[Mis]adventures in baking: mission popovers

I am a confident cook.

I’m fairly sure it’s because I know most of my basics. I make a pretty mean stock, I make a solid béchamel, I can roast a chicken and make a sauce from what’s left in the pan… Perhaps most importantly, I’m not afraid of making mistakes because, usually, I can figure out what went wrong and fix it.

One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done, for instance, was when cooking a pork loin I decided to brown the piece of meat so as to seal in the juices before putting it in the oven to cook through. That would be fine and dandy had I not crusted the dijon marinated pork loin with bread crumbs and worse yet… parmesan cheese. The second I let go of the meat I realized what I had just done.

After cursing myself for a solid 15 seconds for the rookie mistake that I would have avoided had I not had my head in the clouds thinking of five other things, I grabbed the loin with my bare hands and threw it (violently) on the cutting board. On the side that hit the oil, all of the beautiful crust had washed away and was beginning to form a large glob of burning gunk on my pan. Had you asked me on any other day whether to perform this baffling maneuver when cooking a parmesan crusted loin, I would have scoffed and said absolutely not… but this was, unfortunately, not any other day. It was the day I seared the crust right off my loin.

For the record, all was not lost. In fact, I salvaged the meat, re-crusted it and threw it in the oven, cooking it the correct way. But that was only after sitting on the kitchen floor pouting like a toddler for almost fifteen minutes and bemoaning my mistake to my poor roommate who had to sit there and listen to me go through all the stages of a psychological break: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. It was a pathetic sight to say the least.

All of that to say, I am a confident cook…. but I SUCK at baking. Seriously, forget breads, pastries, or anything stemming from batters (besides crepes, which I’m convinced I can only handle because they don’t go in an oven).

So when I set out on “Mission Popover” I was bracing myself for the worst possible outcome. I made lentils and a fried egg for breakfast and had a hankering for something buttery and kind of gooey when I thought of it. Popovers were the perfect addition. But they are indeed a baked good. [Cue foreboding music.]

I had just gotten my copy of Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty in which he discusses and demonstrates via fairly simply recipes the 20 techniques everyone should know. Naturally I went straight to the sections on baking.

Popovers, thought I. How can I mess this up? It’s literally

5 ingredients (milk, eggs, butter, salt and flour).

Since this is not, in fact, my recipe I won’t post the steps, but encourage you to purchase Ruhlman’s Twenty for yourself. If this book can guide me to the unexpected bliss of perfect popovers (that’s right! I successfully created a baked good) then it’s certainly worth having in your own kitchen.


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