What Did the Connollys Have for Dinner Last Night? Calzones!

Because "What's for dinner?" is the most important question most of us answer every day.

Last Night: Calzones!

A craving is a very wonderful thing. It's like having a calling. Some are called to the priesthood, others to make music or paint; some people, I suppose, are summoned by dentistry and tollbooth collecting. I've always thought it's a very lucky thing to know exactly what you want to do in life, because it removes a lot of doubt and clutter from the goal setting process.

On a small, everyday scale, a food craving is beneficial in much the same way. Suddenly, and without devoting any resources to it, you know you want fish. You know fish will make you happy, and a small amount of cognitive fuel is conserved. Your body will often tell you what it needs. I've heard tales of pregnant women eating soil or brick dust without quite knowing why because their bodies were low on a certain mineral. This raises the interesting question, "What nutrient am I deficient in that is contained so richly by Gray's Papaya hot dogs?" because I crave those a lot.

It's often hard to determine what sparks a craving. Sometimes it's a thought; sometimes it's a television commercial, and sometimes, you're just out there shoveling snow, as you do, when suddenly you're hammered by a fierce desire for a calzone. And not just any calzone, but the enormous, family-size calzones from Arturo's, the pizza restaurant across the street from the house in which I grew up.

The Arturo's calzone is what I like to think of as a classic calzone. I know there are a lot of pocket pizza-type deals floating around out there--things with all kinds of sauce and veggies and pepperoni in them--but to me, those are "inside out pizzas," not calzones. In my world, a true calzone can only be filled with riccota, mozzarella and Parmesean cheeses and perhaps sausage or ham. There might sometimes possibly be spinach, but that's pushing it, and there is definitely no sauce.

Arturo's calzones were created by rolling out a full-size pizza crust, piling the cheeses on one side, then folding that sucker over and brick ovening it to golden crustyliciousness. You'd slice them into hunks and all the cheese would flow out and you'd use the chewy, crusty bread to scoop it up. It was like a self-contained cheese fondue/pizza party and was, quite simply, awesome.

Unfortunately, my occupational and culinary callings were thrown into direct conflict by the calzone craving. As a full-time, professional snow management technician, I have to live here in Wisconsin where the shoveling's plentiful and good, and this means I have no access to Arturo's calzones or, for that matter, "real" calzones at all. These Midwestern savages eat deep dish pizza for mercy's sake! You can't expect them to exhibit the restraint and dignity a pure, four-ingredient calzone requires. (Actually, I like deep dish pizza. It's not real pizza, of course, and it's not as good as a thin New York slice, but it's still a fine foodstuff when the mood is right. I also used to prefer New England to Manhattan style clam chowder, but in my current loathing for the Boston Red Sox, I refuse to eat it.)

So, the calzone craving wasn't one I’d be able to buy my way out of. And, since my body was sending clear signals that scurvy or something similar was looming on my nutritional horizon if I didn’t get immediate calzone therapy, I would have to make calzones from scratch. I first turned, as I always do when faced with these situations, to my Complete Collection of Every Issue of Cook's Illustrated Ever. I thumbed through the handy index and found that the CI staff had tackled calzones back in September of 2003. The recipe was called Foolproof Calzones, and, as I am undeniably a fool when it comes to baking, it seemed like a good fit for me.

I love Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I recommend it to everyone and I think it’s a really valuable resource. But there are a few problems with it. The first snag, and this is not the only time I’ve wrestled with it, is that the Cook’s Illustrated gang thinks everyone owns one of those giant, expensive mixers for making doughs. As I do not own one of those mixers, I attempted to perform the 10 minute knead by hand. I went at the sticky, thick dough hammer and tongs and was in a full-body sweat after three minutes. After five minutes I was holding the bowl between my legs and kneading it while crouched over in pain. I now believe kneading a calzone dough for 10 minutes by hand might be the final thing you have to do to qualify for the Navy Seals.

Another problem I consistently encounter with Cook’s Illustrated is that they like to infuse every recipe with a “hook”—an Ah ha! type-tip that you’d never think of yourself, but which appears to pull the whole dish together. (“When we added pineapple juice to the marinade we found the bromoline caused the collagen to start breaking down and blah, blah, blah…”) Sometimes these tips actually work, but a lot of the time I think they’re jammed into the recipes to satisfy some editorial mandate.

Often, when I’m waging my initial assault on a CI recipe, I’m able to identify and dismiss the unnecessary extras. But as I’m an intimidated baker at best, I resolved to follow the calzone recipe to the letter. Unfortunately, the letter, in the case of Foolproof Calzones, suggested the use of many, many sheets of parchments paper that had been treated with cooking spray. I was to roll out doughs into nine-inch rounds, rest them between sheets of parchment while the main hunk of dough was rolled in more parchment. (Actually, it might have been cling wrap. I don’t know. It was kind of a whirlwind in there.) I was then to backtrack, filling calzones in reverse rolling order and placing them on more parchment on the back of a baking sheet. The parchment was then to be trimmed around the ‘zones with surgical precision while my oven was pre-heated to 500 degrees and left for 30 minutes. Unhappily, this preheating made my kitchen get much hotter than the one in the expansive, top-secret Cook’s Illustrated facility must have, and soon I was mummified in a gummy paste of parchment, flour, cheese and cooking spray. Everything was stuck to everything else to the extent that the second I’d wrestled the last calzone and its parchment doily onto the baking sheet to rest, I jumped directly into the shower for a refresh.

Flour free and dry I returned to the kitchen to begin baking and slid the calzones onto my pizza stone. (Actually, it’s just a big paving stone I bought at Home Depot.) Almost as soon as I shut the oven door I became aware that the paper under the calzones was burning and filling the house with smoke. Stupid goddamn parchment paper bane of my existence! I ran around opening doors and turning on fans—it was, after all, 4 degrees, and we Wisconsonites don’t even take down the screens in that sort of weather—and then I rounded up all the blaring smoke detectors and cast them out into the yard. After 12 long minutes playing fireman, I took the calzones out of the oven and discovered that they were perfect!

Crusty and golden, yet chewy and filled with oozing cheese and lurking sausage hunks these were exactly the calzones my body had requested. The bottom was singed by contact with the baking stone and broke with cracker-like crispness against the teeth, and the top, moistened and yielding from the rising steam provided a chewy contrast. We sat down to eat and there was little conversation for several minutes. This was partially because we were busy chewing and savoring and partially because we couldn’t see one another through the smoke.

In the end, the calzones were a semi-success. They were delicious, better than I’d dared hope they might be, but they took a great physical toll on me, required almost an entire day to make, and left the house smoky and cold for many hours. I might try them again without the parchment paper to see if it’s a lot easier, but if it isn’t, I think I’ll need another dose of divine inspiration before baking them again.

What Did The Connollys Have For Dinner Last Night? General Tso's Chicken! Pomegranate!

Because "What's for dinner?" is the most important question most of us answer every day.

Last Night: General Tso's Chicken! Pomegranate!
My bro sent me this online recipe and it turned out to be both easy and fun for the whole fam. I, of course, always enjoy creating Dishes That Don't Seem Like You Should Be Able To Make Them At Home and Oliver and Max liked the sweetness of this and also the broccoli. (For all the talk of kids not eating broccoli, it's one of the things ours will both reliably eat.) I served this with white rice and we had a pomegranate for dessert. I must say, although I consider the pomegranate to be one of the great underachievers of the fruit kingdom, watching your kid eat his first one is pretty heady stuff! We even developed a method of popping the kernels in Max's mouth so he could join the fun.

I followed the recipe here almost exactly with the exception that I used cut out the hot peppers (for the boys) and used chicken breasts I had in the fridge in place of thighs. I pretty much always buy whole chickens at CostCo and cut them up myself. This saves us--and I'm guessing here--about $3 million dollars a year. The savings derives from the fact that I can get three or four meals from a single chicken: one using the dark meat pieces; one from the breasts; and then a dozen or so uses of the stock from the bones and leftovers. I admit I'm a little spooked by the fact that we, as a society, can now raise, kill, clean, prep, package and ship a chicken that costs consumers under $2.50, but I find it helps if you think of "chickens" as vegetables.

The sauce in this recipe is simpler and less syrupy than what you'd get from your local bulletproof Chinese place and that's a big improvement.

#63-I Am the John Henry of Snow Shoveling

More than anything else right now, shoveling snow is my full-time job. Do I dabble in writing? Oh, I suppose I occasionally churn out a story in my down time, but mostly I just get out there and move the white stuff. It's not such a bad gig, really. I've got a great shovel. It's a Suncast PowerGrip with double wall construction, a fiberglass core and a resin sleeve on the handle which allows both maximum power and handling finesse. Admittedly, the PowerGrip’s a lot of shovel, but I need the horsepower because I'm what we in the biz call a “big lifter."

There are, for those of you not in the professional snow management field, quite a few categories of snow movers. There are snow pushers, light lifters and mid-stormers--who, for reasons I cannot fathom, think getting out there while it's still snowing makes the job easier. We "big lifters" get as much snow as possible into our shovels each time we scoop and although we burn a lot of energy, we get the job done. A lot of "big lifters" don't shovel very fast, but when I get out there I like to open up the throttle and let 'er rip. The main reason for this is because I'm surrounded on all sides by “blowers,” or people who clear their snow using gas-powered snowblowers.

To a pro shovel jock like me, there’s nothing more repellent than a “blower.” I mean, if you’re 80, sure, or if you’re going to do the whole block. But to me, cranking up a machine just to clear your 30 feet of front walkway is, well… it’s un-American, God damn it! This ain’t Sweden pal! Shovel your own damn snow!

So, the reason I shovel faster than a lot of my fellow “big lifters” is that I’ve got to show these “blowers” what a man can do when he decides to move snow. I’m the John Henry of snow shoveling—pitting my sinew, sweat and bone against the machines because it’s what I believe in. I’m not just shoveling my driveway, I’m shoveling to protect the American way!

I’ll admit though, when we got 12 inches last week, if I’da owned a snowblower I’da have been sore tempted to crank ‘er up. See, the thing about 12 inches of snow, aside from being a rap classic, is that it’s not 12-inches deep. No indeed. You see, when it snows all night, the snow plows run all night, and they shoot the snow out of the road up onto your sidewalk and driveway resulting in a 2-2 1/2-foot thick layer of hard-packed, heavy snow.

You know how Eskimos are supposed to have 14 words for snow? Well, we snow pros aren’t far behind. You got your light dusting, your soupy melting, your crème-brulee, which is when the sun melts the top layer of the snow, then it refreezes and turns to ice. And when the plows come around and deposit tons of snow onto your drive, we call that “layercaking.”

Last week’s snowfall wasn’t too bad on its own. It was deep snow, but light and fluffy. It was actually kind of a rare pleasure. You don’t often get to work with such high quality material in quantities like that. I cleared the back walk in no time and was just digging into the driveway when I glanced out towards the road. Lordy! Obviously, I’ve seen some layercaking in my time, but this took the layer cake. It seemed like every plow in town had made a special trip just to dump snow onto my driveway.

Still, I’m a pro, so I stomped down there and got right at it. I’ll tell you something folks, this was the stuff of snow pro nightmares. The embankment was about 3-feet deep and comprised mainly of huge chunks of ice that had been packed down by vehicular traffic then pried up by the plow and dropped on my driveway. If there are two things a shovel jock hates they are as follows: 1. Having to break up the snow before you can shovel it; and 2. Having so much snow already piled at the sides of your driveway that you have to walk the snow halfway down the block before you can put it down. This embankment had both characteristics.

It took me literally three hours to clear the driveway, back and front walks, and that was before I even went to work on the roof. I’m a pretty hard man when it comes to snow jobs, but this one required every trick I know including the singing of the negro spirituals “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and “Dese Bones Gwine Rise Again.”

Still, as always, in the end, I did the job and did it well. In fact, I was so proud of my work that I took some photographs. Check them out below and please contact me with any snow-related questions or comments.

Here’s the snow load before I went to work on it. See that little rake thing? Oliver was using that to “help” me.

Then he ended up doing this…

So, yeah, he’s still on time out. Again, this is not communist Sweden. Snow is used for forging character, not having fun.

Here's the driveway after I got finished with it.

A couple snow tips from a pro: Try to toss your snow into the middle of your lawn as I have done here. This will prevent the buildup of a wall of packed snow at the edge of your lawn and will make future shovelings easier. Also, if you’re just starting shoveling and you don’t have a dominant side yet, train yourself to shovel both left and right handed, this will save a lot of strain on your back.

Notice here where my front walk abuts my neighbor’s. He’s a “blower.” Notice the soulless straight edges along his walkway and how uninspired the street surface looks. This country’s going to hell in a handbasket.

#62-Hugely Huge Crimes of Mind-Blowing Hugeness

As previously discussed, I have a certain affinity for email scammers. I’m also a big fan of jewel thieves and pickpockets (as long as I’m not their target) and I appreciate the work of assassins. Until a few days ago I would probably have named Robert “No Nose” Gardener my favorite active criminal, but he’s recently been supplanted by my new crime hero: Bernard “Ponzi” Madoff. If you haven’t been following Mr. Madoff’s story, he’s a 70-year-old Wall Street exec who used his summer lifeguarding money to build a flourishing trading company and kick down the door to the secret clubhouse of the world’s most influential financiers. Madoff made money hand over fist for about forty years until a few days ago when it was discovered that he was basically running an airplane, or “Ponzi” scheme.

Madoff’s con involved seducing financial entities—banks, companies, charities, cities and individual humans—into giving him money. He used newer investor’s money to pay older investors then cooked the books and skimmed profits off the top. He did this for about 10 years and is thought to have raked in something like 50 billion dollars.

Yes. Fifty! Billion! Dollars!

Now, I know this scandal is probably going to rock the very core of our economy. I know the aftershock of Madoff and Enron et al. will probably serve as a body blow to investor confidence, drain capitol from the markets and reveal that the global economy is essentially a stone soup brewed of faith and magic beans, but still… FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS!?! You have to respect that. Who is this guy? Lex Luthor? Does he have a giant glass dome for a skull that shows off his massive brain? Does he have a metal hand with different weapon attachments and a white cat on his lap?

My man Madoff wasn’t bilking retirees or freshly de-boated immigrants at Ellis Island either; he was conning professional moneymaking people. He conned banks and whole groups of Swiss financiers! He took money from people that care about money and know about money and understand how money works. You have to at least respect the scope of Madoff’s attempt. It’s not easy to think that big. You either have to be an evil genius or, apparently, a dumbass from the south like this Georgia man who tried to open a bank account with a home made million dollar bill, or this Fort Worth mastermind who stole his girlfriend’s mother’s checkbook and wrote himself a check for three hundred and sixty billion dollars. Wow! You mean that didn’t work?

I know this sounds crazy, but maybe we should think about giving ol’ Madsy some kind of position at the SEC? First of all, none of the people working there now seem to understand economics half as well as he does, and secondly, even if they encase Madoff in a glass cell surrounded by 50 armed guards, it’s only a matter of time before he uses a pen to escape, accesses hidden funds, buys a giant laser-refracting diamond and threatens to blow up the moon if we don’t make him Exalted Supreme Chancellor of Earth, so why not get him on our side while we can?

#61- Websites That Simultaneously Skewer Me and Make Me Laugh

John sent me the link below and I find the site hilarious. Of course, at the same time as I'm laughing, I'm pretty sure whoever writes this site would hate me. That's okay though. Sometimes you need a good hating to keep you on track.

Basically, the sophomoric geniuses behind this site take advertising photos from the Internet and then write about them in the voice of a spiteful, potty-mouthed, drunken, racist, 13-year-old boy with tourettes. I know that sounds kind of offputting, and it is, but for some reason it's also very funny.

The site is called AIDSvertising and the top banner reads: LOOK AT THESE FUCKING ADS! LOOK AT THEM! LAUGH AT THEM! NEW SHIT EVERY DAY FUCK! There's also an entry entitled "Back the Fuck Up Because It's Time for Some Motherfucking Grapes" which includes the sentence, "With all these essential vitamins and nutrients and shit, these grapes are more awesome than a robot caveman punching God in the dick." If the preceding wordage was disturbing to you I definitely invite you not to explore AIDSvertising because it only goes downhill, or uphill depending on your perspective, from there. Enjoy. Or (seriously) don't.


What Did the Connollys Have for Dinner? Baked Linguini!!

Because "What's for dinner?" is the most important question most of us answer every day.

Baked linguini!

Well, it was Friday yesterday so naturally my thoughts turned to pasta with "sauce." But this time I decided to mix it up a little by grating some provolone and parmagiano into the noodles, mixing in a little sauce and sweet Italian sausage and then baking the whole thing with mozzarella on top. I got the idea for baked pasta from my mother in law and it ruled!

Connolly On The Case!

My second semi-investigative report on the oddities of life in Madison Wisconsin focuses on the zillions of ladybugs that appear in our houses every winter. Where did they come from? And how can we make them go away?

What Did the Connollys Have for Dinner Last Night?
Crispy Tofu with Baby Spinach, Chickpeas and Raisins in a Yogurt Curry Sauce

I learned a lesson while making this. The lesson is: If you cut your tofu into triangles before you panfry it you end up having to flip over 20 or so little chunks, whereas if you'd fried it in three large slabs, you'd only perform three flips!

#60 - A Word of Caution Regarding Alien Shapeshifters

I believe there exist certain contingencies for which a man needs to be prepared. By this I do not refer to pragmatic things like changing a tire or hooking up a DVD player—although those skills are handy—but rather to certain, more austere potentialities. A man should, for example, know in advance what three things he will wish for should he ever find a lamp with a genii in it, because making that kind of high-pressure call on the spot can be kind of tricky. He should likewise pre-decide whether he would kill Hitler if teleported back to 1920’s Austria in spite of the fact that changing world history might jeopardize his chances of being born; and he should also spend some time deciding whether or not he would eat human flesh to stay alive after a plane crash. (I would. In fact, I might eat human flesh just to see what it tastes like.)

For the most part, while I personally prefer to make these kinds of decisions ahead of time, I don’t worry too much about people who leave them for later. It’s sort of like how I prefer to depart quite early for the airport. Do I think that’s the best way to do it? Yes. But is it any concern of mine if someone else wants to go rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off? Not so much.

There is, however, a looming crisis threatening mankind about which I can no longer keep silent. I speak, of course, of alien shapeshifters with the ability to assume the identities of our loved ones. I believe far too many people are simply whistling past the graveyard, so to speak, when it comes to these malevolent mimics from outer space, and I can no longer stand idly by when a few almost tragically simple precautions could render the alien shapeshifters virtually powerless.

And so it is that I call on each of my readers to sit down and think up a few Alien Impersonator Security Questions with which these evil doppelgangers can be identified and weeded out. These questions should be highly personal in nature—kind of like the “secret word” you might teach your child if you were sending someone he’d never met to pick him up from school. Also, you should not share your Alien Impersonator Security Questions with the people for whom they are devised. A proper AISQ should be something the interrogatee (the real one that is) will answer without hesitation, but which the alien could not possibly know.

As is well known, any shapeshifting alien worth his salt will do some pretty in depth research into someone he intends to kill and replace. They’ll know your birthday, your favorite animal and your sports allegiances. They will even, by donning you as what they callously refer to as a “meat mask,” absorb some of your major memories: first kisses, childbirths, best summers ever!, things like that. But even the highly-advanced alien version of wikipedia doesn’t contain every fact, every nuance, of a human life. No indeed. In fact, every life contains private moments and memories that are only known to those who directly experienced them. I will now, at great risk to myself and my familiars, divulge a few examples of the AISQs I have devised for people close to me.

Obviously, by doing this, I will have to go back and plan out new questions for these folks, but this is a small service I will gladly perform for the benefit of the human race. Also, please note that the optimal way to use these questions is before your friend or family member has been killed and sealed into a gauzy cocoon of alien saliva in your basement or broom closet. Hopefully, when you deploy these AISQs, you will be standing in a room with, say, both your brother and his alien replica and you’ll be trying to sort out which is which. However, even if your loved one is already dead, you can still use these questions to oust the alien and kill him.
*Bonus Alien Shapeshifter Safety Tip!
If you manage to dispatch your alien via decapitation, good on you! But please remember to burn or lock up the head! If you don’t, it will sprout legs and scurry away and become even more of a nuisance than the alpha alien that begot it.

Alien Impersonator Security Questions I Plan To Ask My Friends and Loved Ones and How I Devised Them

Subject: Andrew
Relationship: Brother
Question: Andrew, please complete the following sentence: “and their friend Toby Tortoise…”
Answer: “And their friend Toby Tortoise. And their friend Toby Tortoise.”
How I Came Up With This: When Andrew and I were young we had a record of the Disney version of Robin Hood featuring animals playing the characters. The record always skipped right after the sentence, “And their friend Toby Tortoise,” and would keep repeating that phrase until you went and advanced it.

Subject: Josh
Relationship: BFF!
Question: Please define the term “turbulent wind.”
Answer: “’Turbulent wind!’ Or, more precisely, ‘Whoa! Turbulent wind!’ is what you shout when a preppy girl at a private school party in Brooklyn suddenly bolts from the dance floor and almost knocks you over. It’s an extremely goofy thing to say, but if you manage to pull off an underage bodega beer purchase and you utter the phrase about 4,000 times it will give you the uncontrollable giggles.”

Subject: Ky
Question: In the Maxim Magazine casting of Star Wars, what character am I and what character are you?
Answer: “You are the poor droid in Jabba’s Palace that’s having his feet burned when C3PO wanders into the droid torture room and I am the orc-like creature who accidentally falls into the Rancor pit when they push Luke Sywalker in there.”
How I Came Up With This: During the heady days when I worked at Maxim Magazine with Ky, we came up with an extensive equivalency casting of Star Wars based on the magazine staff. Our roles were chosen to underscore our low standing on the Maxim totem pole. Incidentally, the orc who falls into the pit is named Jubnuk and he’s one of Jabba Desilijic Tiure’s nine Gamorrean guards, and the foot torture droid is a 12 Series Traffic Control Droid from Cloud City.

Subject: Joy
Relationship: Loving Wife
A Note on AISQs for Spouses: As you probably know, when an alien shapeshifter is targeting a human, the bug will generally spend the bulk of his research time investigating those nearest and dearest to his prey. For this reason I recommend scripting a series of questions through which you can ascertain whether or not your wife is actually your wife. To this end I have drilled into Joy a sequence of what I will call “Sports Call and Responses.” These are words or phrases which, when uttered by one sports fan, will automatically illicit a specific response from a second sports fan. Obviously, most alien shapeshifters will have been furnished the counterparts to each of these phrases as part of their Rudimentary Humanoid Sports Information Data Pack, so when I’m testing Joy I will require the following dialog to be completed exactly and without variance.
Sports Call and Response AISQ Dialog:
Me: Brett Farve.
Joy: Gunslinger mentality. Loves to play the game.
Me: Dirk Nowitski.
Joy: Seven-footer. Shoots like a guard.
Me: Duke, Carolina. Giants, Cowboys.
Joy: Throw out the records when these two get together.
Me: Joy in Madison, you’re on the air.
Joy: Thanks Chris. First time, long time. I have a few quick points then I’ll hang up and listen to what you have to say.

And really it’s just that simple. F you alien shapeshifters! You’re finished.

What Did The Connollys Have For Dinner Last Night? Beef Strip Loin Roast with Magical Yorkshire Pudding Cupcakes, Heirloom Tomato Salad

Because "What's for dinner?" is the most important question most of us answer every day.

Beef Strip Loin Roast with Magical Yorkshire Pudding Cupcakes, Heirloom Tomato Salad

If you've noticed heirloom tomato salad cropping up a lot lately, yes, I did buy a huge bushel of these suckers at Costco, and yes, I am getting a wee bit sick of them.

I was inspired to make this meal because it's so freakin' cold outside and I'm finally realizing that winter's not going to go away. In fact, it's 9 degrees outside right now. 9! Today's what I like to call "squeaky cold." The snow is so frozen it's almost like walking on glass grains and you get the urge to roast something big mostly so you can toy with the idea of climbing into the oven alongside your dinner.

I tried a new technique for roasting the meat this time--namely, I cooked it for about two hours at a ridiculously low 225 degrees until it reached an internal temprature of 123, then I took the meat out and rested it while I cranked the oven to 500. When the oven was blazing hot I put the roast back in for 10 minutes to crisp the outside. I first saw this technique on Alton Brown's Good Eats and it's designed to ensure even cooking, a rare interior and a nice crust. (I believe he cooks the meat in a flower pot or something foolish like that, but I see through his gimmicks to the good sense underneath.)

I think the idea of slow roasting at the outset and then finishing in a hot oven is sound, but, as is typical around here, I got tied up changing a diaper and the meat got slightly overdone. This didn't upset me too much though since the meat, the salad, the wine and everything else on the table last night was merely there to garnish these gorgeous Yorkshire pudding cupcakes.

I mean, look at those things! They're magic! No. Seriously. When I call Yorkshire Pudding Cupcakes magic, I'm not exaggerating. I really and truly don't understand how these badboys work. I mean, you take flour, salt, eggs, milk and fat and combine them and you somehow get something that does... THIS!

How does that happen? Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't flour, milk, salt and eggs basically the ingredients for pancake batter? So how can a single batter produce both flat cakes and inflatable clouds of beefy goodness?

I've made these cupcake things four or five times now and every time I slide the tray into the oven I'm tortured by misgivings. Anxiously, I turn the oven light on and monitor the puddings for any signs of rising. Then, when, inevitably, the crusty tops start to tremble and gain height I run and find Joy and tell her, "It's working! They're rising!"

Obviously, my unbridled pudding outbursts only serve to cement Joy's opinion that I'm a nutcase, but how could anyone fail to be excited by creating something so awesome as a Yorkshire pudding cupcake? There are certain things that just don't seem like you should be able to cook them yourself. Gyros are a good example of this. So are crackers. Could you make your own crackers? I suppose so. But you'd know you were toying with forces beyond your control. I made a loaf of gyro once. Once. It was pretty good, but I felt like I was playing God.

But among the subset of Cookable Things That Seem Like You Shouldn't Be Able To Cook Them Yourself, Yorkshire pudding cupcakes are fairly manageable. Some day, when I'm feeling quite brave, I'm going to make Yorkshire pudding cupcakes... without an accompanying beef roast! That's right. I said it! I think I'm going to poke little chunks of brie in there and serve them with a spinach salad. Am I flying too close to the sun? Perhaps. But at least I'll go out with a nice tan.

To make magical Yorkshire pudding cupcakes yourself you will need...

steely resolve
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pan drippings from a roast beef

Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Divide the pan drippings evenly among the cupcake cups and slide the tray into the oven to get scorching hot. Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl and beat the eggs and milk in another. Unite the two mixtures until just incorporated then remove the hot cupcake tin from the oven. Working quickly, pour an even amount of batter into each cupcake cup and slide the tray into the oven. (To achieve the mushroom cloud effect where the puddings bloom right up out of the pan, fill each tin almost to the very top.) Turn on the oven light and watch nervously to see if the puddings are rising. Curse yourself for your hubris until about the 10 minute mark when, what's this? It's working! Dear God it's working! Run and find your sig other and embrace him or her shouting, "They're rising! They're rising!" Serve hot.