A Great British Twist on Your Thanksgiving Dinner
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because don’t you just wish that your Thanksgiving dinner was a little more carby?
By James Watkins
As a Brit in America, I’m conflicted about Thanksgiving dinner. On one hand, it’s everything about food that we Brits love — heavy, brown and almost indigestible — but on the other, it’s an annual reminder of what I’m missing out on: the weekly Sunday roast. Yes, that’s right: In the U.K. we pretty much have a Thanksgiving dinner every bloody week. None of the pumpkin or pecan pies or any of that sweet nonsense, but all of the good stuff: meat, potatoes, a handful of veg to make you feel good about yourself and lots and lots of gravy.
But there’s one thing missing from Thanksgiving dinner in my books, and that’s the mighty Yorkshire pudding. Crispy and fluffy, carby and comforting, it’s perfect for mopping up the gravy from your plate, and while it is oh-so-filling on its own, stuffing the final bite into your mouth when you’re already too full to leave the table is just about the best feeling in the world. Don’t let the word “pudding” throw you — also known as popovers on this side of the pond, this savory treat from England’s largest county is essentially a pancake that has risen up into the shape of a crispy cup.
But if you want to go all in? I propose making a few giant Yorkshire pudding bowls — big enough to serve your entire meal inside.
The magic starts with a simple pancake batter: flour, eggs and milk. The flavor all comes from a bit of fat and an almost oven-breaking heat that lets the puddings rise and crisp up. The secret to the perfect Yorkshire? According to world Yorkshire pudding champion Chris Blackburn, author of food blog Yorkshire Pudd, whose perfect puds have landed him on a number of TV shows, “absolutely it’s beef dripping.” Most vegetable oils can’t reach the temperature required without burning and going bitter, says Blackburn, so you need a solid fat like duck fat, lard or beef dripping (rapeseed oil is a good alternative for vegetarians) roasted in a hot-as-you-can-make-it oven before adding the batter. “If it’s not smoking, don’t put the batter in. Just don’t do it,” Blackburn warns — it should sizzle as you pour it in.
Click or swipe to the right for step-by-step photos.
Every family has their own superstitions about how to make sure the puddings will rise. For me, it’s whisking up the batter at least 20 minutes before baking time, and then, for some unknown reason, never opening the oven door until they’re ready — in case it breaks the spell. Even so, sometimes it can be a lottery, and one or two of 12 seemingly identical puddings will refuse to rise. So when making giant ones, be sure to prep a few more than you need, so that one poor family member isn’t left with a soggy Yorkshire plate instead of a nice crispy bowl.
And while Yorkshire pudding is traditionally served with beef or mutton, Blackburn has even baked the versatile treats Chinese-style with duck and hoisin sauce, as appetizers filled with cheese soufflé, the day after drizzled with maple syrup and even for dessert with a mini Mars bar melted inside.
So even if I can’t convince you to experiment with Thanksgiving-in-a-Yorkshire-pudding on the day itself, it’s an ideal way to spruce up your leftovers to feel like a totally new meal. We even made ours with powdered mash and pre-cooked turkey. And it still tasted bloody marvelous.
Recipe: Thanksgiving in a Yorkshire Pudding
You need (creates 4 giant Yorkshires):
- 225 g plain flour (about 1¾ cups)
- 4 eggs
- 300 ml reduced-fat or low-fat milk (10 fl. oz.)
- Salt and pepper
- Oil or solid fat (preferably rapeseed oil or beef dripping)
- 4 individual ovenproof dishes, at least 6 inches in diameter
- Turkey, mashed potato, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy, or whatever other Thanksgiving filling you want (gravy is absolutely NOT optional though)
- Whisk together the flour, eggs and milk to form the batter, add a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Turn oven up as high as it will go (usually 230–240 C, or 450–460 F).
- Place a small amount of oil/fat into each dish, and allow to heat up to smoking point.
- Pour a quarter of the batter into each dish. It should sizzle when added.
- Put dishes back into oven and cook for 20–30 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.
- Remove from the oven, place the puddings on a plate and fill with the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner. Drizzle with copious amounts of gravy.
Chris Blackburn’s Pro Tip:
- When you put the dishes back into the oven with the batter, turn the oven down to 200 C (400 F). The residual heat will allow them to rise, but the oven will cool in time for them to crisp up without burning. Oh, and “always cook them for exactly 29 minutes,” he says.