Saturday, July 30, 2011

corn, buttermilk and chive popovers

buttermilk popovers with corn and chives

I hope you didn’t think I forgot about you this week, or actually hopped on a plane to Mexico, as repeatedly threatened during last week’s taco fest. The truth of where I’ve been is far less interesting and could be roughly summarized as: man, am I a terrible cook this week. However, the week started out promisingly; I nailed a cookbook chicken dish on the first try (that I’d been certain would be no good at all) and brimming with confidence — maybe I should trust all of my cooking instincts! maybe I am good at this? — I decided to make a dish of slow-roasted vegetables that turn out should never have been slow-roasted, unless vegetable leather is your thing. Oops.

buttermilk, flour, eggs and corn
more corn

I gritted my teeth and decided to move on, as I had on my agenda to prove that my recent acquisition of a popover pan — yes, a pan that makes one thing, and one thing only, purchased by the person who used to insist that you buy no single-use items for a kitchen, unless your kitchen has cabinets by the dozen, in which case, can I borrow one? because I can’t fit this pan anywhere — had not been a late-night impulse purchase but a justified step in bringing us my idea of summery popover nirvana. Or something.

splattery batter

A popover, if you’re unfamiliar with them, is an airy, hollow muffin that puffs up and over the side of its tin. It is made with something close to a crepe batter and traditionally includes beef drippings, kind of like the American counterpart to Yorkshire Pudding. But I wasn’t dreaming of a roast, only a sweet corn and tangy buttermilk companion to a summer salad. Unfortunately, I’d apparently squandered all of my good cooking karma this week on Monday’s chicken because these popovers, they did not pop. They were overly brown and quite heavy and I decided to never make them again until I realized I’d still not justified the purchase of a popover pan. So I read every recipe for popovers I could get my hands on, made some recipe adjustments and sighed my way back to the kitchen.

cups half to two-thirds full

My second batch popped, but only slightly and were a bit undercooked. Again, I was about to quit — Don’t I have a manuscript to finish? Doesn’t the floor need to be washed? Surely there’s something more appealing than potentially facing more kitchen defeat… — but someone thought they were so delicious that I was encouraged to try again. I’m so glad I did.

corn popovers

Because on round three, everything finally came together. They not only popped, but even “over” the sides a little. And they taste better than we hoped, like high summer with a faint green onion flavor from the chives, a mild sweetness from the corn and a real depth of flavor from the buttermilk. I think they’d be perfect with a tomato and Bibb lettuce salad with an good helping of this dressing; or maybe with a tomato-cheddar-chive omelet (what the resident toddler ate for dinner, too all of our envy) or even as a biscuit alternative with grilled chicken but mostly we just find them insanely good right out the oven. $17 good? Shh, let’s not talk about that again.

tall and poufy
corn popover with buttermilk and chives

One year ago: Summer Succotash with Bacon and Croutons and Nectarine Brown Butter Buckle
Two years ago: Sour Cherry Slab Pie and Cantaloupe Salsa
Three years ago: Nectarine Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart, Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte, Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti, Garlic Mustard Glazed Skewers and Huevos Rancheros
Four years ago: Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes and Zucchini Bread

Corn, Buttermilk and Chive Popovers
Adapted from The New Basics

I got the idea in my head for buttermilk corn popovers last month and became a little obsessed. I even bought a popover pan in a moment of weakness, but hear me out: you do not need one. I did not need one. You can use a muffin tin. Or ramekins. Trust me, as I will never find a place to put this away which means that it will soon be re-appropriated for paint cups or Cheerio storage and it’s all my fault.

Unsure of where to start, I turned to Google, which led me to a recipe for corn popovers from The New Basics by Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins. I adjusted them a bit; I swapped buttermilk for regular, as was my plan, and I found that the corn really had to be blended to become part of the batter (rather than kernels that fell out after tearing the popover open). I had to reduce the baking temperature and increase the baking time over two rounds to get the grandest puffs. My hunch is that the recipe had originally been developed using a muffin tin, where each cup usually holds a scant 1/2 cup liquid rather than a popover pan or ramekin, where each cup usually holds 3/4 cup liquid, so if you’re using a muffin tin, you are likely to need less baking time but yield more popovers.

Makes 6 popovers in a traditional popover pan or in ramekins; will likely make 9 in muffin tins

1 cup buttermilk (or make your own sour milk)
1/2 cup corn kernels (from most of one cob)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

Place buttermilk and corn in a blender together and blend for just 3 seconds — you’re looking to break up the corn a bit, not puree it. Add the eggs, one tablespoon of the melted butter and blend for one second more. Add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, a few grinds of black pepper (I used four, not that you asked or that I’d expect a normal person to count) and the chives and blend again until barely combined, some lumps are fine.

Set the batter aside to rest while you preheat your oven to 375 degrees, about 15 minutes. Brush your popover, muffin or ramekin cups with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Fill each cup slightly more than halfway with batter (see top of recipe for cup estimates).

Bake popovers 30 to 35 minutes (see Note above about baking times in a muffin tin). Try not to open the oven door! Crack it just 1-inch to take a peak if absolutely necessary towards the end. Popovers are done when they’re tall and bronzed. Flip popovers out onto cooling rack and let cool for a few minutes before tearing in. Even then, they will be filled with steam and very hot in the middle — be careful. Eat with a great big summery salad on a deck somewhere, please.


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