I was always an odd kid. And teenager. And young adult. I'm still a little off.
I remember when New Kids on the Block were big. I was in my friend Abby's mom's car on the way to her birthday party at a park. All the other girls were screeching about Joey and Danny and blah blah blah and I was thinking, "Who the heck are the New Kids on the Block?" I'm pretty sure I pretended to have an NKOTB sleeping bag because another girl did and that seemed to go over well.
In reality I was sitting at home, wearing my Sally Jesse Raphael style glasses and my Alf t-shirts and listening to my beloved Tears for Fears CD. I remember asking for, and getting, an Annie Lennox cassette single in my Easter basket. "Walkin' on Broken Glass," in case that's what you were wondering.
Now, I'm totally glad I was too oblivious to pick up on social cues and accidentally ended up liking actual cool shit instead.
But back then, I just had no idea what it meant to be cool. I was smart, and quiet, and totally inept at sports and pop culture and cool things. I have very curly hair, which I brushed out every day. I played the clarinet. I have the eyesight of a mole, leading to my procurement of coke-bottle glasses at the age of 7. I participated in something called Winter Guard. My teeth were so crooked they looked like they had been tossed into my mouth at random, resulting in a few years of braces. I wasn't exactly Prom Queen.
Let me demonstrate.
"Rockin Alf," indeed.
I also had some odd food preferences. Every year, my mom would make my brother and I whatever we wanted for our birthday dinners. Kids like kid things - chicken nuggets, tacos, macaroni and cheese. I, without fail, asked every year for roast beef and yorkshire pudding.
So the other night, in honor of my many, many ugly ducking years, I decided to make some greasy, crispy, chewy Yorkshire pudding. And to go with it, a sweet onion gravy made from caramelized onions and infused with thyme. And it was DELIGHTFUL.
What was the big deal with NKOTB, anyway?
Yorkshire Pudding with Thyme-Infused Sweet Onion Gravy
Yorkshire Pudding recipe found here. I followed it pretty much - making the puddings in muffin tins with a pea-sized dot of Crisco in each one. I also used skim milk and egg substitute because it was what I had on hand. They were a little chewy, but still really good.
For the gravy, you'll need:
- 1 medium white onion, slice into thin half-moons
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp flour (gravy flour like Wondra is amazing)
- 6-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
The key to this gravy is the caramelized onions. It takes a while, but they add a depth of flavor similar to what you would get from meat fat. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and once hot, the onions. Stir occasionally until they are soft and brown. This could take up to 30 minutes.
Once your onions are browned, stir in your flour to coat the onions. I prefer a gravy flour like Wondra since it never clumps and thickens right up. But regular flour will do you just fine.
Add your vegetable stock and stir well. Then toss in your thyme springs - 10 will be pretty strong, so you may want to start with 6 and see how it goes. Bring the gravy to a soft simmer to thicken it and infuse the thyme.
When it's thickened to your liking, season to taste with salt and pepper. If it doesn't thicken enough, add flour, a little at a time, until it's where you want it to be.
Take the thyme sprigs out - little leaves are okay, but you'll want to remove the actual stalks.
I served this over Field Roast Apple & Sage grain sausages with my yorkshire puddings and a side of garlic brussels sprouts, and my inner 10-year old squealed with weirdo delight.
Serves 5. Alf-free version here.