Sunday, December 23, 2007

Recipe: Yorkshire Pudding

It's Christmas. If you have roast beef at the holidays, you really should have Yorkshire Pudding with it.

Yorkshire pudding isn't really pudding by modern American standards. It's more of an eggy quick bread, but it is so tasty, and actually pretty easy to make. Just eggs, flour, milk and a hot oven.

The problem most people have is the timing. The original recipes were developed for the massive heat and lack of control you get with a wood fired oven. It requires a practiced touch to get the depth of batter and the temperature right, and if you don't know what you're doing, it won't puff up -- it'll just dry out and get hard. Plus the traditional way has you hold the roast AFTER roasting for about forty minute while the pudding cooks. Puh-lease.

I'm here to tell you how to make it good and right and easy. (And this works best if you either make it ahead of the roast, or you do like I do, and don't make a roast at all, but pan grill a couple of nice delmonico or rib-eye steaks. It also tastes good with just plain fried mushrooms.)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt.
  • fat -- either fat from the beef or butter

This amount cooks great in two bread pans, or an 8x8 cake pan. (You can up the quantities to 1.5 cups each of flour and milk and 3 eggs, and cook it in a 9x9 pan.)

Use a whisk or a mixer to blend the flour, salt and milk. Get rid of most of the lumps. Then add the eggs. Beat or whisk it up good. There should be no lumps, and a little bit frothy on the top, but not a lot. Set the batter aside in the fridge. It can sit there overnight if you want to do it ahead, but 15 minutes is fine.

Next preheat the oven to about 350. (No hotter -- this is where the traditional recipes make it hard.) It doesn't hurt to warm the pans, but you don't have to have them sizzling (which is the traditional way). You just want them to be warm enough for the fat to melt. (ADDENDUM: having the pans sizzling hot when you pour the batter in does indeed make them rise a little higher. You can just stick the pans in the oven for a moment after coating them with fat, and THEN pull them out and pour in the batter.)

For flavor, beef fat is best. Traditionally you get this from the roasting pan, after the roast is done. However, I usually fry up some suet or trimmings to get some fat. You can also do it the easy way and just use butter. Butter is always good.

Coat the inside of the pans with the melted fat. The pudding will rise up, so cover the sides as well as the bottom. Don't be stingy with it. There should be a bit of a pool of fat in the bottom of the pan. (If it starts to thicken, stick it back in the oven for a minute or so.) Stir up the batter and pour it into the pans. It should be about a half inch deep, maybe a little less.

Stick the pans in a 350 degree oven. After 12 - 15 minutes, turn the oven up to 400, then after another 12- 15 mintues to 450. It should be done after about 10 more minutes. It should be nice and golden. If it seems to be burning, you can take it out.

(Traditional recipes will tell you to put it in a 450 oven and turn it down, but if you get the amount of batter or timing or temperature wrong, it won't puff up, and will end up overcooked and dry. By cooking it in a slower oven, you give the whole thickness of the pudding a chance to puff a little and firm up, and then the hotter temperatures at the end crisp the outer layers. NOTE: if you decide to try to make popovers -- the muffin sized version of this -- do follow traditional recipes, as you will not be working with the same bulk of batter, and the traditional way is the only way to make them pop.)

The pudding will fall by about half as it cools. Don't worry about that. Let it cool and firm up. The hardest part will be to get it out of the pan. The bottom will stick a little, especially if you use the deep sided breadpans like I do. One easy way to get it out is to cut it in half, and use a metal spatula to loosen the bottom from the middle. Just beware, these things remain full of hot steam for a long time. Don't burn yourself.

If you are making a roast, make the pudding first and cover it until the roast is ready. You can pop it into the oven for a few minutes to heat it back up again. (It makes great leftovers.) If you're making it with steak, just cook the steak while the pudding is in the oven.

And that's a great holiday tradition.

Posting Schedule

I will be cutting back on the amount I'm posting in future, but I will at least try to keep to a regular scheule -- new posts on Sunday Nights. I probably won't get the chance to post again until January 6, 2008, when I'll get back to posting reviews.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for a holiday recipe.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snowball Slushie -- make one now!

snowball slushie
The snow is fresh, pure and deep right now. Go scoop up a big bowl of it, and make yourself a snowball slushie! (It's best if the liquid you are using to flavor it is very very cold. I put ice in my Coke before adding the snow. You could use juice or Coolaid or wine or whatever.

I used my medium cookie scoop to make hard packed little snowballs. They absorb the liquid fast, so admire it quickly!

(More restaurant reviews coming soon...)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Podcast: Feed Me Bubbe

In honor of Hannukah, I should put you on to my very favorite video podcast: Feed Me Bubbe. It's a home made cooking show, where a Jewish grandmother shows you how to make all sorts of great food.

Feed Me Bubbe podcast (click here)

Spartan Gyros: real gyros, real fries!

Editor's Note: Alas! Alack! Spartan Gyro is no more. Olympic Broil, on Seymour on the North Side, is your best bet for good old fashioned fried food now.

Oh, my god, they have Real French Fries! I haven't had french fries like that since... well at least since MacDonald's stopped using beef tallow. Ahem. Anyway....

I stopped by at Spartan Gyros today, in East Lansing in the old Taco Bell building. It's hard to park down there yet, but I think the new parking ramp they are building right across the street will help. Right off, I was impressed by the big grill menu. Burgers, bbq, corn dogs, fried perch or shrimp. And of course, Greek salads, gyros and baklava. I went with the gyro, because it seemed like a good place to start. And I went with the combo because, well, they asked, and I figured I'd try it.

The gyro gives Lou and Harry's a run for their money. (Gyro afficianados will prefer Spartan -- it is authentic as well as good.) Lou and Harry get points for the spicing and searing on their meat (which comes from cooking it on a griddle rather than the traditional rotisserie). Both have good tsatsiki (yogurt sauce with herbs and stuff) though Spartan's chunky with fresh herbs and maybe some cucumber. And Spartan's wins hands down on the toppings -- with good onions and REAL TOMATOES! Tomatoes with flavor!

They also fill the gyro really full with a lot of meat -- which is either good or bad depending on how much meat you like in your gyro.

As for the Fries.... They are the thin kind. Plain, well fried from good potatoes. Crispy and yet with a creamy, steaming inside. I had a problem getting home, driving in the dark , trying to tear open the stapled shut bag so I could sneak more fries. (These are especially good take-out fries. Like the chips I had in London, they steam themselves just enough in the bag to enhance the flavor but not destroy the crunch. This, however, could be part of why I liked them so much. Very few fries these days stand up to the bag test. Most take on the mealy texture of stale potato chips.)

I am a french fry snob. I can't abide those crappy coated fries which are basically just fry-shaped tater tots. And don't talk to me about yuppie "seasoned fries", or the tasteless yet macho potato-skin fry. All of those are basically just a way to cover the fact that they are made with bad potatoes and "healthy" grease that can't handle the right temperatures.

A good fry is a wonder to behold. Nothing but potato, grease and salt. Sigh. Next time I go there, though, I want to try the corn dogs.

Spartan Gyros. 565 E. Grand River in East Lansing. 332-1833. (The menu says that they now deliver!)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Goodrich Shoprite - grocery, gourmet, boutique, convenience mart.

Goodrich Shoprite, at the corner of Trowbridge and Harrison near the train station, is one of the oldest grocery stores in the area, and probably the best. You could call it a "boutique." They're a regular grocery store, but they also have fine wines (they are the best place in town to get wine or beer), an excellent cheese and meats counter, unusual brands of nearly everything, plus toys, dishes, gifts. They carry their own baked goods (great donuts!) plus a variety of premium baked goods, like Zingerman's breads....

Not that they are a big store. Far from it. They're just a litte neighborhood store.

What they have is a buyer with taste and a sense of the cosmopolitan neighborhood. They are located right next to campus, and north of them is the "Flower Pot" (an old neighborhood of professors and the like with streets named after flowers) and Spartan Village to the south (student housing that serves a lot of foreign students and graduate students). Plus it's right at the on ramp to the freeways, so that alumni and others coming to MSU find it convenient.

I am a great fan of Meijers (hate Walmart, love Meijers, which is still family owned and has a great company mission of being both thrifty and "your everything place") but Goodrich is an amazing mini-Meijers with personality. The only downside of Goodrich is that you can't get near the Trowbridge area on a football saturday. So be aware of the schedule of major sporting events when you go there. (If you must go there on a football saturday, the best time can be during the game, actually.)

Goodrich Shoprite, 940 Trowbridge Road, East Lansing, (517) 351-5760

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aladdin's Delight - Quick, Filling, Good

Aladdin's Delight, in Frandor next to Apple Jade, is one of my favorite places to grab a quick lunch, especially when I'm in the more vegetarian mood. Their flavors are similar to Woody's Oasis on Trowbridge in East Lansing, in come cases identical (even their Big Board menus on the wall are essentially the same). Both places have Lebanese cuisine. Both share the title of best falafel sandwich in town.

This place is a great choice for both meat eaters and vegans. The menu has about half and half, meat or veg -- and many dishes have a meat or vegetarian version. While a few of the vegetarian dishes have dairy, it's always the main ingredient, so easy to avoid.

Aside from the falafel sandwich, a few other favorite items are the samosas -- a little fried pastry of patatoes, peas and spices (and very spicy). Fried or baked kibbee comes in meat or potato version. There's good hummus and babaganouj. (Hummus is a mixture of ground chickpeas, sesame paste, lemon and seasonings -- served as a dip or spread with bread. Babaganouj is a smilar dip made of roasted eggplant.) The bread is the very thin Lebanese kind.

There are a number of main dishes on the menu, and many come with a salad. My favorite combo is the Hashwi with yogurt salad. Hashwi is rice, beef, pinenuts and seasonings all cooked together, then mixed with a little shredded chicken. The yogurt salad is cucumbers in a yogurt, lemon and garlic dressing. If you pour the salad over the hashwi, it's a real taste delight! (I've been known to buy the salad just to dress up a quick roast chicken dinner of any kind.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Send me menus!

You can learn a lot from a take out menu. Anything from the overall style of a restaurant to their hours and prices. Not to mention the name of that dish you had that you can't remember once you get home.

I'm asking readers (and restauranteurs) to send me take out menus from around the Lansing area. I'm not promising any reviews of particular restaurants, but if you include a note mentioning a favorite dish at the restaurant, I will include a line in a "reader recommendations" post once in a while. (Something like "G.K. says the salsa at El Whatever is out of this world. M.P. recommends the tortellini at Great Pasta Place, but only with the cheese sauce." If you want your actual name, or a screen name, included, say so in the note. I will also create a link to your blog or site, if you like.) And, of course, having a menu in hand will definitely encourage me try a new place, or to write up that review of a place I have already been to.

Also, for my personal interest, I'm learning to read Chinese. In particular, I'm learning to read Chinese menus. I sure would like to collect more menus with the dishes written in Chinese and English. (Or just in Chinese, even.)

So to reiterate, I'm looking for:
  1. Takeout menus from the Lansing, Michigan area.
  2. Menus from anywhere written in Chinese (preferably both English and Chinese.)

Send these to: Lansing Food News, P.O. Box 6362, East Lansing, MI 48826.

Thanks a bunch!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Make Your Hot Chocolate Richer

Since we have a winter storm heading our way, I'll pass on a little tip on how to make even the most ordinary hot chocolate cup a little richer. Just use an ordinary vegetable peeler to grate in a little bit of unsweetened baking chocolate.

Not only is it easy, but it can be cheaper than the gourmet mixes (which tend to be full of transfats and artificial ingredients, especially the kind you mix with water). I usually just use a spoon of Nestles in some super hot milk, and then grate in the baker's chocolate.

A quick dash of cinnamon is also nice. And apparently good for you -- they say it helps your body deal with blood sugar, and perhaps can help those who are insulin resistant. (Given the latest studies on Alzheimers -- that it may be another form of diabetes -- that's a really good thing. Who knows, cinnamon may have as much to do with the low rates of Alzheimers among curry eats as Tumeric does.)