Monday, October 17, 2011
Toad in the Hole
Something about all the wind and rain we've had lately makes me long for comfort, warmth, and the food of my youth. Here's another of the pieces I wrote as part of a feature on British food for my friends Kelly and Katie over at PixiesDidIt!
Bubble and squeak. Spotted dick. Girdle sponges. It occurs to me that British food may have acquired its undeserved, unfortunate reputation thanks to some of its more regrettable recipe titles. Personally though I happen to like the colorful names.
Take toad in the hole, one of the most comforting and crave-able classic nursery food dishes the world has ever known. Savory British “bangers” are sizzled over heat until golden, then baked in a blanket of Yorkshire pudding batter. The batter rises and browns around the sausages, leaving them peaking out from the various pockets that form. Like toads peering out of their holes even. The Yorkshire pudding soaks up the flavor of the sausages, which keep it soft and aromatic within, but crusty on the outside. The sausages crisp and dry a little where they are exposed but stay moist and plump underneath the batter. It’s utterly simple, the best of both worlds, and consummately reassuring.
The trick to Yorkshire pudding, whether for toad in the hole or otherwise, is to start with very hot fat. That’s why you preheat the casserole dish and its oil along with the oven - otherwise the batter won’t puff. The dish is best eaten at home on a chill evening, when your bones are weary. Preferably after some grueling physical activity, field hockey practice in the rain, say, and a subsequent hot shower, and just before sliding your heavy limbs between cool, clean sheets for sleep.
Serves 3 - 4
8 medium sized, banger-style sausages
7/8 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup milk
½ cup water
optional for serving: onion gravy (I come from a long line of purists and prefer this without, but you can click on the link for a good recipe).
Pour a generous amount of olive oil (about 1/8 inch or ½ cm deep) into a fairly deep 8 – 9 inch casserole dish. Place the dish in the center of a cold oven and preheat to 450 F (230 C, gas mark 8).
Use a sharp knife to prick the sausages in several places. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a good glug of olive oil and then the sausages. Allow to brown deeply before turning and browning on the other side.
Meanwhile, whisk together the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the milk, water, and eggs and whisk again until just combined. Do not overmix. Set aside to rest.
When the oven is preheated, remove the casserole dish from the oven and arrange the sausages in the hot oil. Working quickly to keep the oil hot, pour over the batter and immediately place back in the center of the oven. Bake until the batter is puffed and golden brown – about 25 – 35 minutes, but this can vary based on your oven.