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Toad in the Hole, British Comfort Food at its best.

Toad in the Hole, British Comfort Food at its best.
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Bangers and Mash

I have a weakness for English dishes with picturesque names. Even the simplest of these is a riddle.  “Bangers and Mash”, or Sausage and Mashed Potatoes, is the simplest to understand.  The sausages used in the original recipe, which first came on the scene during World War I when times were tough, were so full of water that they sometimes exploded (Bang!) when they met the heat of the pan.  Other dishes are even

Bubble and Squeak

less descriptive.  “Bubble and Squeak”, a fried patty, is made with leftover vegetables that accompanied the Sunday Roast. It could likely form the basis of an interesting guessing game at the dinner table.   “Angels on Horseback” is completely oblique.  It’s an appetizer or savory dish that followed the main course at a formal British dinner. “Angels” are oysters, or sometimes scallops, wrapped in bacon, “Horseback”. Try as I did to

Angels on Horseback

find out how on earth this name came about, I was stymied.  One British food historian simply gave up and suggested that the dish was actually French and called “Anges en Cheval”. This might be the first occurence ever of the British conceding anything to the French. “Angels” are close cousins of “Devils on Horseback” in which dried fruit replaces the oyster.  Both “Angels” and “Devils” have made it to

Devils on Horseback

North America even if their names have not.   Then we come to “Toad in the Hole”.  It may be the oldest of all these dishes and to me, it’s one of the most delicious.  It has no pretensions: It’s an inexpensive one-dish comfort food that makes a great one plate dinner.  And what exactly is “Toad in the Hole” ?       

The best “Toad in the Hole” is a protein and carbohydrate-heavy dish, baked to perfection and then liberally doused with beef gravy.  The dish was once made with leftover Beef.  It can be found on menus dating to the 1760s.  But at some point two things happened.  The Beef was replaced with Sausage and “Toad in the Hole” was removed from fancy menus. It almost disappeared until it reemerged at the start of the 19th century.  It was admired by Industrial Age Britain for its frugality, its versatility and the speed with which it could be made.  It became an Everyman’s favorite.  And why not?  Plump Pork Sausages are served up in what amounts to a Yorkshire Pudding batter, replete with caramelized onions.  It’s a simple enough recipe. The sausages are cooked in a hot oven while the batter is being made.  Then the batter is added to the hissing pan and the whole thing is cooked for 40 more minutes.  While it’s in the oven, a beefy onion gravy is prepared. For some reason, simple Pork Sausages are difficult to find in New York City.  You can go all the way down to the Village and a British Grocer called Myers of Keswick on Greenwich Avenue and get the real thing. In my neighborhood, I had to settle for the ubiquitous Sweet Italian sausage, a perfectly fine stand-in although I did miss my genuine Bangers   And why is “Toad in the Hole” called “Toad in the Hole”?  Because, in the finished dish, the sausages emerge from the batter, poking their heads out like toads.  It’s really that simple.  So is the recipe and here it is:

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