A servant greets you at the door and takes your coat before escorting you to the dining room. The snowy tablecloth is laid out with crystal goblets, lace napkins, and freshly polished silverware. This isn’t a formal meal, so there aren’t multiple sets of forks and spoons for different courses. Still, your host wants to honor you with the best he has, so the center of the table is decorated with a richly embroidered runner and several tall candles in crystal holders.
Everyone is here, so the host gestures toward the table, and everyone takes a seat. “It’s a great pleasure to have you all here this evening,” the host says, beaming around the table. “I hope you enjoy the meal. My wife oversaw the preparations with great care.” He reaches across the corner of the table to take his wife’s hand, and she smiles and nods graciously in acknowledgement.
“Well, then, let’s not stand too hard upon ceremony,” the host continues. He lifts one hand in benediction, lays the other over his heart, and prays: “May the Five Saints grant us knowledge, which through Contemplation begets devotion, the seed of true Patriotism, whose good result is Charity.” It’s a rote prayer that you’ve heard a thousand times, and you’ve often wondered what it has to do with sitting down for a meal, but you rest a hand on your chest respectfully until the host finishes.
The servant must have been listening for the prayer to end: he immediately enters carrying a tray filled with crystal plates. He moves quickly around the table, giving everyone a plate, and you inhale the rich scent of beef and gravy. Your plate is full of potatoes, onions, and carrots arranged artistically around a piece of beef so tender it’s already falling to shreds. At the side of the plate sits a small round popover, with a dense custardy texture and a crispy golden top flecked with rosemary.
As you begin eating, the servant makes the rounds again, filling everyone’s glasses with a rich red wine that pairs well with the beef and potatoes. The meat tastes of thyme, dill, and some milder herb that you can’t identify as easily.
The dinner conversation is light and pleasant; everyone avoids controversial topics like politics and religion, instead using the time to share family news or reminisce about other fine dinners. The servant continues checking the table every few minutes, serving more popovers and refilling wine glasses.
As soon as the last plate is empty, the servant begins whisking away the settings. Conversation continues easily as the man brings fresh wine glasses and fills them with a sweet, fruity blush wine. The pink color glitters pleasantly through the cut crystal of the goblets. A moment later the servant returns again with small glass bowls, each holding a sweet popover with a spiral of sliced apple baked into the top. The scent of spices and sugar rise from the warm treat as you pick up your fork to take a bite.
1-2 pounds of beef
4 red potatoes
2 white or yellow onions
1 1/2 tbsp dill
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt
- Chop the potatos, onions, and carrots into small chunks.
- Place beef in the bottom of a slow cooker or crock pot. Layer the vegetables on top of the meat.
- In a small bowl, mix herbs and salt. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the food in the crock pot.
- Fill the pot until the vegetables are just covered. Set to high and cook 4-6 hours. If you like your vegetables to have a firmer texture, consider waiting to add vegetables until the meat has already cooked 2-3 hours.
- Serve with rosemary popovers.
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
For savory version:
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tbsp parsley
For sweet version:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
2 granny smith apples
- Mix eggs, milk, butter and salt thoroughly.
- For savory version, add flour, rosemary, and parsley and stir until combined. Do not over-mix.
- For sweet version, add flour, sugar, and spices and stir until combined. Do not over-mix.
- For sweet version, thinly slice apples and arrange several slices in each cup of a greased muffin pan, allowing the tips of the slices to stick up past the top of the cup to create a fan or spiral pattern.
- Pour or scoop batter into muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full.
- Place in a cold oven, set the temperature to 425, and bake for 20 minutes (including the time it takes for the oven to heat).
- Reduce heat to 375 and bake until popovers are golden, another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve savory version with beef roast or sweet version with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.