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Friday, December 28, 2012

Popovers

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Everyone has that one food that really takes them back. For some, it's freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, oozing with little nuggets of chocolate. For others, feeling the snap as they bite into a perfectly grilled hot dog brings them right back to their childhood. Everyone has that one thing.

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If I tried to nail it down, but the food memories just came flooding back immediately. Occupational hazard, I suppose. But one of my most distinct, and surely most delicious, food memories comes from the restaurant at Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. On the special occasions that my mom took us into the city for a visit to the Art Institute or to ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, we would always head to lunch at Neiman Marcus.

Now I know it may sound strange, eating in a department store, but this was no mall cafĂ©.  I honestly can't remember what I actually ordered there. Knowing my childhood preferences, a burger or a duck breast was probably in order. But what I do remember quite clearly were the starters. Each guest at the restaurant was served a small cup of chicken consomme accompanied by a basket piled high with steaming hot, crisp, golden popovers and a teeny, tiny pot of pink-flecked strawberry butter.

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 Unfortunately, I don't get to Chicago as often as I'd like. Which leaves me truly and devastatingly popover-less. And really, what could be worse than that? So when the nostalgia just gets too overwhelming, I head into the kitchen and whip up a batch of my own. Because it's just too hard to go without them.

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  Popovers
Adapted from the Zodiac Restaurant
Makes 1 dozen

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups whole milk, heated until just warm to the touch

Place two 6-hole popover pans into the oven. Preheat to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk eggs on medium speed for 3 minutes until pale and foamy. Reduce speed to low and add warm milk and whisk to combine. With the mixer running, gradually add flour mixture. Continue whisking for 3 minutes on medium speed. Let batter rest for 1 hour. When the batter has rested for an hour, quickly grease the popover pans and fill almost to the top with batter. Put trays in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes more, until golden brown. Serve warm, slathered generously with strawberry butter.

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