We mentioned a few days ago that we picked up a new idea or two from some of the restaurants where we ate during our most recent trip. This one comes from Great Maple, on Washington Street in San Diego. We walked over from our hotel on The Boulevard and were surprised to find this wonderfully refurbished diner from the early 1960’s. But, it wasn’t refurbished as a early 1960’s diner; instead, it’s a cool, modern, upscale diner that looks as if it could be from the early 1960’s, a parallel dimension early 1960’s, where everything is from The Jetsons. Just check it out: Gallery | Great Maple.
So, we loved the building and the space, really loved it, but what about the food? It was good, really good, but the real highlight was the Parmesan Sage Popovers that we ordered as a way to get the evening started. We really didn’t know what to expect, so, when a server came over with a stainless steel bowl on a board with some honey butter and a paper bag that he shook several times, we thought he had the wrong table. Then he opened the bag and dumped out the popovers. Immediately we knew we could make these, and so can you.
Go with the real deal for the cheese and grate it yourself, not some stuff mixed with sawdust, um, we mean, uh, cellulose. We used a microplane to get extra-fine gratings. For the sage, we have some fresh growing in the back yard, so we went with that, but we think that dried would work as well (we’re pretty sure Great Maple used dried). Finally, we provide a link to our 100% successful popovers; just don’t fill them with ice cream, as we did for that post.
Procedure in detail:
Mix cheese and sage. Get a small bowl or dish — we used a custard cup — and get the finest grater you have. We used a microplane, and, wow, are those things sharp! Now grate in about 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, remembering that a bit of good Parmesan (or Grana Padano, which is what we typically buy), goes a long way. Finely mince the sage — about 6-7 leaves’ worth — and mix it into the cheese.
Place in bag. Dump the cheese mixture into a medium-sized paper bag. One large enough to hold 6 popovers. We only had smaller bags, so we had to use two, dividing the cheese mixture between them. Let everything sit while you make popovers.
Add popovers. Once the popovers come out of the oven, let them cool for about a minute, then drop them into the bag (or bags) with the cheese mixture, and fold the top closed.
Shake. Give the bag a good shake, or three, let stand for about 15 seconds and repeat. Then, bring the bag and bowl right to the table.
Dump. With a flourish, set down the bowl, give the bag a final quick shake, and dump the popovers and any cheese mixture left into the bowl.
Yes, sometimes the best dishes are the easiest, the ones where you stand back and let the ingredients do all the work. Here, it’s simply good fresh sage and a good dry cheese to accent the popovers. That’s it, and it’s great. Not all the cheese and sage sticks to the popovers, so you can tear them open and dip the moist insides into the cheese for a flavor boost in a bite, or just have a bite with just a bit of cheese. It’s all up to you. We think that once you try these, you’ll be making up new combos: basil and Cheddar, black pepper and Gruyère. The possibilities are staggering. Five light airy, cheesy, sage-y stars.