Freshly made popovers. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Marlene Newell, who runs an excellent cooking forum called CooksKorner tested all the recipes for Ratio and Twenty. She’s a friend and excellent cook. One of her passions is Yorkshire pudding, in effect, a savory popover, which is how she bakes them (as above). I, too, make roast beef for Christmans dinner and Yorkshire pudding. I believe it’s critical to cook it in beef fat, for flavor, so I buy and render suet for this purpose. I’ve also poured the batter straight into the roasting pan which works great so long as there are no burnt bits (the pudding ripples and puffs like crazy; I then cut it to serve). I imagine the roasting pan method was how it would have originated, the batter cooking in the fat and meat juices in the roasting pan. But using a popover pan is a great way to cook them for a lot of people.

Marlene—and if you want to get a true sense of her as a cook, pay attention to the “if I must” comment, below—links this dish to spiritual stability in uncertain times. It’s a fabulous piece on the grounding power of food.—M.R.

Out with the Old, In with the New—But Don’t Touch my Yorkies!

by Marlene Newell

The holidays are almost upon us.  It’s a busy frantic time of year and this year was busier than usual for me.

Not only was I finishing up Ruhlman’s Twenty with Michael, but I was about to make the biggest move of my life.  From Oakville, Ontario, to Calgary, Alberta.  I was terrified, but hey, I did own a cowboy hat after all, and I’ve worn cowboy boots for as long as I can remember.  How bad could it be?  Well, it wasn’t bad,  but it was disorienting.  I couldn’t find anything, I didn’t know how to get to the grocery store, or anywhere for that matter, and I didn’t know anyone.  Plus I had to get used to cooking at high altitudes.

We headed back to Ontario for Canadian Thanksgiving where we partook of our traditional Thanksgiving meal, of Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, et cetera.  I was happy.  I was in familiar territory with familiar comforting food.  I don’t know about you, but we do the same meal for every holiday.  For Thanksgiving it’s Turkey, Easter is ham, and Christmas is always prime rib.  Always.  It’s a tradition that goes back to my dad, and with few exceptions, I’ve made Prime Rib and Yorkshire puddings for Christmas for the last 35 years or so, when I took over making Christmas dinner from my Dad.

Tradition is a wonderful thing isn’t it?  We count on it to keep us sane in a busy, upside down world.  Sure, things change. My family now consists of my son and husband, as my brother and mom passed on five years ago.  But through those changes, and even this move, some things remain the same. Decorating the tree with the ornaments we’ve collected over the years, that mean something special to us.   The stockings, stuffed just before we go to bed. Peameal bacon and eggs on Christmas morning. Always. And  the piece de resistance, the Prime Rib, roasted cream potatoes, a vegetable if I must, and Yorkshire pudding. You have to understand. My prime rib and yorkies are the most requested dish from family and friends. In fact, my best friend Barbara would happily skip the prime rib and eat all the yorkies if I let her. (I don’t, but I will make extra when she’s around.)  I was honoured when Michael chose to include them in Ruhlman’s Twenty.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Or so we hope.   This year, our tree didn’t fit.  It was too big.  So we had to get a smaller skinnier one.  I sort of freaked.  Everything was changing, my son was back east, we were spending Christmas in a strange place and now, I couldn’t even have my tree? What about my precious ornaments?  Would they fit? It all just sort of hit me then. It’s going to be different now. I want to go home. Oh wait, I am home. And then we got to talking about Christmas dinner. I started to outline the usual menu, (the only thing I change up is dessert and the veg usually), when my husband interrupted me.  “I think we should do something different this year” he said.

I stared at him. “What?” I thought to myself. “The past six months haven’t been different enough for you?”  I’d barely gotten over the tree and now he wanted to mess with another tradition?  But as I listened, it made sense.  My son would be here for Christmas and there would only be the three of us.  Ryan would be going back east the day after Christmas, and we would be heading to Vegas a day after that.  Did we really need a big meal, throwing out the leftovers since no one would be home to eat them?  So we came up with what may become a new tradition. Fondue, salad, rice pilaf and a yule log for dessert.  And I’m going to make Yorkies.  Because I can and because they remind me of my dad and because they are part of my past tradition. Because they comfort me.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t been the easiest person to live with the last few months.  I don’t do change well and we’ve had more than our share.  But in the end,  I’m ok with where we are.  The tree?  All of the ornaments that meant the most to us fit beautifully.  More importantly?  We still trimmed it together, Christmas music playing softly in the background.  Christmas dinner?  Well it will be new, but so is this adventure.  We will blend old and new and forge new memories. What won’t change is really the only thing that matters. We’ll be together, healthy and ready to face the new life we are making for ourselves here. So, Merry Christmas, and pass me a Yorkie, would you?

Marlene’s Yorkshire Pudding

  • 1 cup/140 grams all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 4 or 5 large eggs, enough to make 1 cup
  • 1 cup/250 milliliters whole milk
  • 6 teaspoons vegetable oil or beef fat drippings

Equipment

  • 1 six-well popover pan or 12-well muffin tin
  1. Sift the flour and mustard powder together into a large bowl.   Add the eggs and milk and blend on high speed with a hand mixer until fully incorporated.  Let the batter rest for 2 hours at room temperature, re blending now and then.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F./240 degrees C./gas 9
  3. Place one tsp of fat in each cup of a popover pan or half a tsp of fat in the well of each muffin cup.    Place the pan on a baking sheet and slide it into the oven to heat the oil when the oven is heating.    When the oven has reached temperature, reblend the batter, remove the pan and pour the batter into the cups , dividing it evenly and filling the cups three-fourths full.  Place the pan in the oven and turn on the light so you can watch them rise.  After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. and continue baking without opening the oven door, until the puddings are puffed and golden brown. 15-25 minutes depending on your oven.  Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 popovers of 12 small muffins; you can also bake it in 9×13-inch baking dish or in the beef’s roasting pan.

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© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved