The first item on the menu is the amuse bouche, dwarf Yorkshire puddings with beef and horseradish inside. But it was practically the last thing I tested, because I thought it would be a slam dunk. I’d made Yorkshire pudding before, and it worked fine. I was under the (mistaken) impression that it would be easy. But I thought I’d give it a quick dry run early in the week leading up to the dinner.
The first batch I did in my wood-burning barbecue (for those in the know, it’s a Big Green Egg). Partly because I wanted a bit of a smoky flavour, but mostly because when I made these for my parents at Christmas, my mom freaked out when she discovered what a mess it made of the oven. Disaster! They burned, they did it unevenly, and none of the Yorkies actually puffed over the beef – they just sat there like a sickly bean bag chair now devoid of stuffing, with a forlorn lump of grey meat sitting in it. Okay, that’s possibly an overly pejorative description, but that’s how I felt about it when I opened up the top. These were supposed to be easy!
So, second try a couple of days later. This time in the oven, so I can see what’s going on. I theorized a few causes to my problems. Number one, the smaller mini-muffin holes had a much higher surface-area-to-volume ratio than the normal muffin tin ones, and so they required less time to cook. Number two, maybe putting in the pizza stone to force indirect heating would eliminate some of the uneven bottom char. Number three, more batter is needed. The usual recipe suggests filling a third of the container, but with that meat in there it’s taking up a lot of volume. Archimedes knows what I’m talking about. Fourth, I was pouring the batter on right after adding the meat. The cold meat. Happily I stumbled upon a recipe for Toad in the Hole in Tidings magazine (sausages inside a giant Yorkshire pudding, essentially). That recipe calls for you to heat the sausages in the oil for 5 minutes before adding the batter. I think the cold was killing my pastry puffing.
Unfortunately, I discovered a new problem with my recipe. When making full-size muffin sized Yorkshire puddings, you’re supposed to put about a half teaspoon of oil in the bottom. But unless you deploy an eyedropper, it’s not easy to shrink that amount properly. So I ended up with far too much oil per hole. Also, the recipes I’ve seen suggest as hot as possible, but not to exceed 450°F as the oil will burn.
The oil burnt.
There was a colossal amount of choking smoke pouring out of my oven in just a few minutes after adding the batter. After throwing open the patio doors and nearby windows, I grabbed the aforementioned Tidings magazine and took up a position between the kitchen and the smoke detector in the hall, fanning for all I was worth in great ceiling to knee strokes. The extras behind the throne in Cleopatra had nothing on me! After twenty minutes of this grueling upper body workout, the smoke had cleared enough that I felt I could stop long enough to pull the results out of the oven. The oven itself looked like La Brea. Can you imagine how little I felt like spending the next night oven cleaning, in the few days leading up to my big party? Take your guess and lower it a little. However little I felt like it, though, it was non-negotiable at this point.
After all that, the results were edible – the burning was coming from the oil dripping down the walls of the oven, after all, not my baking. But not fabulous. Pre-heating the meat and adding more batter with a careful pour to cover the meat was definitely the way to go. But they were kind of bland. The recipe calls for a pinch of salt, which I’d omitted, and it was definitely necessary. Also, not very spicy. With the cooking of it, the horseradish really gets toned down. If I wanted this to taste like it had horseradish on it, I was going to have to up the dosage considerably.
So, skipping ahead to the day itself, I moved the Yorkie making back out to the Big Green Egg.
Since it was daylight this time, it was possible to look through the top smoke hole and see how they were doing. I also added salt and pepper to the batter, and used nearly an entire jar of horseradish to marinate my tenderloin chunks in.
All this together turned them into a success! Nice and savory and spicy, but not too spicy. Also, to prevent this from turning into the Towering Inferno, I took some advice from my friend Erin and went with Pam No-Stick Spray instead of cooking oil. Easier to mete out in an appropriate quantity, and it worked like a charm.
Dwarf Yorkshire Puddings with Horseradish Tenderloin
2 eggs (approximately half a cup)
equal amount milk
equal amount flour, added in doses and whisked in
ground salt, 6-8 turns
ground pepper, 6-8 turns
beef tenderloin, in ½-inch cubes
copious amounts of horseradish (4-6 tablespoons)
- Mix milk into the egg, then add the flour in lots, whisking continually. Grind in the salt and pepper. Let this mixture stand for at least 30 minutes; the longer the better. I like to give it a couple of hours.
- Chop up your tenderloin into ½-inch cubes, or some size that fits well in the bottom of your muffin holes. Marinate them in a bowl with the horseradish. You should have lots of horseradish compared to the amount of beef.
- Spray Pam (or spread cooking oil) in mini-muffin tin. In a 24-hole tin, consider leaving the two centre holes on one side clean as thumb holes for your oven mitt.
- Heat the oiled pan in the oven to around 400ºF or more. Don’t exceed 450ºF unless you are looking to be visited by firemen. So possibly for a stagette?
- Add a chunk of tenderloin to each hole. Make sure to scoop some extra horseradish on top of each one. You’ll need more horseradish than you ever thought safe to put in your mouth. Put it back in your oven and give it a few minutes to warm back up (well, to fry back up might be more accurate).
- Add a tablespoon or so of cold water to your batter and give it one final whisking.
- Pour batter onto each cube of meat. Pour slowly, ensuring that you’re covering the meat with the batter completely. Unlike normal Yorkies you’ll want to fill these nearly to the top. Call it up to the 80% line. Or at least until the meat is entirely covered.
- Cook for about 15 minutes, until golden. Time may vary, but if you’re used to making regular Yorkshire puddings with a similar method, these will take less time.