It’s now been sixty-eight days sine I last heard a coyote in the backyard. Three years since they were so close you could hear their breath on the windowpane. The coyote tricked me once, hunched and hungry, but I won’t be in California again for a long, long time.
My people aren’t like those on the West Coast; or, at the very least, those I met. There are burn marks on my mother’s arm, cat scratches on the edges of her knuckles. She makes a dollar stretch and my dad drinks his Diet Pepsi on the couch for hours at night. Nursing it, letting the ice melt to a more toothsome bite. The dogs play in the backyard and bark at nothing but the dried grapevines that appear to have died from a disease and not the harsh Northeastern winter that we’re still shaking off. I keep my window open some nights, and the frogs act like a Greek chorus, explaining things in a language I do not know yet, a dialect so deep-rooted in creekbeds and unemployment checks, I’m still getting an ear for it.
I come from families sustained on peasant food. Meat, potatoes, fats when we could get them. I am the apex of generations of farmers and truck drivers, stay-at-home moms and divorcees who never quite got their bearings. My dad said he’s never tried cauliflower, my mother bought produce at the dollar store when we lived in Kentucky. My sister slept in the laundry room then. I shared a room with my brother.
These popovers are a product of my heritage. Where the leavening is from the earth and a little elbow grease to boot. Where the grit of the cornmeal, unbleached and rugged, grinds on the tooth while you daydream of a beach in your land-locked state. Where the fat is light and the oven is hot and the days are shorter than when you were a child. It’s everything and nothing, an illusion of a simple life because I never realized how tough it must have been to feed a family of five while working night shifts at the Walmart in town. I’ll never hear a coyote again out here in Pennsylvania, but I surround myself with like me now. Family, in every sense of the word.
Blue Cornmeal and Smoked Cheddar Popovers
Yields six popovers using proper pan, or roughly 10-14 popovers made with a muffin tin
- ½ cup Bob's Red Mill blue cornmeal (or yellow, if not available)
- 1 cup AP flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1 ½ cup whole milk, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- ½ cup grated smoked chedda
- Preheat oven to 450*F and prepare your pan by spraying with oil (I used a traditional non-stick popover pan, but a muffin pan will work, but will not yield the same height)
- Sift together cornmeal, flour, and salt
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs and milk together vigorously until yolks are broken up and mixture is foaming
- Continue whisking slowly, adding your cornmeal mixture slowly into the milk mixture
- When mixture has the consistency of a thick (albeit lumpy) cream, stir in the butter
- Allow to rest for 30 minutes
- When resting is complete, spoon batter into prepared tins, about three-quarters full
- Top with cheese
- Bake for 20 minutes on 450*F, then reduce oven to 350*F and bake for an additional 17-20 minutes. During this time do not open the oven door until you have hit the 17-minute mark
- When popovers have a solid center and the edges are crisp, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from pan
- Immediately pierce sides with a knife to allow for steam to escape (this will prevent popovers from deflating)
- Serve immediately for best tast
Note: I am fortunate enough to be a Bob's Red Mill brand ambassador this year and will be partnering with them more and more throughout the year. While Bob's Red Mill supplied the ingredient, coconut flour, for this post, all opinions are my own. Check out their website for more information on all the amazing products they have to offer!