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    Entries in homemade is best (66)

    Tuesday
    Aug302011

    How to Impress a Southern Boy

    Show him your biscuits!

     

    I love biscuits. They’re deceptively simple and infinitely variable. And for some reason they really seem to impress people. As if they’re some kind of fancy or something. Really, they’re not. Yes, it is nice to have freshly baked warm biscuits on the table at any time of day, but the ingredients are basic, and the process is simple.

    To me they will always bring back memories of being flat broke, which is quite apropros to the origin of this dish; it gained popularity shortly after the stock market crashed about a hundred years ago. Recipe Guy’s grandma learned to make them from her mom, who was feeding a family of 6 on less than half an income. I learned how to make them when I cooking with Food Bank ingredients. Every week, I got flour, margarine, and powdered milk. Every week, I made biscuits and ate them for breakfast with jam, for lunch with peanut butter, and for dinner with soup.

    Had I known back then that I could make a cream gravy with those same three ingredients, I’d have been eating biscuits and gravy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Because for all that it really is cheap Depression-era food, it’s freaking tasty!

    Especially when you can dress them up a bit. Like with sharp cheddar in the biscuits and Argentinian beef sausage seasoned with garlic and chives in the gravy...

    Biscuits and Gravy, Northern Style

    What you need:

    Biscuits:

    • ½ c whipping cream
    • ½ c milk
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • ½ c butter
    • 2 c flour
    • 4 tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ½ c grated sharp cheddar (optional)

    Gravy

    • 1 large sausage
    • 1 tbsp butter and/or bacon fat and/or sausage drippings
    • 1 tbsp flour
    • 1 c milk
    • salt
    • black pepper

    What you gotta do:

    Let’s start with the biscuits. In your measuring cup, mix the cream, milk, and the lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes.

    I did this because I couldn’t find a smallish container of buttermilk. So yes, you can just use a cup of buttermilk here instead.

    Chop the butter into chunks in a large bowl. For once, I’m not going to tell you to have all of your ingredients at room temperature. Biscuits are more like pastry and pastry is best made with cold butter.

    Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the big bowl.

    With a pastry cutter, or a couple forks, cut the butter and flour together. You can’t do this with warm butter, you end up “creaming” them like you would with sugar and butter for cookies and that’s not the effect we’re going for here.

    What you’re making are tiny chunks of butter covered in flour.

    When you’ve got a nice mixture with a texture kinda like damp sand, make a well in the middle with a spoon and pour in your lemony cream.

    You’re not going to actually taste the lemon in this. That’s not what it’s there for. It’s there to make the cream even more acidic than it already is. The higher acidity will cause more of a reaction with the baking powder (which is alkaline) and you’ll get lighter, fluffier biscuits.

    Mix the cream into the buttery flour until it’s just combined.

    Turn it out onto a floury counter. Do Not Knead The Dough.

    I know it’s tempting, but the last thing you want to do to this stuff is stretch it. Stretching forms gluten and gluten is not flakey. Pat it down into a shape as closely resembling a square or rectangle as you can, then roll it a little flatter. Flour it, fold it into thirds and roll it into a rectangle.

    Since I only needed to feed two people and since biscuits are always better freshly baked, I split the dough in half and froze some for later… (I totally promise to show you what I did with it)

    Roll out the half you’re keeping into a rectangle. You can flour, fold and roll again if you want. The more you do this, the more layers you’ll have in your biscuits and the flakier they’ll be. But once will do, if that’s all you feel like.

    Spread half your grated cheese over the middle, fold one third in. Spread the other half of your grated cheese on top of the folded part. Fold in the other third.

    Roll the cheesey foldey dough into a rectangle and cut it into 8 pieces.

    Bake these at 400 for about 12 minutes until they’re nicely golden and the cheese is melty.

    If you decide to stop here and just eat cheese biscuits, I will totally understand.

    But really, it’s only a few more steps to make the gravy. And you can even do it while the biscuits cook.

    Remove the casing from the sausage and break it up into a hot pan.

    Fry it until it’s golden then remove it from the pan to drain on paper towels.

    Depending on how fatty the sausage was, you may or may not need to add bacon fat, but I recommend a little at least, just for the extra flavour.

    Add the flour and pepper, and sautee them in the fat for a few minutes.

    Slowly pour in the milk, stirring as you go.

    Don’t worry if it gets all clumpy,

    just add a bit more milk and keep stirring.

    You can use a whisk to break up any clumps or a soft spatula to mash them.

    Just keep stirring and adding milk,and maybe a little more pepper,

    and eventually you will have a lovely smooth, happy gravy.

    Add the sausage to the gravy to make it even happier.

    Put a couple of the cheesey biscuits onto a plate and smother them with gravy.

    Um, I need to go make more now.

    What did your family make during the depression?

    Friday
    Aug262011

    The Flying Dutch... Pancakes?

    Think you can only get a ‘Dutch Baby’ at one of those pretentious breakfast places that has a line out the door on the weekends?  Wrong.  With just a few ingredients and a little bit of knowhow, you can avoid the crowds, and enjoy fabulous Dutch pancakes with your family in the comfort of your own home, for a fraction of the price.

     

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    3 eggs
    ½ cup milk
    ½ cup flour
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 Tablespoons sugar
    2 Tablespoons butter

     

     

     

    First thing, set your oven to 425°.  Crack your eggs into a mixing bowl, or a large measuring cup.  Seriously, if you don’t have one of these , you really should get one.  It’s so nice to be able to measure, mix, and pour with one container. 

    Using a hand mixer or whisk, beat the eggs until they get nice and foamy. 

    Stir in the milk, vanilla, and sugar, then sift in the flour. 

    Whisk until it’s fully incorporated with no, or at least very few, lumps.  Your pan needs to be hot before you add the batter, so throw it in the oven for a few minutes.  When it’s hot, throw in the butter and swirl around to coat the whole pan as it melts. 

    When it’s completely melted, pour your batter right into the middle of it. 

    Now pop it into the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.  (I’m using a 10” skillet.  If you use something smaller, add a couple minutes)  While that’s cooking, I have to give a big thanks to my mom.  I just moved all the way across the country from her, but one of the very few things I brought with me was the huge bottle of vanilla she brought back from Mexico for me.  When I say huge, I mean it, which is a good thing, because I use lots of vanilla.  I put my other bottle of vanilla next to it for context. 

    I finally cracked into it, and my whole kitchen smells amazing now.  Mexican vanilla has such a rich, sweet flavor, and its aroma makes me tempted to try drinking it straight from the bottle.  It is my absolute favorite.  But it doesn’t stop there.  I got rid of my crocheted pot holders when I moved, and couldn’t find replacements here, so I asked her if she might make me a pair.  Well, not only did she make me a lovely set in my kitchen colors (Yay!!), but she also made two dish cloths to go with them.  What a great surprise that was when my package arrived. 

    Aren’t they beautiful?  Thanks Mom!  I miss you. 

    Ok, back to our pancake in the oven.  If you have a window in the door of your oven, you can watch the magic happen as it bakes. 

    See how it’s growing upwards on the sides?  I know, it’s a bit hard to make out through the dots on the oven door, but you CANNOT open it right now.  A cool draft could kill the whole thing.  Ok, so after your timer sounds, check on it through the window, or if you don’t have a window, you’ll have to risk a quick peek by opening the door just a crack.  It should be… well…

    How cool is that!!  So, aside from the amazing stunt your eggs pulled in the oven, it should be nice and brown around the edges and maybe even starting to just brown in spots in the middle as well.  Unfortunately, it will deflate rather quickly and lose some of its wow factor, but that’ll hardly matter while you’re eating it. 

    My favorite way is just topped with lots of butter and powdered sugar.  It is traditionally also served with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.  This time I added a dollop of fresh whipped cream and some berries.  No matter how you top it, it’ll be fabulous.  I promise.


      
    **If you don't have an oven safe skillet, you can also use a pie pan, or any round, oven safe pan, really.  Just make sure it's hot and buttered before you pour in the batter.