S and I got married in May. We figured we’d take a nice long honeymoon in the fall, after we’d had a chance to recover from all the wedding frenzy and settle in a bit. Not to mention that we couldn’t afford much more than a weekend on the Jersey shore… But then I got called for a gig from August through late October, and who knew what project S would be on after that, so in July we decided to just rent a car and point it somewhere.
We’re Roadfood people–last summer we drove from NYC to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and then back north along the Blue River Parkway, using the book to plot our stops, staying in motels wherever looked promising. I’ll dig up some of my notes from that trip and post them another time, but let me just say this: Barbecued. Fried. Chicken. For this trip we did even less planning–we must’ve hit the road less than a week after deciding to go. Not like most people’s honeymoons, I suppose, but it was exactly right for us.
Our idea was to head north, into New England and maybe as far as Nova Scotia. My mom is from outside Boston originally so I spent a good deal of time in that area growing up, but since my grandparents died in 1987 I’d only been a handful of times. S hadn’t really been up north at all. In the end we spent three weeks driving around Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont–hey, another idea for a post–but on our first day we stopped for a late lunch at a place I remembered from my childhood, the Yankee Silversmith Inn in Wallingford, Connecticut. On car trips up to visit my grandparents, we’d often pit stop there. I don’t think we ever actually had a full meal, though–with my three brothers and me we were a large family, and money was always tight. As I recall, we mostly used the restrooms and got popovers to go. My wealthy grandparents, however, would stop there for a leisurely lunch every time it was their turn to make the journey. Some of my favorite pictures of them were taken in front of the main entrance over the years–sort of funny, now that I think of it, that they’d take souvenir pictures for us of a place where we couldn’t afford to eat.
The Silversmith is in a rambling landmark building with an antique train’s parlor car attached to it. The idea of eating in a train car that wasn’t actually part of a train used to fascinate my brothers and me, and that’s where S and I were seated. The whole thing was much kitschier Olde New England than I remembered (hey, forgive a kid for not noticing!), and the other patrons had mostly blue hair, but one thing brought me right back: the popovers. They were huge, and warm, and served with honey butter. My mom used to bake them for us kids, and I loved watching her pluck them out of the oven one by one, each towering impossibly high over its own custard cup, and then seeing the steam stream out as she poked small holes in the tops to keep them from going soggy. There was a cartoon we watched growing up, maybe a Looney Toons, where one of the characters swooned at the thought of the puffy treats: “Mmm, popovers.” We’d laugh and say that as we tore into them, loading butter in quickly so it would melt into puddles in the center.
If I could, I think I’d eat popovers every day–there’s something about that eggy, custardy inside and the toothy, almost brittle outside that comforts me in a way very little else does. S had never tasted one before he met me, but he’s as devoted as I am now. Here’s the recipe I’ve been using lately, courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (yes, Ina Garten again–I promise I’ll lay off for a while after this!). One of these days I’ll get my mom’s recipe and compare.
Ina says it best so I won’t even try to embellish/rewrite:
“There are three secrets to great popovers: Make sure the pan is hot before you pour in the batter, fill each section not more than half full, and no peeking while they’re in the oven. They’re much easier than you expect, and they make any meal feel festive.”
1 1/2 T. unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 t. kosher salt
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature [I'll often use 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites]
1 1/2 cups whole milk at room temperature [I use 1%]
Preheat the oven to 425.
Generously grease aluminum popover pans or custard cups [I use muffin tins--I don't have room for 12 custard cups!] with softened butter. You’ll need enough pans to make 12 popovers. Place the pans in the oven for 2 minutes to preheat. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until smooth. The batter will be thin. Fill the popover pans less than half full and bake for exactly 30 minutes [in my old oven it was 28 minutes, so your mileage may vary]. Do not peek.
S and I eat them with gobs of butter and an assortment of jams: strawberry, cherry, and Maine wild blueberry. They’re the perfect thing on a Sunday morning, and they were a memorable first meal for our honeymoon.