Gins & Tonics?). We have friends there, I use cookbooks from there. I prefer the metric system for recipes. I am a member of The Electric House and I have just transferred to the Junior League of London. The movers are scheduled. We’ve booked the date to sell our cars (anyone interested in a 2008 Mini Cooper S?). So I am all set. But I’m not.
You see, the trouble is that once you leave your home country and move to a new one you never again feel satisfied. Once you realize that work can be location agnostic, and that you can make friends and figure out grocery stores, public transportation, and weird cultural quirks like saying, “bye bye bye then bye” when you hang up the phone instead of just, “BYE!” then you sort of figure the world is your playground and, well, what do you want to do in it?
That has been our challenge. Over the past 9 years we have lived in London, Switzerland, Colorado, New York and New Orleans. We have asked ourselves, each other, friends, family and once, after a few too many drinks, a random kid on the subway. Where should we live? The question haunting us is, “What do we give up? What are we trading to gain?” Schools are better in New York City but so darn expensive and the competition is fierce. In London schools are less expensive, there is incredible history, Europe, and Nick’s family, but the houses are so small and soooooo expensive, and I have to admit that it is not the sunniest place I’ve ever lived. New Orleans is where our best friends are and where we have a family home that we fully renovated over the course of three years. We are incredibly involved in the city AND it is where I grew up, where my dad lives, and where my love of spicy foods, parades and costuming was born. However the crime is high and the city has a lot of challenges. So what is the right answer? What do we go for? Quality of life? Worldliness? Education? And once we make this move to London won’t we be having the same existential debate, albeit with nicer accents?
In my saner moments I understand that there is no “correct” answer. Everything in life is a trade-off and the key to contentment is in accepting that trade off and relishing in the benefits of whatever life we choose at any given time. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to move and the lifestyle that allows us to pack up and go, even if it does get harder with each passing year. For now, for the next three short months, I will straddle the divide between New Orleans and London. I’ll watch as New Orleans presents herself as more beautiful than ever before. Her rainstorms will be more romantic, her heatwaves liberating and her humidity comforting. At the same time I will monitor the UK Instagrammers I follow and anticipate being there amongst them shortly drinking tea, indulging at Borough Market, walking casually by the stunning Houses of Parliament, ubiquitous black cabs and Union Jack flags like I’ve always belonged. For the next three months I’ll live in this middle ground where I love both places and every day moves me just one notch closer to one and away from the other. I will also get used to cooking some new things. Starting with a staple of the English Sunday Roast: The Yorkshire Pudding, known also as the Popover. If you aren’t familiar with either term think of either savory puffy pancakes or puffy, airy, crisp savory muffins. That’s simple, right? In the UK they are usually flavored with beef drippings by baking them under the roast you are cooking in the oven. I have also seen them with a blend of ingredients added like corn and cheese or chives and bacon for a more interesting edition.
Anyway, Popovers are rumoured to be extremely difficult to make and when I announced that I’d be whipping up a batch for dinner with friends on Sunday, Nick looked understandably skeptical. Especially when I consulted only one cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipe — not even a British cookbook! Turns out Cooks Illustrated published a full essay on what Popovers are and why they work: at issue that they have no leavening agent but they rise up 2-3x their starting height. The answer has to do with steam rising and creating a bubble that the batter traps. The key is in using a baking vessel that is deeper than it is wide, that way the bubble is forced up to the top of the Popover. That is the science behind it and it sounds scary but the bottom line is that they are super easy to make, the batter keeps for several days, and they are a really fun addition to an otherwise stogy meal of roasted meat and vegetables. The batter is basically pancake batter that you pour into a preheated popover pan. In the end the Cook’s Illustrated recipe was a great start but I did choose to add more salt, more butter and cut down on the cooking time to make them taste more like what I am used to in the UK.
I also tried adding all of the ingredients to a Ball Jar and shaking it to mix them. That turned out to be a little messy and the batter was kind of lumpy, but it did work and was also a handy way to make the batter and store it for a couple of days, having Popover batter ready-to-go at the drop of a black top hat.
So this is the beginning of good things to come. Easy. Interesting. Tasty.
That sounds like I made the right trade off.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- Preheat oven to 450F / 230C with the popover pan IN the oven.
- Whisk eggs and milk together in a large bowl until well blended. In a separate bowl whisk flour and salt together. Then add the flour mixture to the egg and milk mixture.
- Add the melted butter and blend until all ingredients are incorporated. (Mixture should resemble pancake batter). Let sit at room temperature for up to two hours - or you can refrigerate it for up to two days, then take it out of the refrigerator and bring it up to room temperature before using it).
- Pour the batter into the preheated popover pan pouring it just over halfway up the side of each compartment.
- For mini popovers, turn the oven down to 425F and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven while baking.
- If you are using large popover pans, bake at 450F for 20 minutes, then turn the heat to 350F and bake for another 10 minutes. Do not open the oven until it is time to take them out.
- Serve warm.
- Makes 14 mini popovers (as shown in the photos here) or 10 large popovers.