Home on the Range

The pop-up stop

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Out to dinner recently, a popover popped onto my plate.

I hadn't been expecting a popover. I hadn't ordered a popover. Yet there it was, like one of those online pop-ups, obscuring the bread plate. I did the logical thing: I lunged for it.

The popover is a curious creature: crisp outside, creamy inside and hollow. It shares its straight-edged, hump-backed silhouette with the muffin, though it lacks crumb. It shares its egg-stoked height with the souffle, though it lacks fluff. Like the platypus, it deserves its own classification.

The popover owes its unique aerodynamics to thin batter, high heat and the narrow confines of a cup. Producing lift, rise and — as steam seeks escape — pop.

Apparently the popover is a descendant of Yorkshire pudding, a decidedly British contraption cooked under — and in — beef drippings. I suppose if I made a habit of dining in London, I wouldn't have been surprised by the dinner-pop.

I'm more accustomed to the early morning popover, all hot and creamy, bearing up under butter and jam. The savory pop — even the steakhouse special crowned with cheddar — confuses me.

Which is why, after I dispatched my popover, and asked after another, and did in that one too, I left. Following such extravagance, who wants to settle for a mere meal?


Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes
Makes: About 9

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon flour
2 eggs, at room temperature

Place a 12-cup muffin tin (or popover pan, if you've got one) on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide onto a rack set in the lower third of a cold oven. Heat to 400 degrees (engage an oven thermometer if you suspect insubordination).

Measure milk into a quart-size glass measuring cup. Zap about 20 seconds to bring up to room temperature. Whisk in 1 tablespoon melted butter, the salt and flour. Whisk in eggs.

Pull hot pan from the oven. Using a heat-proof brush, coat the cups with remaining melted butter. Pour in batter until cups are 3/4 full (if some cups remain empty, add a little water to those to protect pan). Return pan to oven.

Let popovers puff, undisturbed, until tops have popped and sides are crisp outside and creamy inside, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with butter and jam.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor e-mail her at leahreskin@aol.com
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