Edible Tastings: The Popover Lady
Photos by Michael Piazza
The classic American Popover—cousin to the English Yorkshire Pudding—is usually served alongside a centerpiece roast, a treat at the holidays and at Sunday dinner. But Naomi Cannistraci of Melrose, and her alter ego, The Popover Lady, aims to change that, introducing everyday popovers to farmers market patrons all over Eastern Massachusetts. Dusted with cinnamon sugar, drizzled with melted chocolate, studded with tangy Asiago cheese, or laced with homemade pesto, they make as good an out-of-hand snack as any doughnut or croissant, and judging by the scads of people strolling around markets munching on them, The Popover Lady has succeeded.
The eggy, crèpe-like batter of a popover puffs up in the oven creating a golden brown, shiny, domed cap with an air-filled pocket and a crust that crisps and crackles when reheated. You can serve warm, savory popovers at breakfast with butter and jam, alongside soup or salad at lunch, or with a rich, roast beef or lamb at supper, but Naomi suggests giving them a go in a non-traditional way: the empty center of a popover makes it a ready-made, edible container, just waiting to be filled.
Here are 6 varieties of Naomi’s popovers and a few unique ways to serve them; once you bring them home from the farmers market, they’ll last 1-2 days in their box on the counter, but be sure to heat them up in a 325° oven for 3-5 minutes or until crisped and warmed through.
Split in half and serve filled with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with maple syrup, and a bit of crumbled smoky bacon. Or go more savory and fill it with sliced, fresh mozzarella, the last of the season’s heirloom tomatoes, and some fresh basil leaves; in cooler months, treat it like a classic French crèpe and fill it with grated Gruyère cheese and sliced ham and run it under the broiler.
Don’t heat these ones up: the granulated sugar crust is delicious at room temperature. Serve at breakfast or as an afternoon treat with a frothy caffé latte or a steaming cup of milky tea, or fill with dark chocolate mousse and serve for dessert.
Naomi’s homemade pesto—made with walnuts, basil and Parmigiano—runs through this popover, making it just right to layer with roasted eggplant or peppers, fresh thyme, and creamy goat cheese. In winter, layer in roasted squash, shaved ricotta salata, caramelized onion jam, and a dribble of reduced balsamic vinegar.
Studded with sweet caramelized onions, use this popover as a base for the best-ever roast beef sandwich: layer thinly-sliced beef, some horseradish crème fraîche, and pepper arugula, tomatoes optional.
Treat this popover like a pizza crust and smear with tomato sauce, sprinkle with grated cheese and a pinch of dried oregano and top it off with a few slices of spicy pepperoni before baking in a hot oven until bubbling. Or just heat and serve with a glass of hearty red wine, pile of green olives, and some salted almonds.
Make a vanilla-scented pastry cream and pipe it in for a homemade éclair-type treat, or fill with butter pecan ice cream. Also nice on its own with a mug of hot chocolate or a tall glass of milk.
The Popover Lady
This story appeared in the Fall 2015 issue.