The recipe was a total cinch. I had the batter ready in minutes and stood around, tapping my foot while the oven heated up.
While they baked, I brought the husband up to to speed, since he had never tried popovers before. "My mother used to make them on weekends," I said. "They almost have a pancake-like batter and taste, but you bake them in muffin tins and they poof up, like little balloons."
My most recent experience with the popover has been at The Rotunda Room, a ridiculous restaurant on the top floor of Neiman Marcus in Union Square. For some reason I've ended up at The Rotunda Room at least three times that I can remember, usually with work friends. Since it is a public place, there are usually other civilians like me there, with our wash-and-wear hair and off-the-rack clothes, but for the most part, The Rotunda Room is frequented by well-coiffed ladies that lunch, wearing chic dresses and strappy heels, their Gucci bags weighing heavily on skinny wrists.
The Rotunda Room's defining and admittedly fabulous feature is that it's mostly windows, so you can look out over the city while you eat your $25 Cobb salad. The restaurant's signature starters that are brought out soon after you're seated are a tiny teacup of consomme and a giant, crusty popover served with strawberry butter. The popovers really are lovely, I'll give them that. They are a deep, burnished brown, with an airy, empty center. It might seem overkill to draw the comparison between the popovers and the Rotunda ladies eating them, but I'm not in the practice of being subtle.
The joke might be on me, though, because it turns out popovers are not easy to make, even if they are filled with nothing. As soon as I pulled mine from the oven, I knew I had failed. There was no popping, and definitely no popping over. In fact, they looked like squat little muffins.
Here's a close-up view.
"This isn't how they're supposed to look," I said to the husband, as I served him two little stumps on a plate. "They're supposed to be light and airy but instead they're..."
"Flopovers?" he offered helpfully.
Pretty much. I have no idea what I did wrong. It's possible my oven temperature is off, although I've never found that to be a problem with other recipes. If anyone has any ideas about where my misstep could have been, I'd love to hear them. The popover gauntlet has been thrown down, and one day soon I must rise again to the challenge.