Ravenous Fig

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Estate Sale Popovers

[caption id="attachment_474" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Herbed popovers just out of the oven. You can almost smell the steam coming out of them."][/caption]

We're not exactly estate sale people. Or we weren't, until yesterday, when we decided to pop into an estate sale our friend Jessie had told us about. The house was out in Urban Sprawl, Florida, nestled among the rows upon rows of unsold and foreclosed-upon houses. I was a little worried driving up, but this place was unbelievable. Like someone had robbed a Williams-Sonoma and decided to share.

Inside we found the most incredible kitchen, outfitted with our dream double oven, stainless dishwasher, and huge center island stocked with top-of-the-line cookware. All Clad roasting pans, sauce pots, double boilers, and frying pans were displayed next to sets of Shun Knives and Emile Henry dutch ovens. I was in heaven, except that in heaven I doubt we'll have to pay for such cookware with plastic.

Amazingly, I left the sale with no All-Clad cookware or Shun knives. Of course I kicked myself all the way home for that, but at least I snagged a nonstick popover pan, which I used to make my first batch of "real" popovers this afternoon. (We also picked up a set of crystal double old fashioned glasses, a collectible Lord of The Rings box set, and some super secret Christmas presents).

Herbed Popover with a local arugula salad

I don't know much about the science behind popover pans — and I'm sure many would scoff at the existence of such a unitasker in my kitchen — but these things rose phenomenally high, with the dough seeming to inflate like a balloon until the tops formed into the shape of tiny chef's hats. They browned perfectly and were nearly hollow inside. Just like you'd expect from a fancy restaurant except that they came out of my humble oven.

Freshly baked Herbed Popover

If you don't have a popover pan, this recipe will still work — you'll just end up with a more muffin-like shape with a little less air.

Herbed Popovers

This recipe is inspired by the herbed popovers recipe from Gale Gand's Brunch!: 100 Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend's Best Meal. We're fortunate to have fantastic local eggs and a garden with tarragon growing like weeds; if nothing else, though, use organic eggs, milk and butter. It's better for the planet and better for your body. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or other savory herb)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (or your favorite cooking spray)

Preparation

Put the eggs and the milk into a large bowl. Pour some boiling water into a medium bowl and place the bowl with the eggs and the milk on top (be careful that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl). Whisk the milk and eggs constantly until the temperature reaches 70° (or skip this part all together if you started with room temperature ingredients)

Pretzel Rolls

[caption id="attachment_92" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Hot Pretzel Rolls, fresh from the oven."]Pretzel Rolls[/caption]

As Vance and I prepare for a week-long vacation in Portland, Oregon we've got street food on our minds. The city is a mecca for food carts, tucked into small food court-like clusters around the city. You're never more than a 15 minute walk from a food cart in Portland, it seems, and a visit to at least one is on our list of must-do's while we're there. One of my favorite food cart indulgences is the pretzel — chewy, golden brown, and perfect with just some coarse salt and a dunk in some simple yellow mustard.

My parents stayed with us one night this week on their way to another one of our favorite places: Brevard, North Carolina. We always cook at least one meal during their stays, and this time I thought we'd try a fusion of the pretzel and the beer brat, one of my favorite street foods and one of Vance's. He kindly prepared the whole meal while I caught up with the 'rents — reason #4,725 why he's a great husband.

Vance's pretzel rolls were huge, more like hamburger buns (the recipe below made 6 hamburger-sized buns). But you can shape them however you like. They'd also be great as a clever substitutes for the traditional dinner roll, or even smaller pretzel bites that could be served alongside some artisan mustard as a hand-held party snack. Or hot ham and cheese on a pretzel roll. Or maybe …

Pretzel Rolls

These really do end up tasting like pretzels, but they're easier to make and you don't have to tie them into that fancy pretzel knot. Don't skip the boiling step — that's the secret to their incredible texture. Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1994.

Ingredients (use organic whenever possible)

  • 2 ¾ cups bread flour
  • 1 envelope quick-rising yeast
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water (125°-130°F)
  • Cornmeal
  • 8 cups water
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg white, beaten to blend
  • Coarse salt

Preparation

Measure out the first five ingredients; use a digital thermometer if you have one to get the water temperature just right. Combine the first four ingredients (not the water) in the food processor and blend. With the machine running, gradually add the hot water by pouring through the feed tube, until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Process 1 minute to knead. Grease a medium bowl with non-stick cooking spray or some olive oil. Turn the dough out into the bowl and turn it to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a towel. Let it rise in a warm, draft-free environment until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.

Flour a baking sheet. Punch down the dough and knead by hand on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into eight pieces (I use a soap or pastry cutter

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