Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Toad-in-the-Hole

Though I try to keep the holiday craziness to a minimum, I do undertake some serious culinary preparation for having a wonderful celebration.   Therefore it's nice to be able to whip up something fast and simple during this rushed time.  The Calm One having grown up in Yorkshire appreciates as well as I do, a simple but satisfying British classic, Toad-in-the-Hole--an enticing soufflé-like Yorkshire pudding studded with succulent sausages.  It's a homey dish that helps one appreciate being cosily ensconced at home while gazing through frosted windows at the sleeping garden. 


Ingredients (Count 'em.  Only five. That's simple!)
Two generous servings or 4 skimpier ones

  • Flour, all purpose, 150 grams
  • Salt, 1/4 tsp
  • Milk, 450 ml
  • Eggs, large, 3
  • Sausages, either British bangers, Toulouse, or Italian Sweet, 4

Bangers, a smooth-textured British sausage, filled with meat and breadcrumbs/rusk, are traditionally used.  However, chez nous, we add a French touch by using Toulouse sausage, made with pork, garlic, and red wine.


Turn on oven to 400 degrees F/205 degrees C.  Put a small, metal roasting pan (18 cm by 25 cm by 4 cm deep) in the preheating oven. Sift flour and salt from up high--this increases baked puffiness--and make a well.


Crack the eggs into the well.  Slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs by beating them in a circular motion with a fork, encroaching gradually onto the flour until mixture is smooth and sticky.




Gradually add milk, incorporating it first with a fork.  Then continue blending with a whisk. Beat until airy and full of bubbles.


Reserve the batter while occasionally whisking it as you saute the sausages.  The main purpose of this step is not to cook the sausages, but to get them to release some of their fat.  Add a tablespoon of oil, then the sausages, pricking them on all sides as they lightly brown over medium flame.  When about 4 to 5 tablespoons of fat has collected in the pan--I tip the pan to the side, roughly approximating the amount--turn off the heat.


Take out carefully the hot roasting pan and place on open oven door.  Empty the contents of the fry pan into the roasting pan. Make sure you get all the fat to follow the sausages!


Pour batter over the sausages, arranging them evenly spaced via tongs.  Put back into oven.


Bake for about 40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes, till very puffy and deeply browned.  The pudding's top should be fairly hard and inflexible to the touch.  Deeper down there will be some soft but firm spots.  Loosen the edges and bottom of the pudding from the pan with a narrow spatula.  Cut into four squares and serve immediately as it will lose height quickly.


Though brown gravy is traditionally served, we enjoy a side of stewed tomatoes made with our potager's Romas.


Bon appétit!

In the potager, the carrots sowed in August are beginning to be harvested in all their earthy, golden goodness.  I carefully dig with a trowel all around the carrot and gently heave it out of the soil.  If the soil is lightly moist, pulling them out is easier with less chance of leaving carrot pieces in the soil.

With diminished daylight, the roots will not fill out much more, but will resume their growth in early spring.  As light frosts are possible not only at night but also during the day, I leave horticultural fleece tucked around the carrot bed which turns it into a storage area.  Keep in mind carrot tops are wonderful additions to the soup stock pot as they are not bitter as I once thought as long as just a few are used.

In the wicker basket, are some fixings for chicken stock

The broccoli plants need to be dug up and put on the compost pile as their harvest is finished.

In the background, there's a yellow flowering broccoli!

The Brussels sprouts will keep producing into the new year so we should be able to have fresh ones for roasting with our holiday dinners.  Yay!  There are already quite a lot frozen.


Dayo thrives on the fresh, cold air and gets very perky and playful.  He will jump up at my hands while I take some close-ups as he intermittently swats the camera.

What's that object in your hand?  Can I nom it?

Besides a few intrepid rose buds, pink heather, and white and purple alyssum, the flower garden has a low profile presently.  Though I am a zealous proponent of dead heading flowers, I do make some notable exceptions as in sparing these silver skeletons of Hydrangea flowers as they are lovely in a lacy, ghostly way. 


And these hips on the Rugosa roses warm up the garden with their hot crimson.


What are your plans for holiday eating chez vous?  Is there something new you would like to give a try?  Something you would love not to prepare comme d'habitude (as usual)?  Or perhaps, just not doing much except going to friends/family/restaurants?  Regardless, leave time for yourself to unwind and turn inward, for a break from all the external distractions. Refreshed and in tune with yourself, you will be able to enjoy more fully all the agreeable aspects of this season! 

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