Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yorkshire pudding

The holiday season is upon us with the winter solstice, the day the sun is the lowest in the sky and the days are the shortest of the whole year, approaching just before Christmas day. While we love Italian food at our house, we adhere to my family’s English tradition for our Christmas meal when we splurge on a standing rib roast of local, grass-fed beef served with Yorkshire pudding, a dish that uses the rendered fat from the roast to make a starch to accompany the meal.

There are two ways to cook the beef, either using the high temperature approach, which produces a succulent joint with very little drippings, or a low temperature method, which produces flavorful meat with a good gravy. While Mom always used the latter method, I remember the first time I used the high temperature method, my Dad proclaimed it the best roast beef he’d ever eaten. As Yorkshire pudding is eagerly anticipated by my family at Christmas, I’ll use the low temperature method this year, as it is the only occasion during the year when I make Yorkshire pudding, and it really is a treat, besides being a visually spectacular event when the pudding, all brown and risen up in the roasting pan, is pulled, ceremoniously, from the oven to displayed to the seated diners. It rivals the flaming plum pudding we have for dessert.

Yorkshire pudding is comprised of a batter made from eggs, milk, flour, salt and the roast’s rendered fat. Originally the roast would have been cooked on a spit before a hot fire and the pudding would be placed below the roast to catch it’s rendered fat and juices. Today Yorkshire pudding, which is somewhat similar to popovers, is cooked either in the meat’s roasting pan (the method I use) or in smaller round tins to make individual puddings, but this isn’t the authentic Yorkshire method. Traditionally, the pudding was served before the meat with some gravy to take the edge off the appetite. We, however, serve it with the meat as one of the side dishes.

Yorkshire pudding can be very good or a soggy mass of fatty batter. The secret for success lies in a couple techniques that I recommend you follow. First, the pudding batter should be made in advance of its being cooked and it should be covered and refrigerated for an hour or more while the roast cooks. During the meat’s roasting, periodically remove some of the rendered fat to a small bowl and reserve. When the roast is done (and remember there will be carry over cooking when the roast is removed from the oven and allowed to rest, so plan accordingly) remove it to a platter, leaving all the drippings in the pan. Deglaze these drippings by adding some lightly salted water or, better yet, some beef stock to the pan, scraping up all the fond and stuck-on renderings. Pour these through a sieve or China cap into a saucepan. Remove as much fat as possible either by skimming, using a gravy separator, or by placing a sheet of paper towel on top to absorb it. Do not wash the roasting pan.

Return a couple of tablespoons of these drippings to the roasting pan and a tablespoon or two of the rendered fat. Raise your oven temperature to 450 degrees. As you want the roasting pan hot, you can place it over a burner on the stove while you retrieve the pudding mixture from the fridge. Whisk the pudding mixture to homogenize it and pour it quickly into the hot pan with the drippings and fat. Place in the hot oven and cook for 25 minutes until golden brown, puffed up, and crunchy on the top. After displaying the pudding to the eager hoard, cut it into squares and serve with the beef.

Yorkshire Pudding

Serves 12

2 Cups Flour, sifted
1 Tsp Salt
4 Ea. Eggs, well beaten
2 Cups Milk
½ Cup Beef drippings

Combine the eggs and milk. Stir in the salt and flour. Cover and refrigerate the batter will the roast is cooking. Remove the roast from the pan, deglaze the drippings with some beef stock or lightly salted water. Strain deglazed drippings thru a China cap and reserve for gravy making. Pour a couple of tablespoons of rendered fat and enough drippings to make a half cup into the unwashed roasting pan and pour batter into the roasting pan. Bake at 450 degrees until puffed and golden, 25 minutes. Serve with roast beef and/or gravy.

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