Monday, October 03, 2011


Does a little gnome live inside there? Maybe.

Yay for chilly weather! Yay for rain and woodstove fires and soup, soup, soup, soup! Yay for fall, except for how the leaves are more just dropping and brownly rotting than doing their glamorous flaming-colors thing! We spent the weekend hiding out under lots of blankets and eating lots of popcorn and drinking lots of tea and playing lots of board games. At least the children and I did. Michael was reuning with his youth, back in St. Louis. Also, seeing his ex not-girlfriend, the one on whom he had a crush through all of junior high, and I was very jealous. She probably still looks great in her blond braids and field hockey skirt, while I have turned into a kind of solo version of Planet of the Apes. Sigh.

It is hard to take a picture of the weather, I find. It reminds me of that great book Painting the Wind.
But the kids, the cat, and I, despite missing Michael, which we did extremely much, were in what Birdy calls “cozy heaven.” It was all we could do to leave the house, but finally, just before dinner last night, we bundled up and headed out into the soggy world to see what was going on out there. And what was going on out there was mushrooms. I have a field guide from the library, and let me tell you how different poisonous mushrooms look from edible mushrooms: not at all different. I could not successfully identify one single mushroom, and it was not for lack of squatting in the sodden pine needles and flipping confusedly through my book. We saw lots of the mushrooms that Birdy calls “fairy umbrellas” (“They must be so glad to have them in all this rain!” she says with absolute seriousness.) We saw mushrooms that looked like piles of white dog poo, mushrooms that looked like coral, like a little orange turkey wattle, like a yellow penis, like decorative wood-grain shelves scaling the trunk of a tree. We saw mushrooms no bigger than dots, on stems the width of a hair, and Birdy called these “Baby fairy parasols.” Still, I could figure out nothing.

Fear not (Mom): I wasn’t actually going to eat anything. While it’s true that I do eat puffballs and morels, it’s only because they are the mushrooms that nothing else looks anything like, and because the puffballs in our back yard grow to the size of basketballs and I simply cannot say no to so much free food. But what I really want to do is go walking with a some kind of a fungal mentor who can show me the ropes. “Oooh,” I kept saying, squatting over this or that specimen. “This is probably edible. Oh, wait, unless it’s this. . .  Avenging Angel. Hm.” Birdy was very nervous, despite my reassurances that we weren’t going to have any special Omelets of Death or Straight-to-Heaven Stirfrys for dinner.

Of course not. Because it’s soup weather! Soup and popovers, a meal that I love. From the time the popover-shaped light bulb goes off over your head to the time you are pulling the pan from the oven a single half an hour will pass, which works well for me. Popovers are eggy and delicious, custardy-soft inside and buttery-crisp outside, and very, very cheap to make. They also make great scoopers for soup (for the hoop-soup-snoop group), although they’re great with jam for breakfast. The only possible tricky thing is the issue of the pan. My dear old friend Ali gave me this popover pan years ago, and much as I dislike single-function kitchen gear, I do love it. They rise up high and glorious, and they never stick. That said, I used to make them in a muffin tin, and it went okay, though they stuck sometimes. I have heard of using well-buttered custard cups, and I’m interested in that as well. Oh wait—the only other problem is that they very, very occasionally don’t puff up. “Perhaps there’s a draft in your oven,” my mother would say, Britishly, and that would seem to explain it.

A note: The enthusiasm over the last post makes me a) love you, and b) think I should call this blog “Pizza Toast.” And every week I publish the recipe for pizza toast.

Makes "12"
Active time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes (plus 10 minutes to heat the oven)

These are easy and good, and if I weren’t outvoted on this issue, I would snip fresh chives and marjoram into the batter, which is how I love them best. Annoyingly, the recipe actually usually makes only 11 popovers, no matter how stingy I think I’m being as I pour the batter.

2 eggs
1 cup milk
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
3 tablespoons salted butter

Begin by preheating the oven to 450, then place a nonstick 12-well muffin tin on a middle rack to heat for five or so minutes while you mix the batter. Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, and salt until it’s all mostly mixed (a few lumps are fine). Now cut the butter into 12 slivers, pop one piece into each well of the hot muffin tin, and return the tin to the oven until the butter is melted and foamy. Fill each cup half full with batter (use all the batter), then bake for 15-20 minutes (don’t open the oven door to peek before then) until the popovers are puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

You have to admit that this is not a lot of ingredients.

And the batter is not overly attractive.

But check that out! Alchemy. Quick! Rush them to the table while they're still glorious and puffy!

Ben scoops up the 7-bean soup that I was developing for ChopChop. More on that soon. I topped it with cheese, and it was delicious, if a little bit like being a commercial for Silly String.

I haven't seen the back of her head since she got that hoodie.  Birdy Wan Kenobi.

Ah, candlelight.

I'm not sure why I took this picture. Maybe just to lure Michael back from St. Louis with my man hands.

Yes, sometimes things deflate and get soft, and it's sad, but not that big a deal, and definitely nobody's fault.


  1. Anonymous1:32 PM

    I've been wanting to send a comment your way for a few weeks now - to say "I hear you" in your melancholy, and also to tell you that I was the one who searched "Catherine Newman freeing peaches". It was, of course, a typo but it made me laugh thinking of you setting free the peaches (or finding peaches to be very freeing - not sure).
    Finally am writing today though, for the novelty of being the first to post and to laugh at your deflated-popover acceptance.
    Happy Fall, Catherine!

    ~Sarah in Nova Scotia

  2. Colleen1:42 PM

    I love popovers!! I haven't had them in years but you better believe we are having them tonight. It's rainy again in Maryland and cold so soup and popovers sounds great. I never knew they were so easy to make. Thanks Catherine!

  3. Awww, your man-handed, planet of the apes, semi-sadness me laugh. Sorry about that:(
    I love popovers! My family loves popovers! They're my favorite with roasted chicken. They work fine in custard cups. I do spray them with Bakers Joy spray, though.

  4. Anonymous1:45 PM

    "Yes, sometimes things deflate and get soft, and it's sad, but not that big a deal, and definitely nobody's fault."
    Bwahahahahaha! Gotta love a good ED joke@

  5. Next time, snap a picture of the penis mushroom for the blog.

  6. Julie4:05 PM

    I'm taking my laptop downstairs right now to make these to go with our soup for dinner! I've never made popovers, but you've made it look so easy - how can I resist?!

  7. dale in denver5:11 PM

    Michael chose YOU. He married YOU. He fathered and raises two beautiful children with YOU. He understands the when and the why of every single one of your wrinkles and sags - even caused a few - and no doubt cherishes every one of them. Blonde braid field hockey skirt has got nothing on you.

    And now for something completely different. These look awesome and I can't fathom any excuse not to make them. None. Question - why do you cut the butter into 12 slivers when you apparently only need 11? ha ha

  8. canadian fan5:37 PM

    Please go outside RIGHT NOW and take pictures of the dog poop and penis mushrooms. PLEASE -it was the ED reference that made me think to ask ..... And the popovers will be on the menu for tomorrow.

  9. Anonymous6:11 PM

    I love that I came home a bit sad, thinking about what to make for dinner to go with our leftover casserole and thought "popovers" and then I decided to procrastinate and check your blog. Low and behold - Popovers!! Thanks for the smile!!

  10. We love popovers in my house but I am not sure my children would accept them with soup unless I served jam or strawberry butter at the same time. I always pierce mine when they come out of the oven to prevent them from deflating.

  11. mrs.craig9:10 PM

    I think Pizza Toast is a PERFECT name for your blog! :))

  12. I feel like I've lived under a rock for never having heard of popovers, much less a popover pan. They sound great though, so I'm adding them to my list of things to try.
    I too want to see the penis mushrooms. We don't get a lot of mushroom variety here, but last year we did have columned stinkhorns in our yard (it took a lot of googling to find what they were) and those were pretty interesting.
    I'm sorry you've been feeling so melancholy. I hope the popovers and penis mushrooms helped lighten your mood.

  13. I've never made popovers, but the recipe is eerily similar to my German Pancake recipe! Pretty much the same, but pour all the batter into an 8 or 9 inch round baking pan (cake pan?) and bake for 20 min. Serve with syrup :)

    HAHAHA my word verification is 'poopt'. My inner 12 year old is DYING!

  14. I heart popovers, and now I will be making them for breakfast for certain...
    Have to ask, have you seen any "dog vommit fungus" (which isn't actually a fungus but a slime mold!!!) cause that's the sort of thing you would see and write about, though you may not have even known about it until I just told you, so now you'll have to go find some and write about it... oh joy!

  15. Angela4:51 AM

    There's a DRAUGHT in your oven ;) Are popovers a kind of Yorkshire Pudding? Yours Britishly!

  16. Anonymous7:36 AM

    popovers are delicious! and one of my absolute favorite memories of childhood.

  17. There are way fewer mycologists out there identifying fungi. Maybe it's a new calling.

    I love popovers. My cousin Cindy makes them often. She has the right pan.

  18. Robin8:15 AM

    Imagine my amusement when the article linked below was in today's Washington Post; it's called "D.C.'s Mushroom Mardi Gras: Eat at Your Peril," or something like that. When I saw the reference to one called "the devil's phallus," I knew I had to share. I don't see much that will really help you decide what to eat, but enjoy anyway:

  19. Anonymous9:16 AM

    Hey - that last shot of the deflated popovers looks like...

  20. These are like little tiny "dutch baby" pancakes; remember the recipe you wrote for those? About michael tossing the butter in the oven into the preheated cast-iron skillet and then closing the door really fast? Anyway. That recipe made me buy a cast iron skillet, which I now use at least once a week for something.

  21. First, I have to thank you all over again for the cider cream pork recipe which I refound to my delight on Sunday and which we enjoyed ridiculously last night. And might again tonight. Or at least one of us will and I get home first.

    Second, the muffin tins: just this weekend I was making muffins and for nostalgia's sake, used my mother's muffin tins from when I was a girl. I knew that food sizes were/are getting larger in this country but I had no idea by how much. A "new" recipe for 12 muffins easily made 24 in the muffin tins from my childhood. So now I have to do a popover experiment to see if I can get 12!

  22. Christy12:14 PM

    So, I just had to tell you I searched "Catherine Newman Pizza dough" and made it yesterday. My husband who is not a big pizza guy exclaimed (more than once) "this is the best pizza I've ever had. No really babe. It doesn't even taste like pizza!" And I can't wait to make them again because I could have let them rise a little more and I overworked the dough a little. So next time they'll be even better! His had your 6 minute sauce, anchovies, mozerella cheese, portabella mushrooms, tomatoes and basil. Mine hard garlic olive oil, portabellas, tomatoes, cheese, and basil. Seriously. Unbelievable. (And how I wish I'd found this when my step-son was still home and could live on pizza. And is an extremely picky eater.)

  23. I love popovers!! I also loved your Pizza Toast post which I just read because I've fallen behind my blog reading a bit, and I LOL'd about your comment on the kids being in a never-ending production of Oliver. Mine do the same thing when I serve them a really delicious, non-nutritious dinner they call "Snackville." I may have to add Pizza Toast to the repertoire.

  24. mrs.craig4:23 PM

    I was so excited about your new blog name ;) that I failed to mention I've been making your popovers since the recipe was published in WONDERTIME. Oh, how I miss that marvelous magazine! It was like no other... I'm so grateful I discovered you there.

    Thanks for the wonderful recipe! I made them today to go with some leftover chili and soup. Perfect for this rainy fall day! <3

  25. melissa10:08 PM

    I'm a little sad that I wasn't the first to see the connection between popovers (which I swear I'll make any day now) and our favorite weekend breakfast, "puffy pancake." But now I get to feel all reaffirmed in my cleverness -- other people think so, too! So, popovers are really just a way to work puffy/German pancake/Dutch babies into dinner, without calling it breakfast-for-dinner? Splendid. Sign us up over here. Happy fall, in all its damp, melancholy glory.

  26. Aaargh! We recently moved, and after I read this post I went and searched crazily throughout my house, and then remembered that I gave away my popover pan when we were "streamlining" for packing. I'm sure (at the time) I thought, "when will I ever make popovers?" or some such thing, and then you go ahead and post this, and all I can think now is "why am I not making popovers all the time?" and of course I have no pan. Waah. Maybe I'll try the custard cups.

  27. OK, since my family and I are such geeks I had to comment . . . We are members of the New Jersey Mycological Association which sponsors mushroom forays from spring through fall in which we walk in the woods with mushroom experts who can (usually) tell us what we're looking at. Great geeky fun! There is probably a similar group somewhere in Mass.

  28. Anonymous10:31 AM

    Thanks for the laugh, and for the information about mushrooms, my favorite food. I love your blog, maybe even more now that I know you have man hands like me. Poor flaccid popovers. I'll eat them anyway!

  29. Oh my goodness! My girls and I just pulled a pan of 24 mini popovers out of the oven (that was the only non stick muffin pan I have) and are devouring them with jam and powdered sugar as I type (well, I'm technically taking a break). Tastes just as good as my moms Yorkshire Pudding! Thanks!!

  30. Hello,

    I have to tell you that popovers is the new black in my household. They go with anything!

    Thanks for the wonderful and easy recipe!

  31. Oh, Catherine.

    And I quote, "Yes, sometimes things deflate and get soft, and it's sad, but not that big a deal, and definitely nobody's fault."

    yes, sometimes they do. :) My word verification fits (prosad)

  32. ok, here's something that will make you happier. Pretend you can't eat gluten for a month, actually not eating any gluten and then decide that you can have it again and everything in the world will be so heavenly. I am trying to figure out how the world will ever be the same. Maybe I can figure out a way for gluten free popovers but I doubt it. Anyway, sometimes being sick or having a hard thing, then that thing going away or getting better really does make me so very content and happy with my life.

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