I had never heard of a popover until I went to college. There was a restaurant in town, just off-campus–the kind of place visiting parents would take their kids, usually with a small posse of friends tagging along for a free meal. The food was spiffed-up American, burgers and sandwiches and pastas and seafood. And every single item on the menu came with a mysterious side called a “popover,” a crusty brown breadlike balloon-thing, as big as my face, served on its own white plate with a little dish of apple butter.
Breaking into my popover was always the best part of the meal. The tickling anticipation as I picked it up, crisp and shaggy and light; the tiny crackle as I broke the surface and pulled it apart; the golden hollow inside, draped here and there with wattles of soft, stretchy dough. The best way to eat the thing, of course, was with a generous spread of sweet apple butter. It’s one of the things I miss most about college–that, and having four or five equally blissed-out friends to share the experience with.
I had always assumed that popovers were elaborate and time-consuming to make. But, as I’ve recently learned, they’re dangerously easy. Four ingredients, a well-greased muffin pan, and just a tick or two over 30 minutes. That’s it. The popovers go into the oven as unremarkable pools of batter, and come out as great golden puffs, rising crazily out of the pan. Anywhere bread lives, these airy morsels are welcome–though, of course, I’m still partial to a dollop of apple butter.
These are quicker than quickbread, easier than dinner rolls, lighter and less guilt-inducing than almost any other kind of bread I can think of. They don’t even need a preheated oven. I can now go from zero to popover in just over 30 minutes–nostalgia be damned.
And now…from diabetes to cornbread. (How’s that for a segue?)
After a chilly, dry winter, the rain has finally arrived in Northern California. This is the kind of weather that fleece blankets were made for. Sam has been begging me for weeks to make chili, and it finally felt like the weather gods were giving me a directive.
But with chili this good, we needed something to mop the bowl. And my trusty cast-iron skillet felt due for a baking workout. Helllllooooo, cornbread.
It’s Dare to Eat a Peach’s first Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. As my sister pointed out, it’s one of the few times in a year when we can be reasonably sure everyone else is doing the same thing we are. It’s a quintessentially American holiday, without the jingoism and the omnipresent hot dogs of, say, July 4th. It’s a pause for breath before the arrival of the juggernaut Christmas–a welcome moment of inclusiveness for heathens like me. It’s a celebration of food, family, and the remarkable bounty of the planet we live on. It’s a holiday transported far from its murky and oppressive historical roots–a welcome shift, I think–and, so far, the only major one that has stubbornly resisted commercialization. There are no Thanksgiving jingles in stores, and for that alone it is a glorious day.
But as a food blogger, I have to acknowledge something: Thanksgiving is driving us crazy.
Well, not unbearable. In fact, pretty damn appealing.
Fact is, there are days when I feel compelled to do fancy things with food. And then there are days when it’s ungodly hot outside, and I’m staring down the Workweek from Hell, and standing over the stove with an elaborate plan and a spatula sounds like torture.
Guess which kind of day I’ve been having lately?
Okay, let’s be honest. Valentine’s Day is a marketer’s dream. Red, pink, chocolate, hearts, Cupids with chubby dimpled buttocks–it’s all very sweet, and entirely manufactured. I’ve long been a cynic about Valentine’s Day, far more so than about any of the other Hallmark Holidays. For me, the real magic comes the day after, when chocolate goes on sale.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something inherently lovely in the day. Showing loved ones a little extra care and devotion is never a bad thing. And if there has to be a designated calendar day to remind us of that, then so be it. For me, Valentine’s Day is about genuine displays of warmth and affection, whether it be for romantic partners or friends, parents or siblings or children.
And when I want to lavish someone with love, I feed them. (This should come as no surprise to…well, anyone.) To me, it’s the ultimate homemade gift: a special meal of favorite ingredients, prepared by hand and served with care. As The Boyfriend said, “It’s like flowers, but I can eat it.”