I recently posted to my social media feed a picture of a well-executed toad-in-the-hole made from eggs from Apple Creek Farm in Bowdoinham, Oakhurst Dairy milk, spelt flour from Maine Grains in Skowhegan and sausage from Sowbelly butchery in Jefferson. The caption said something about my honey (my love, not the byproduct of my beekeeping) needing some English comfort food on a cold, rainy day.

I got 38 likes, a couple of comments asking me what the heck it was, and a few requests for the recipe. I tend to take my familiarity with British cooking for granted. For those who are unfamiliar, classic toad-in-the-hole comprises whole sausages baked into a big Yorkshire pudding in a single cooking vessel in a very hot oven. Sometimes it’s served with an onion gravy poured over the top. Some Americans cut a circle out of the center of a piece of toast and fill it with a fried egg and call it by the same name, but that’s not a proper toad-in-the-hole. That combination is more of a tadpole-in-the-hole, really.

I learned many sustainable eating habits while living in the city of Norwich, the county seat of Norfolk, the northeasterly English county that juts out into the North Sea, pointing to Amsterdam. Those habits were adopted out of economic necessity, more than a drive to pay more attention to how my eating habits weighed on the environment. Between 2007 and 2009, I paid for in British pounds what I was used to paying in U.S. dollars in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where we lived before moving across the pond. The same dozen eggs I’d paid $3 for Carlisle cost three pounds in Norwich. The exchange rate during that period ranged from $1.60 to $2.10 per British pound. Therefore, our everyday food cost ran between 60% and 110% more than it did in America. My $1,000 monthly food budget ballooned to between $1,600 and $2,100.

Columnist Christine Burns Rudalevige pours Yorkshire pudding batter into a pan of hot fat and roasting chorizo sausage to make toad-in-the-hole. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Rightsizing the American supersized meal portions, even for my young, growing family, became a daily practice. Enter toad-in-the-hole. A pound of sausages, four eggs and equal amounts of milk and flour comprised a satisfying (and affordable at about $10 at current prices and exchange rates) meal for all. I found British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s method to be the most foolproof in my kitchen at the time and have since adapted it to suit my cast-iron pan here in Maine.

According to “The Oxford Companion to Food” by Alan Davidson, toad-in-the-hole is a traditional British dish in which fatty meat is cooked in a batter pudding. New Englanders make savory popovers using a similar batter, and food writers everywhere, me included, have made batter-pudding Dutch baby pancakes a popular brunch item.

The first recorded description of the dish appeared in the diary of Thomas Turner, a shopkeeper from Sussex circa 1754. The first mention of its toady moniker appeared in print in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1787, after the upper crust of English society attempted to elevate the recipe by making it with expensive cuts of meat. By 1861, Mrs. Beeton, a British contemporary of Fanny Farmer, was describing how the dish had earned its proper place as a “homely, but savoury” everyday menu item because the cooking technique employed could be used to repurpose any bits of leftover meat into a hearty meal.

As they have become widely available, I tend to buy interesting Maine-made sausages and adapt the condiments and salads I serve alongside my toad-in-the-hole accordingly. I’ll make a shaved fennel salad to go with a traditional sweet Italian sausage that contains fennel seeds; a sweet and smoky aioli to ride alongside spicy chorizo; or a tangy mustard-laced dipping to serve with bratwurst toad-in-the-hole. With flavorful Maine sausage in the mix and your creative side dish in play, toad-in-the-hole easily fits into my easy to execute, greener eating rotation.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport Press based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

A serving of toad-in-the-hole with Smoky Aioli, based on a Delia Smith recipe. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Chorizo Toad-in-the-Hole with a Smoky Aioli

Delia Smith is the British culinary icon equivalent to a cross between Julia Child and Rachel Ray. Her early cookbooks offer Brits the same level of detail for British cuisine that Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” does for French. But she also wrote “How To Cheat at Cooking,” a book that gives readers quick ways to produce fancier meals from semi-prepared, store-bought ingredients. My adaptation of her cheats red pepper mayonnaise-based condiment goes well with this version of toad-in-the-hole. I’d disappoint my husband if I failed to mention that Smith is also part owner of the Norwich City Football Club. Go Canaries!

Serves 4

FOR THE TOAD-IN-THE-HOLE:
1 ¼ cups milk
4 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease
4 fresh chorizo sausages (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

FOR THE AIOLI:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 raw egg yolk, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, flours, salt and pepper and set the batter aside to rest as you prepare sausages.

Place the oil or bacon grease in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and place the pan in the oven. When the oil/grease is very hot (2-3 minutes), add the sausages and roast, turning once, for 5 minutes to brown them slightly and allow them to release some of their fat.

Open the oven and very carefully pour the batter into the skillet around the sausages. Close the oven door and cook until the pudding has puffed up and the sausages are cooked through to 165 degrees, 18-20 minutes.

While the toad-in-the-hole is baking, make the aioli. Whisk together the mayonnaise, garlic, smoked paprika, lemon juice and egg yolk if using.

Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle parsley over the toad-in-the-hole and serve hot with the aioli.


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