March 13, 2011
Some things are worth revisiting.
When I started this blog almost two years ago (dang!), my friend and photographer Sonya Cuellar had only been taking pictures for a few months. Of course, it was clear even then that she had instinctive talent and a natural eye, and if you spend any time on this blog, you know that statement has proven itself to be true in subsequent time.
Ya’ll don’t hear about Sonya very much; I’m the one who does most of the talking around here. But there’s no way that Blue Jean Gourmet would run or even exist without her. She manages to make what I make look good, and even more than that, she manages to capture the spirit of this kitchen, the equal parts playfulness and reverence I have for food.
Sonya’s also hilariously funny, deeply compassionate, trustworthy, and deadly competent. She’s one of my favorite people in the world and working with her on this project for the last almost-two-years has not only been fun, it has pushed me to be a better cook and more creative writer. Because Sonya’s so good at what she does, constantly working to improve her technique and find new ways to make pictures of food, I have to work to keep up. And for that, I’m more grateful than I can say.
a) Don’t knock lard until you’ve tried it (unless you’re a vegetarian or non-pork eater). It truly makes for the most incredible biscuits.
b) If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can squeeze a little lemon juice into 2% milk & let it sit for about 10 minutes. It’ll do in a pinch.
c) When it comes to biscuit-making, practice really does make perfect!
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
4 T shortening or lard
4 T unsalted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
1-2 T extra butter, melted
pan: heavy baking sheet, greased
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl: flour, baking powder, salt, & sugar. Using your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a couple of forks, cut the butter and lard/shortening into the flour mix. Continue until the mixture resembles pebbly sand.
Pour in the buttermilk and stir until the dough just comes together. Gather and turn out onto a floured surface, then press the dough out gently into a large rectanglish shape. Fold the dough in half twice, then press the dough out again—this will help create flaky, delicious layers.
Don’t mess with the dough anymore! Use a biscuit cutter or the top of a water glass, dipped in flour, to cut biscuits. Press remaining scraps together to cut more until all or nearly all the dough has been used. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown and risen.
Serve warm (of course) with your favorite biscuit accoutrement: butter, gravy, sausage, jelly, honey, etc.
from Paulette’s Restaurant, as printed in The Commercial Appeal many years ago
If you’ve wanted to try your hand at popovers in the past but have felt intimidated, “DON’T BE SKEERED!” as Mani, my favorite spin class instructor of all time would say. I don’t know why there’s so much hocus-pocus around popovers; they are truly not difficult to make!
Popovers don’t keep very well (their one flaw), so be prepared to eat the whole batch in one go. A hardship, I know.
This recipe will yield 8-10 popovers.
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
oven: 415° F
pan: muffin tin or popover pan
Cut thin pats of butter and place into the bottom of each muffin cup. You can also grease well with vegetable oil or Pam, but why would you when you can use butter instead? Place the muffin tin in the hot oven.
While the pan heats up, sift together the flour & salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk the milk and oil together. Slowly mix the milk-oil mixture into the dry ingredients with a spoon until creamy smooth.
Add eggs one at a time; this will take some patience! What you want to achieve are ribbons of egg in the batter. After all the eggs have been incorporated, stir mixture for 2 additional minutes.
Carefully remove the warm muffin tin from the oven, filling each cup half- or just over half-full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the popovers while still hot or they will stick to the pan!
Perfect served with strawberry preserves & butter, or go the savory route and make a popover sandwich with sliced roast beef & horseradish sauce.