Monday, May 15, 2006

It's summertime...

I'm not a summer person. None of us are - the kids, Kirk, me - we're summer-phobic. The outdoors is great - hiking, biking, camping, fishing - but the heat kills all that for us. But I have another reason to be sad when summer rolls around (which in New Mexico is around March).

It's the end of baking season. It's too hot now to heat up the oven. Bread is out of the question. That's bad enough, because making bread is one of life's quiet pleasures. Kneading the dough, coming back after a few hours to see the magical transformation the yeast creates, the incredible smell of baking bread, and then the almost-too-hot loaf all steamy and soft... but there will be no cakes either, no brownies or cookies, and worst of all for my kids, no Toad-in-the-Hole. They've been learning to cook this year, all three of them, and the one thing they can happily and reliably cook (after asking once again for the recipe) is Toad-in-the-Hole.

It's comfort food done right, comfort food with practically no nutritional value, but all the bad-for-you goodness that you want on a chilly night. There's no pretention about it either - no 'avec sauce milanaise' or 'avec haricots vert' about it; just honest, solid, everyday food. It's a British dish - obviously from the name - like bubble-and-squeak or bangers-and-mash. We had it once every two or three weeks with the kids squabbling over who got to cook it. But the season is over now, and we won't see it again for at least five months.

For the curious, this is how we make our version:

Yorkshire Pudding:

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups flour (white please, no mucking around with healthy wheat or anything)
3 eggs
sage to taste
2 tbsp melted butter

Whisk the first six ingredients together until combined, then let sit to slake in order to remove the lumps (like pancake batter). Meanwhile:

Heat the oven to about 400. Should be good and hot, but altitude will cause some differences.

Heat an oven safe, large, high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Add a small amount of oil, and brown several sausages. We prefer the chicken variety, the nicer the better. When the sausage is browned, whisk the butter into the pudding batter and pour batter directly over sausages in the hot skillet. Place the skillet in the hot oven at once.

Bake until pudding is puffed up and golden brown. Serve at once.

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