Sunday, December 19, 2010

Biscuits and The Heathen Hours...

Cold and foggy makes for a beautiful morning
It's Sunday and I must confess.  I often spend my Sunday mornings at Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio.  It's quiet then. My husband calls this time on Sunday mornings The Heathen Hour.  No crowds -- especially this time of year.  Most people are in church or in bed. It's fun because all the produce managers and fish mongers and department managers are there.  If you need something special, they are there to chat and figure it out for you. 

Plenty of great booze deals but in these parts you can't buy it until 10 a.m. on Sunday -- after church I guess.
I went The Jungle seeking Goya vegetarian ham flavored seasoning for my niece in California.  It seems, according to her mother, my sister, this stuff is hard to get out in L.A.  Given the huge Hispanic population of SoCal, I find that difficult to believe.  Goya otta be is SoCal - right.  But, I bought two large boxes to send.

this has gotta be in SoCal -- right?
The search for Goya Jamon seasoning gave me the opportunity to hang out and look around. A Starbucks Chai in hand, Dave and I strolled the aisles,  roaming unencumbered by hordes of holiday shoppers looking for their particular seven fishes or mushrooms for their Christmas Eve feast.
Juliano at work and some of his wares
Speaking of seafood,  Juliano has to be the worlds nicest fish monger. Every year he and I discuss the projected availability of fresh mussels on Christmas Eve.  Every year my family is invited to a Christmas Eve party at my friend Chip's house. Our carte d'entree is a pan of steaming Moules Meuniere with french bread for sauce dipping.  In order to get through Chip's front door, I need the mussels.  Last year, the fresh mussels weren't to be had. Juliano delivers the bad news -- another red algae bloom sits off the east coast of the US. Iffy fresh mussel availability -- again. So, just like last year, he and I discussed the merits of the fresh frozen mussels.  I have to admit that I love the frozen green-lipped mussels from New Zealand. Huge, plump, and if you make the Meuniere sauce by itself and just reheat the mussels gently in the sauce, they are pretty hard to tell from the fresh.  Plus a lot less gritty with no clinkers!
this fellow looked oddly familiar... maybe he was looking for cookies?
We spent an hour or so roaming the JJ aisles and then home to make a pan of the best damn biscuits. I've been working on this recipe for years and finally have it down.  The trick, I think, is buttermilk and self-rising flour to which additional baking powder has been added.  And not too much kneading.  Err on the side of kneading too little than too much.

empty aisles but lots of bacon-makin pork belly

can this be classified as food?

I don't cut out each individual biscuit.  Instead, I pat them into a square baking pan and score through the biscuit dough three times in each direction to end up with nine square biscuits in all.  They rise beautifully, are golden on top and perfectly moist, light and fluffy in the center. And big!
A couple of biscuits, a few slices of crispy (home cured nitrate-free) bacon, with a little butter and (homemade plum) preserves on top and you're all set.  Perfect for a cold winter's morning.

Light Fluffy Biscuits (Makes 9)

3 cups self-rising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)
1.5 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425

Whisk together dry ingredients.  Cut butter into dry ingredients until it resembles course meal.
Add buttermilk and mix lightly until mixture forms a shaggy mass.
Turn out on board and knead four or five times, gently. Dough will still be a little rough
Gently pat dough into greased 9x9 square baking pan
Score dough by cutting through dough into three equal parts in each direction, dividing dough into nine square biscuits (you can use a round cutter and place on a baking sheet to bake but I always use a square pan and save the cutting out).
Brush tops with softened or melted butter
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until top is golden and biscuits have risen well. 

Note:  May be baked in a convection oven by decreasing temperature to 400 degrees. 
i don't  cut them out, just pat them in a square pan and cut through to score into nine biscuits

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