Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Yorkshire Popover

As you may or may not know, 10 years ago September, I snagged me a Brit. In the early days of our marriage I not only struggled to make something edible in the kitchen every day but I took it upon myself to attempt my new husband’s favorite dishes to help him with his homesickness. The hardest part of this was learning how to make a Yorkshire Pudding from scratch. After several years of metric conversions, scorching, burning, underbaking and periodically setting the oven on fire, I finally accomplished a yorkshire pudding like mum used to make… of course it was at this point I discovered my Mum-in-Law, like most other women in Great Britain it seems, used the ready to bake yorkshire pudding available from the grocer’s freezer!

Anyway, I was watching one of my favorite shows, 5 Ingredient Fix, on Food Network this morning and throughout the episode Claire kept interchanging yorkshire pudding and popover which irritated me enough to want to blog about it. According to Culinary giant, James Beard, the resemblance between Yorkshire pudding and popovers is coincidental, because the popover has gone through several changes before becoming the recipe that it is now. Although they are related, there is a difference between yorkshire pudding and popovers, and there's a lot of misconception involved with these members of the puff pastry kingdom.

“Popovers rise, yorkshire puddings don’t” is something I've read several times. So yeah, that's why if you fill the tin or tins more than halfway with batter your oven doubles as a fireplace! “Popovers are made with the batter going into individual cups while yorkshire pudding batter goes directly into the roasting pan.” Traditionally yes, this is true, however in recent years most people have started to make individual sized yorkshire puddings rather than one large one. My favorite misconception is mired with "Ugly American" syndrome, "using beef drippings is purely an American invention and distinguishes the popover from the Yorkshire pudding." Sorry compatriots but our neighbors across the pond have been using beef drippings in pastry for a couple of centuries now.

Popover batter tends to involve herbs and many people like to grease individual cups with butter instead of drippings or oil. Both Yorkshire pudding and popovers can be made sweet and eaten as a dessert or as a side drizzled, or drowned whatever your preference, with a savory gravy.

Ok, so how do you make the perfect yorkshire pudding without burning your house down or sending dinner guests running for the nearest bathroom? Check this out:


1 egg
4 oz plain flour
4 oz milk
4 oz cold water
drippings or vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 425F. Just cover the bottoms of each cup with the drippings/oil and heat in the oven. Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. Drop the egg in the well then add half the milk and half the water and mix together with a wooden spoon. Then add the other half of the milk and water and stir until the batter is smooth and has bubbles in it. The pan drippings/oil should be hot at this point so carefully pour the batter about halfway into each cup and return to the oven for 45 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR FOR THE FIRST 30 MINUTES AS THE PUDDINGS COULD COLLAPSE. Puddings should be golden brown, have risen above the cups like a popover except with an indentation in the center. Serves 6.

A couple of personal notes. First I’ve yet to be able to get a decent yorkshire pudding when using chicken drippings. I’ve yet to try beef drippings but I get the best results with vegetable oil. Also, for the past 8 years I’ve been using regular muffin and cupcake tins to make yorkshire puddings and while these haven’t been too bad, I’ve found investing in a popover tin helps make some great puddings so if you don’t have one already definitely put that on your gift list this year! If you’re really tight for money the aluminum disposable tins are doable however you do get a better quality in solid metal baking tins. I’ve yet to try the silicone cups that are all the rage now but if you have please let everyone know what the outcome was.

That’s about it for this week. I hope to list my newest creation, the Irish Coffee candle, by Wednesday on Etsy so keep watching my shop,, for the unveiling! Have a great week, here’s hoping March comes in like a lamb. Chow for now!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mac 'n' Cheese for sophisticated adults

A few days ago I attended a nice pot luck luncheon with some very nice ladies. The theme was Valentine's Day (conflicting schedules called for a belated luncheon) and the tables were all decked out with pretty pink and red heart shaped paper plates and napkins on tablecloths sporting happy light red hearts while we sipped an addictive "cocktail" of ginger ale and cranberry juice.

The attendants were mostly elderly women and, knowing there would probably be health concerns and palates that wouldn't exactly appreciate bold flavors or spices, it took me almost a week to figure out what my culinary contribution would be. My first choice was spanikopita or a blend of spinach, herbs and feta cheese wrapped inside filo dough. I could eat them all day and usually love to make it, but for once, I just couldn't be bothered with the mess and hassle of dealing with filo dough. I also seriously considered this recipe for Citrus Hot Chocolate but had no way of transporting it and I had the feeling keeping it warm might be an issue. Finally, I decided on this recipe calling itself Penne Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce.

The name itself is a bit misleading as the tomatoes are boiled with the pasta for 2 minutes and the cream sauce is poured on top. However, this is a very simple and easy recipe that's a joy to throw together! The resulting sauce gives the impression you've been hovering over a hot stove for hours simmering a classic bechamel sauce rather than just a few minutes. As with any macaroni and cheese recipe I've come across, I don't get as much sauce as I would like. Of course, growing up munching on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese I love my elbow macaroni to drip and ooze velvety cheese. I don't know if that's technically wrong, but I like it and all the training in the world won't change my mind!

Anyway, this recipe needs few adjustments. I mean, it's terrific as is and the taste is fantastic but I wasn't able to find the shredded Italian-style four-cheese blend the recipe called for. I did, however, find a nice six cheese blend by Sargento involving Parmesan, Mozzarella, smoked Provolone, Asiago, Romano and Fontina cheeses. Not realizing I'd run out of dried basil I used Italian herb seasoning instead. If you like your mac 'n' cheese ooey gooey like I do, double the amount of cheese and milk but stir them in one package and can at a time to make sure everything melts and blends the way it should. Finally, I had to resist the urge to throw in some chopped Prosciutto because of the palates involved so I don't know how it would turn out but I don't imagine it would hurt the flavor especially for those of you who like little pieces of ham or bacon in your mac 'n' cheese. If you decide to try this, go a little at a time, stir and taste as too much might overwhelm and kill the dish. Oh and while I'm thinking of it while this dish doesn't need it at all, if you absolutely insist in some kind of crunchy topping on your mac 'n' cheese, try some Italian seasoned bread crumbs, or since we're trying to be sophisticated here, why not add Panko and pop it in the oven for a few minutes.

Well, that's enough of my ramblings. I finished that candle order for my friend that I mentioned a few weeks back (see pic below) and I've started working on a few new creations for Spring.

Hopefully next week I'll have pictures and prices of Orange Cream Sherbet candle and just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Irish Coffee candle! I also hope to have news of placement with a store featuring crafts and home decor here in Maine. So, stay warm and dry everyone, winter is nearly at an end. Chow for now!

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Elegant Valentine's Day on a Budget

So you want to have a memorable Valentine's Day but you've been pinching so many pennies that Abe Lincoln slaps you every time you open your wallet? Never fear, you can still have a memorable evening.

First, I have to say after a visit to Walmart yesterday, they have some pretty decent looking roses in some nice arrangements. Now depending on your significant other you could spring for the dozen roses, the rose bouquet or the single solitary rose. Personally I think a dozen roses is a little cliche and less meaningful than a single rose but if your SO thinks anything less is cheap, stick with what you know.

Next, music. You can kill two birds with one stone on this one. Now back in the age of dinosaurs a surefire way to show someone how much you love them was to make a mix tape featuring either your SO's favorite songs, songs that marked significant moments in your relationship or songs that made you think about that person. These days I guess you could burn a cd to give to the person after you listen to it through dinner or set up an IPod/MP3 playlist.

Now, what to do for dinner? My favorite has always been Fish Papillote. It's light, healthy, tastes great and involves festive paper hearts! Here is a great recipe I came across recently for Mahi Mahi en Papillote. The prep is a bit more involved than the usual papillote I've done but it looks to be worth it. For something a bit more simple there's this recipe which involves fish, lemon, white wine and asparagus.

Now that dinner's out of the way what's for dessert? Fondue seems to be making a comeback but can be messy and expensive (good melty cheese can start at $4 a wedge and sorry but Velveeta just doesn't cut it). Instead I suggest an old reliable favorite, chocolate covered strawberries. No, this doesn't mean spending a fortune at a bakery or ordering from the florist or Edible Arrangements. Chocolate covered strawberries can be made the night before or earlier in the day and chilled until it's time to serve. Head to the fondue section of your local grocery store (you know the place where all the fancy cheeses are kept?) and pick up a bag or container of chocolate discs. Pick up the biggest strawberries you can find and some wax paper.

Once home, melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or if you don't have one boil some water in a pot and put the chocolate in a metal bowl (make sure it's large enough that it won't flip over or sink into the water). In the meantime rinse the strawberries and pat dry and place some wax paper on a cookie tray. Once the chocolate has melted completely dip the strawberries and place them on the wax paper to cool, then place the tray in the fridge until it's time to serve. Champagne and strawberries are a match made in heaven but if you can't afford real champagne, my personal favorite substitution is Korbel Brut. Do not, I repeat, NOT buy Arbor Mist Raspberry Sparkling Wine! It's disgustingly sweet and too flat to be considered sparkling. A surefire way to ruin your night!

And there we have it. A nice romantic and elegant dinner for two at an affordable price. Now it all depends on the love of your life but one bit of advice that seems to pertain to many people out there: However little amount you spend, however much you save to achieve the magical night, DON'T EVER TELL THEM! Not that this should be a subject that would come up but boasting about the fact you were both smart and frugal could come across to your SO as being cheap. Of course if being economical turns the other person on, well boast away.

In any event, wishing you an enjoyable Valentine's Day. Chow for now!

Monday, February 8, 2010


So, it looks like my latest experiment has paid off, introducing my new Ice Cream candles coming this spring! Pictured above is the scented Butterscotch Ice Cream Sundae, mmmm. Scrumptious French Vanilla blends with the creamy aroma of sweet Butterscotch for a treat so real you can almost taste it... and yes, that IS a scented cherry on top!

Over the next few days I'll be making and posting pictures of Hot Fudge Sundae and Strawberry Sundae. Also coming soon will be pictures of Banana Split, Italian Ices and Orange Cream Pop. As always, if there's something you'd like to see feel free to drop me a line and I'll see what I can do! Sundaes will price at $15 plus shipping, Banana Split will price at $18 plus shipping and Italian Ices and Orange Cream Pop TBD.

So keep checking this blog for updates and in the meantime scope out other goodies available for sale right now at the Culinarychiq Concepts store! Chow for now.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Magic of Google

Well, it's true, you learn something new everyday! When you think of cuisine, foodies, cookbooks etc. you think Julia Child, Auguste Escoffier, Alice Waters, James Beard. For some, visions of Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsey or the Food Network crew like Paula Dean, Alton Brown and Ms. EVOO may dance in your heads. Well, I've got another name for you, are you ready? Wait for it... what about... Vincent Price?

Yep, you read right, apparently Vincent Price is not only a great (and one of my all time favorite) actor and art lover but he was also a gourmet cook! Perhaps he felt the culinary pull of his genes as his grandfather did invent the first baking powder ever to be commercially manufactured in the US;) His most famous, and I'm guessing largest and most extensive, cookbook is called "A Treasury of Great Recipes" and was published in 1965. A leather bound edition is available but good luck finding any copy published before 1992 costing less than $100. For those of us whose budget won't stretch that far the closest you can probably get to it would be this one which still ranges from $22-50. There's also "Come Into The Kitchen" which is one of a few of the smaller cookbooks floating around in book land and a bit more affordable at $38. Psst, family and friends can be sure to find this on my Facebook wish list this year, hint hint. For those with an even more modest budget, it appears features a few of his recipes to try out too.

Thanks to Youtube you can hear a recording from an audio cassette of "Foods from the Austro-Hungarian Empire", which is part of the "Vincent Price: International Cooking Course" series he'd done back in the 60s and 70s where he talks about Pickled Mushrooms. I also found a great site for Vincent Price fans with free downloadable mp3 recordings of just about anything and everything he's ever done including a listing of clips talking about wine appreciation and more from his International Cooking Course!

Also thanks to YouTube, there's a couple of really cute spoofs and clever audio compilations worth checking out for a giggle:

They also have an ancient video (ok 1980s) of Mr. Price cooking with Wolfgang Puck (warning, the audio is pretty fuzzy and bad). Rumor has it during one of his many appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Vincent Price actually demonstrated how to poach fish in a dishwasher but try as I might I just can't find a clip of it anywhere (and yes, this goes on my list of things I'd really REALLY like to see!)

So enjoy all the little gems I've sprinkled before you today. If I get the opportunity to pick up one of the above mentioned cookbooks I'll be sure to fill you in on the experience and in the meantime if anyone reading this actually does come across any of the books or does get their hands on the Johnny Carson clip, please feel free to enlighten us all! Chow for now!