Monday, March 2, 2009

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

I love biscuits. And lucky for me, being a southern boy, we had them all the time. Hot out of the oven with butter or jam, that is heaven. Here’s the problem. Biscuits are a little tricky. There are few ingredients, a simple process, and somehow easy to miss the target. I may never be able to make biscuits like my Mama but, these are really good.

2 cups All-Purpose Flour, plus extra
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
¾ teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons cold Butter
2 tablespoons cold Shortening
1 cup cold Buttermilk
1 cup grated White Cheddar or Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese, plus extra

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter and shortening till well mixed and resembles course crumbs. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add buttermilk. Stir a little then add cheddar cheese. Stir until dough just comes together. With your hands, try and form the extra dough pieces into the dough ball.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Dust top with a little flour and knead dough by folding and pressing dough over on to itself 6-8 times. Pat out dough to ¾-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with 2 to 2 ½-inch floured round biscuit cutters. Push straight down to board then turn slightly. Place biscuits about 1-inch apart on ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with extra cheddar cheese.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until tall and golden.

Makes 8-10. Server hot with butter, jam, or split apart and add extra cheddar cheese for a cheese biscuit sandwich.

I like the white cheddar for a milder morning biscuit and the extra-sharp cheddar for a lunch or dinner biscuit. If you do not have a pastry blender use a fork, two knives, or your fingers. If you use your fingers work quickly. You do not want part of the butter to melt. The cheese will cause the biscuits to stick slightly. Use a spatula and they will come off just fine.

For a traditional biscuit eliminate the baking soda and cheddar cheese; and use milk for the buttermilk.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Buttered Potatoes with Asparagus Leek Cream Sauce

Buttered potatoes with asparagus & leek cream sauce, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

This dish was inspired by my recent trip to Copenhagen. I was there for my 'real' work (as opposed to this, my 'fantasy' work), and had the great opportunity to eat some delicious meals in the University of Copenhagen cafeteria near the Zoologisk Museum. No, really! The canteen, as it was called, had really excellent food; a far cry from the dorm food foisted on college students in the US.

Granted, my exposure was limited, but I'd say that Danish cuisine is about assembling several small plates of both hot and cold items, each featuring fresh vegetables and clean, bright flavors, to make a cohesive meal. The terms that keeps coming to mind when trying to describe the dishes we had are "honest" and "authentic" - each was prepared with fresh ingredients and done so in a way that highlighted the intrinsic colors and flavors of the dish's components, rather than hiding them under heavy spices. This particular dish was a standout because of its simplicity. I found it very easy to recreate back at home, and bet you will, too, if you give it a try.


3 lbs small yellow potatoes (Pearl work nicely, as do small Yukon Gold)
2 T butter
3 T Italian parsley
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

2 T butter
1 medium leek, chopped & well rinsed
8 asparagus spears, cut lengthwise, then chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 T dry white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

Scrub potatoes and place them in a large pan. Fill pan with water until potatoes are just covered. Bring to a boil over high heat, then boil for 18-20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft throughout. While boiling, make sauce below. Use a colander to drain potatoes, then cover colander and potatoes with a cloth. Let potatoes steam and additional 10 minutes, then toss with butter, chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

For sauce, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once butter is heated add leeks and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring often, until asparagus and leeks are fragrant and soft. Add flour and stir to combine, making a thick roux. Cook until roux is golden, but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add white wine and stir to incorporate, making a thick slurry. Then add chicken stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly (I use a spoon rather than a whisk for this because I don't want to shred the softened vegetables). Add cream, stirring, until well combined. Again bring sauce just to simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cook until sauce is thickened, approximately 10 minutes (add more chicken stock, if needed, to thin sauce) - it should be thicker than a soup but not a gloppy gravy. Remove sauce from heat and taste, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sauce over potatoes, with a toss of chopped parsley on top and a sprinkle of sea salt.