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, Wyoming
Thanks for visiting Sauce du Jour. Feel free to share a great recipe, leave a comment, or make me dinner. I'll bring hors d' oeuvres and the wine! To visit my website go to Thanks for visiting the Sauce ~Tammi

Nov 21, 2010

The Popover Queen Rules Again!

I’ve mentioned before that I have teensy touch of Food OCD. For the most part I manage to keep it in check...that is until I go to a great restaurant and eat something so divine that I can’t stop thinking about it. My brain temporarily stops pinging off the walls and gets serious about channeling Iron Chef Batali, and I think to myself, I bet I can make__________ (insert whatever divine food that I can’t stop thinking about). To make matters worse, The Big Guy is an enabler. He’ll say the words out loud, Honey, I bet you can make__________ (insert whatever food that he bets I can make).    
     That’s how my love/hate affair with the popover began. It was an obsession that lay dormant for years, finally erupting more than a dozen years after I had eaten my very first one, which by the way was at the airport in Billings, MT in 1977. Why I even remember that little tidbit of information probably qualifies me for a private room in the Dr. Phil house. Anyhow, more than a decade would pass before I would eat another one, but I never forgot the velvety bread...the doughy, hollow vat, perfect for holding melting butter.
I don’t recall where or when I ate the second popover of my life, but the dreaded thought that spewed from my brain was that I could learn to master the popover. 
     I bought the pans, pulled a recipe out of the Union Square CafĂ© Cookbook and went to work. Approximately an hour later I was staring into my oven and staring back at me were towers of golden brown, buttery perfection. The Big Guy and the kids approved and we became  popover junkies. I wowed my friends with my popover prowess and passed out popover pans along with my recipe, as gifts.
     Then one day I opened my oven door to find little brown, deflated, rock looking things glaring back at me. What the...??? No biggie right? Throw em out and make a new batch. No problemo for a Popover Queen like me, right? Well you're all dead wrong!
     I made batch after batch, night after night for a couple of weeks, and every night flat little bullets taunted me.  This was a serious food 9-1-1, so I enlisted The Girlfriends to make popovers to see if it was just me or if our whole nation was under a popover curse. The reports rolled in…their popovers were all popping over. I begged them to make another batch, just to be sure. Yep, sure enough, it was just me who had somehow managed to piss off the Popover Gods.
     I switched recipes and methods; hot oven, cold oven, preheated pans, cold eggs, room temp eggs, whole milk, low fat, electric mixer, hand whisk ~ but the varied methods all yielded the same drastic results. I kneeled by the oven and prayed that when I opened the door I would be welcomed by 12 perfect, golden pieces of doughy heaven, but time after time I was greeted by flat, hard lumps, looking like hell.
     When my family heard the scream, they knew to duck their heads and avoid immediate eye contact with me, lest they risk being hit with one of my flying popunders (as they had renamed them).
     I give! Uncle! I cried, while curled up in the fetal position in front of the stove. I sobbed to the Popover Gods, you win, I quit! 
     Picking myself up off the floor, I declared that "popover" was a four letter word and anyone caught mentioning the “P” word in our house would be put out on the street with nothing but my failed, miserable popover pans.
Note the ghostly whiffs. That's the Popover spirits leaving the building.
 It took a few  years for my popover shame to pass, and then one day out of the blue it happened again. While at some restaurant I ate a really great popover and thought that evil thought, you know the one…I bet I can make…The Big Guy, evidently tired of his popover exile, baited me with the dreaded words, I bet you can make a popover this good. No way was I touching that one, I thought. That ship has sailed!
     Until the other night that is. I was home alone when I got up the nerve to blow the dust off my popover pans. Inspired by a new (old) recipe from 1966, I decided to break some eggs. I put two pans in the oven, set my timer and poured myself a stiff drink, just in case I was going to need it later. Fifty minutes passed and I opened my oven doors to reveal 12 towering, golden brown, air-filled puffs of heaven! I shook my fist at the Popover Gods, Take that!, I yelled at them. The Popover Queen is back!

Before I got too cocky and posted this, I whipped up a second batch and sure enough they were thee most perfect popovers that I have ever made! Who'd a thunk that a recipe dang near as old as me would be the one to bring me out of the funk? It was originally printed in the NY Times, in 1966 by that Baking Goddess Maida Heatter, who is my hero for the moment and the first and REAL Popover Queen. God Bless ya, Ms. Heatter! Go to the "Misc. Recipes" tab at the top of this page to view it.

Nov 6, 2010

Confessions Of A Not So Secret Shopper

Attention Grocery Store Checkers: I am not a secret shopper and have never been one. However, it is no secret that I am a shopper, and considered by many to be a professional, but secret? Nooo. I came out of the closet many years ago, or at about the time my credit card limit exceed my age by at least three zeros. 
     Still, about once a month as I go through the checkout line, I get accused of being a secret shopper. The truth is, I don’t even know what a secret shopper looks like, and to my knowledge I have never met one but to the trained eye of a Checker, they must look exactly like me.
Some of the produce that's chillin in  in my fridge today--herbs, leeks, zucchini, poblanos, jalapenos, ginger, radicchio, shallots, shitakes, tomatos...
     I usually manage to slide a few benign items across the scanner before Checker Girl gets suspicious. Since my OCD causes me to categorize my groceries, all goes pretty smooth until she gets to my produce. It’s likely she will hold up a small head of radicchio and ask “is this thing a purple cabbage?”, at which time I have to make a split second decision whether to lie or not. If the next question is, (as she studies my leeks) “are these just really big green onions?”, I will play by the Two Strikes and You're Dumb Rule, and lie through my teeth and say, “yes, ma’am that’s a cabbage”, or “yep, thems some big ass green onions.”  If she rings up my shallots for garlic, I feel like I hit a homer and have to contain my urge to high five the Bag Boy!
The beginning of risotto
     It’s about then when the first eyebrow is raised, which is followed by an accusation of, “hey, are you a secret shopper?”    
     I will deny it and go about my business of reciting my produce in a monotonic way like I’m some weird vegetable-possessed alphabet teacher: arugula—crimini—ginger—habanero..
     Somewhere between the fennel and the tomatillos, Checker Girl will wave a parsnip under my nose and say, “are you sure you’re not a secret shopper?” 
Almost finished risotto
    Checker Girl will frantically look up the codes and eyeball me simultaneously to see if I am taking notes so that I can write her up in my next Secret Shopper Report. I may appear to be doing just that, but I’m really just making up my next grocery list, while she tries to find jicama under the 'h’s'. 
     “It’s under the 'J's,"  I say, tapping my pen on the homely root vegetable. 
 “I knew it! You are a secret shopper, aren’t you?” Checker Girl will accuse me again, pointing a handful of mushrooms at me. 
    “Shitake,” I bark.
     “Gezuntheit,” Checker Girl says, “you really should get that checked that out.”
    I lean in, like I'm about to share a real secret with her. "If you hurry,”  I tell her, “you can still catch that turnip truck."

This recipe is for a Risotto with Shitake Mushrooms, Leeks and Truffles.  Trust me when I tell you that there is not a black truffle within a 500 mile radius of me, so I finished this dish with truffle oil, which is the next best thing and about $100 per ounce cheaper.  What made this risotto special, was that the shitakes and onions were oven roasted rather than sauteed, which gave them great flavor and texture, and the leeks were simmered in heavy cream. Both were then added at the end. Oh, and the secret: do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget to go a little wild with that drizzle of truffle oil! Go to the "Soups-Salads-Sides" tab at the top of this page to view it.