Mmm… Popovers…

Popovers and Blueberry ButterSo there I was in Neiman Marcus on a Saturday afternoon looking for a bridesmaid’s dress.

My friend Shannon, who hates shopping, thought it would be a grand idea to ask along the one gay man in her universe that loathes the activity even more than she. I warned her that she was sorely testing the strength of our friendship, but I obliged because, after 35 years of trying, I find that resistance is futile. I nearly always bend to her will.

Fortunately, she’s a pro at rewarding good behavior, so she dangled two carrots in front of me: 1) She told me that our friend Susan was coming and 2) I was promised a cocktail. The prospect of sitting down for a drink with both Shannon and Susan  seemed worth the pain of having to stand around for hours pretending to be interested in jewel-toned gowns.

Fortunately, the hours of shopping were whittled down to about 30 minutes, thanks to Susan’s laser vision and Shannon’s desire to get the errand over with; the whole exercise was mercifully painless.

As the girls busied themselves with the seamstress in the dressing room, I occupied my time by snapping photos of particularly ugly evening dresses and then collapsed into an empty seat, giving my weariest look to the gentleman who occupied the next chair.

“She promised me a drink for putting me through this,” I said, half pretending I was a much put-upon husband.

“Just the one?” the man replied, “I think you’re selling yourself short.” I smiled and thought to myself how easy I had it compared to him. His wife had tried on at least four dresses since I’d been there and he had dutifully complimented her in each. I felt as though I should be buying him a drink.

With the shopping done, Susan, Shannon, and I made our way to the nearest bar, which was conveniently located on the very same floor as the evening gowns.

We settled into our banquette at The Rotunda, ordered our respective drinks and got down to the business of catching up on each others’ lives. I’d had a difficult week of working and general soul-searching, but when I listened to the goings on of my friends, I suddenly felt as if I’d spent the past several days at a holiday camp eating ice cream by comparison. Both were sucked into things they were more or less powerless to control, but their conversation was buoyed by so much good humor that we found ourselves able to relax and truly enjoy ourselves.

As we waited for our much-needed drinks to arrive, a server stopped by to present us each with a warm popover and a little ramekin of strawberry butter– a fine Neiman Marcus tradition which is perhaps my favorite, since it has absolutely nothing to do with shopping. We three regarded each popover, noting which was the most attractive, which looked like horribly deformed genitalia. The drinks arrived and Shannon commented on how generous their pours were. Susan added that there was nothing especially generous about it; that the idea was to get people as buzzed as possible before sending them back out into the store– kind of like Las Vegas casinos but without crap tables, just tables full of crap.

We sipped our cocktails, exhaled contented sighs– for the pleasant dulling effect of the alcohol and ending of an unpleasant week– and reached for our rolls that had cooled on our bread plates.

“Mmmm… popovers,” Shannon moaned. She was referencing an old Warner Bros cartoon, but the sound she made was more Homer Simpson that Mel Blanc. All of us remembered the line, but none of us could recall from which particular cartoon it came nor who said it. It bothered me throughout the meal that followed, but not much. I was much too contented spending a precious, stress-free hour  with my friends in the rarified air of a restaurant perched atop a department store I could never afford to shop in to really care. But I’ll admit that, as I slowly sipped at my drink as we talked and tore at my bready free gift-with-purchase, I kept repeating to myself all the while, “Mmmm… popovers.”

Porky Popovers and Blueberry Butter

The cartoon in question is entitled Bye Bye Bluebeard, a wonderfully morbid little Porky Pig featurette from 1949 that includes such wonders as a ravenous mouse, a serial killer Russian Wolfhound (Bluebeard), and a guillotine. Most importantly, however, popovers– or little bombs that look nothing like popovers yet are oddly mistaken as such– save the day. I would have loved to embed the cartoon here for you, but can’t, so please to go watch it here and then get back to me. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

I should state clearly that these are not Neiman Marcus popovers. Since it was a Porky Pig cartoon that lead me to this post, I’ve decided to make them, well, porky– butter has been replaced by bacon grease and the addition of chopped bacon to the tops not only gives a bit of added oomph but, like a Western Diamondback’s rattle, serves to warn away unsuspecting vegetarian grazers. If I need to explain why I’ve made blueberry butter instead of strawberry, I might suggest you stop and think about it a little longer. And then go make yourselves some popovers.

Makes six pork-studded popovers and enough blueberry butter with which to lash them

Ingredients:

For the Popovers:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 tablespoons melted bacon grease

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 slices of bacon, cooked, drained, and finely chopped

For the Blueberry Butter:

6 tablespoons softened butter, either salted or unsalted

1 tablespoon blueberry jam

Preparation:

1. Pre-heat oven to 450ºF.

2. Grease your popover tin (it may be worth it to buy one simply to be able to say you own one) with either bacon grease, butter, cooking spray, or other fat of choice.

3. Combine the softened butter with the blueberry jam until uniform in color. Transfer to a ramekin and refrigerate.

4. Beat together milk, bacon grease, flour, and salt until smooth. Then add the eggs, approximately one at a time (since they’re already slightly beaten , this might not be entirely obvious to some– just take it slow. And do not over beat).

5. Fill the popover cups 3/4 full, sprinkle the surface of each with chopped bacon, and bake immediately.

Popover Batter

6. After 15 minutes of baking, lower heat to 350ºF and bake for another 20 minutes. If you are especially worried that your popovers will collapse when cool, you may not want to make popovers, because that’s pretty much what popovers do. However, if you’d like to avoid this, I might suggest that you gently insert the tip of a sharp knife into each popover to allow steam to escape, then turn off the oven and let your little puffy friends dry out for another few minutes until you have summoned up the courage to remove them. Personally, I wouldn’t bother because I love a dramatic collapse.

7. Eat them warm and slathered with the blueberry butter you’ve had the good sense to remove from your refrigerator. Consume with delightful friends over tea or hard liquor, depending upon the sort of day you’ve had.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Breakfast Time, Meatness, Savories, Stage, Film, and Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Mmm… Popovers…

  1. MrJackhonky says:

    I used to work at Neiman Marcus. I am very much familiar with those pop overs. And let me tell you Susan is ABSOLUTELY correct that there is nothing generous about those pours. I have seen SO many tipsy and out and out drunk people shopping there, it’s comical, and boy do they start stacking up their purchases… Though on occasion, hilarity does ensue due to the customers and liquor…oh the stories I could tell….

    On a side note, thank GOODNESS you posted this. Just the other day AJ turned to me and said “Irvin, are you really going to use this 3/4 cup of frozen rendered bacon fat in the freezer?” as he ruthlessly cleaned the freezer. I, of course, nodded in the affirmative and said “Of COURSE, I will! Just because it’s been in there for five months, doesn’t mean I won’t find a use for it!” as I quickly scanned it for ice crystals. Luckily there were none.

    So now I have the perfect recipe, and the perfect excuse to go shopping for another specific kitchen item that I will only use once. You, sir, have made my day. Thank you.

  2. Oh, these look fabulous, and the idea of strawberry butter is genius. I’ve never been in a Neiman Marcus. It sounds foofy beyond belief. I should check it out for the yuks.

  3. ann west says:

    Wonderful post and now I am smiling. I also love the smokey taste of the pig and the wonderful earthy sweet of blueberries. Genius! Cheers.

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Thanks, Ann. Give them a try! They’re so bloody easy. And let me know how they turn out for you, if you decide to make them!

  4. melted bacon grease: yum. thanks for posting this. my take will have roasted poblanos.

  5. Stevie says:

    Michael, I wish that there was a pic of the drink! I’ve always wanted to try the Neiman Marcus restaurant. I’ll certainly go now. Could you leave out the pork to make these veggie?

  6. jodi says:

    It’s a little embarrassing to admit I actually own a popover pan (because I think I “did” buy it to say I owned one. And a Madeline pan, lol). mmmm…popovers. :)

    • michaelprocopio says:

      I don’t even own a madeleine pan, which is odd because I’d be much more likely to make those than popovers. I do have a canelé de Bordeaux form I bought in Paris last year which has been collecting dust.

      I feel shame and embarrassment.

  7. ruairi says:

    ha! i love how you personify the ugly ones :-)

    We call pop overs Yorkshire pudding in the UK and Ireland, served without the bacon bits and with gravy for a traditional Sunday roast. They are a bit insipid and I love the idea of adding bacon and blueberry butter- bravo sir !

    This store sounds great, food,drink and shopping combined… i have to agree though, the food and drink part sounds most appealing :-) and the free-ness of the pop overs!

    r.x

    • michaelprocopio says:

      I knew there was a reason I loved Yorkshire pudding. Funny that I”ve never equated the two before. It now seems so glaringly obvious!

      Cheers,

      Michael

  8. Lana says:

    I am dying laughing! Your posts are like comic relief for me. And there are no cartoons that compare with MB. I do not recall this one, but it is a certainty that it WILL NOT be shown on any of the kiddie channels nowadays. I read fairy tales and Bluebeard was a scary one. My kids do not have a clue, not even the Berkeley Kritter, as smart as she is. Now, I have to go and grill my American husband, hoping he won’t know so I can gloat:)

    I have never made popovers, but I’ll trust you. I just happen to have some home-rendered lard in the fridge. And the kids can use a bit of fattening-up!

    • michaelprocopio says:

      There are so many of the old cartoons that won’t be shown on tv anymore for fear of offending, which is strange, considering all the violence and sex there is to be found elsewhere on the boob tube these days. At least the violence of the WB cartoons is delivered most often with wit.

      Sigh.

      Do let me know how that child-fattening goes.

      Michael

  9. Susan says:

    Bugs bunny and gang are always funny except for a few that I have seen which are definitely offensive and really should not be aired.

    Is coarseness a substitute for wit, I ask? (who said that and in which movie?)

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Oh, I sometimes love it when they’re coarse. Except, of course, when they make Jesus cry.

      And omidgod, omigod, omigod, who said that? It’s on the tip of my tongue and I can’t think of it. Hell, I can’t even google it.

      • Susan says:

        It was Rex Brewster (Roddy Mcdowall) in Evil Under the Sun.
        He was sitting on the patio talking with the Odell and Myra Gardener about how much money they lost on a production that was starring Arlena Marshall before she split the show.

  10. Good Worker says:

    They look really good, wonder if I can make them nice for my kids.

  11. michaelprocopio says:

    Ack, Susan, I can’t reply to your reply to my reply.

    I feel so ridiculously dense that I could not remember those immortal words of Rex Brewster. It was just after Odell and Myra suggested he go do something to himself… excessively.

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