Yorkshire pudding sounds like a dessert, but it's not. A light airy pastry made with meat drippings, it is a starch dish served with the meat, often with gravy or meat juices. In earlier times, it was sometimes served before the entree, as an appetizer or prelude to the main course to follow. Cooked in a very hot oven, the pudding puffs up, leaving large pockets of air, and becomes a pastry that is more crust than interior. It is excellent for sopping up juices, or for buttering and eating like a dinner roll.
When meat was cooked on a spit, the pudding was baked underneath it to catch the drippings. Now that the roast is cooked in an enclosed oven, the Yorkshire pudding is cooked in a flat pan beside it.
Yorkshire pudding is made by mixing a thin batter of flour, milk and eggs. The ingredients must be at room temperature or the pudding won't puff up. Hot fat drippings from the roast are poured into the baking pan, to about a quarter of an inch deep. Then, the batter is poured into the pan and baked in the oven. The batter should only half-fill the pan, since the mixture will swell as it bakes, and if you over-fill the pan, it will overflow and make a very big baked-on mess in the bottom of your oven.
This dish is the ancestor of the popover. Popovers are individual Yorkshire puddings baked in muffin tins. Some recipes call for including herbs or garlic powder to flavor the pastry.
Yorkshire pudding can lend a very festive and traditional flair to a meal featuring a roast. Modern cooks must take the following precaution, however. Turn the exhaust fan in your range hood on. Grease from the pudding pan will bubble out from under the batter as it rises and it will smoke and burn. You might even want to disconnect or remove the battery from your smoke detector, if you don't want your dinner preparations to be interrupted by your smoke alarm going off.