Southern Ham and Biscuits

When I was younger, no family gathering was complete without sliced ham and biscuits with little pots of mustard. As I’ve aged and moved around, I’ve mainly been to parties where ham is served with yeast rolls. However, there is something homey and nostalgic about biscuits and ham.

Besides a large collection of mustard, I always keep both dry milk and dry buttermilk in my refrigerator. It is especially useful when I want to do fast buttermilk biscuits but haven’t planned well enough in advance to actually have buttermilk on hand.

With this recipe, you don’t even need to make the buttermilk. In fact, by using self rising flour, I didn’t even need to add leaveners (if you don’t have self rising flour, add 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the other dry ingredients)

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Powdered Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups self rising flour – I use White Lily for soft, light biscuits
3 tablespoons powdered buttermilk
1/3 cup butter, frozen
2/3 cup ice cold water

Mix together the dry ingredients. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Quickly stir in water. Mix until dough comes together. Pat to 1/2″ thickness and cut into biscuits, being sure not to twist the cutter as it goes through.

Bake on greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.

The ham was very simple. I just combined 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of rosemary salt with my fingers and then patted it on the ham before baking it in a 325 degree F oven for 2 hours (that works out to 20 minutes per pound until it gets to 145).

Let the ham rest before slicing and serve on the biscuits with a choice of mustards – Dijon, stone ground, spicy, honey-mustard – its all good!

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Cat Head Biscuits

I can assure you that no cats were harmed in the making of this recipe! Cat head biscuits are named because they are as big as a cat’s head.

I like them because there isn’t any rolling out and cutting these biscuits. Once you’ve made them, you just pinch off eight or nine biscuits and then drop them in a pan with their sides touching so they fluff up instead of spreading out.

Also, my first preference is to use White Lily flour. Their soft flour is the best for light biscuits. If you can’t get that, use a 50/50 blend of all purpose and cake flour.

cat head biscuits

Cat Head Biscuits

3 cups of White Lily all purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease 9-inch cake pan. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Grate frozen butter through the large holes of a box grater and toss with dry ingredients until butter is coated. Rub shortening into the flour mixture. Pour in buttermilk and mix lightly until dough forms a shaggy mass.

Pinch out heaping portions of dough after lightly flouring your hands. Shape them into a rough ball and place 8 around the prepared pan’s edge and 1 in the center.

Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve. (Biscuits can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)

Roux Carré

I was on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard today and stopped in at the food court Roux Carré. They showcase emerging food‐preneurs and give the vendors food service and retail training, back-office assistance, small business coaching, as well as entrepreneurial wrap-around support from Good Work Network.

The current venders are Johnny’s Jamaican Grill, The Pupusa Lady, Estralita’s Express, the Juice Box (run by the young people of the Youth Empowerment Project) and, finally, the Splendid Pig.

I went for the pig, of course.

splendid pig

I had the Cochon de Lait Poboy. The pork was plentiful and flavorful. The pickled turnip threw me for a little bit of a loop but, over all it was a good and messy poboy. It came with creole potato hash that was also very tasty. Their fresh squeezed lemonade was awesome- nice and tart! I ordered seconds for a $1!

poboy

The food court is clean and inviting although only open 11 until 4 Sunday through Thursday. They have later hours on Friday and Saturday. If you’re looking to feel good about eating out, supporting these food‐preneurs is a good way to do it.

Wet Brined Dry Rubbed Grilled Chicken

I usually don’t remember to defrost chicken with enough time to do a day long brine plus a stay overnight in the fridge to dry out the skin. But, with longer than anticipated outing at this weekend’s Ponchatula Strawberry Festival on Saturday, I ended up pushing the grilling to Sunday.

Some of the best fried chicken  I’ve ever eaten was at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc. Part of the deliciousness comes from his brine. I altered his version slightly to focus on the lemon and rosemary and brined the chicken for 8 hours. I followed it with a rest overnight in the refrigerator (uncovered) before sprinkling on a rub and grilling it on my Weber kettle grill.

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I remove the chicken’s backbone and neck for later use in stock and because it makes it easier to grill.

Brined and Rubbed Grilled Chicken


1 3 to 5 pound whole chicken, backbone cut off
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar or honey
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 lemons, zested and sliced in half, zest set aside
2 large bunches of rosemary springs plus 3 tablespoons leaves
2 quarts water

Bring the 2 quarts of water, 1/2 cup salt, brown sugar (or honey), bay leaves, peppercorns, lemons (not the zest) and rosemary springs (not the additional leaves) to a boil. Stir to dissolve all the salt and sugar. Remove from heat and allow to steep while it cools. After about an hour, strain the liquid into a large bag with the chicken. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 and up to 12 hours.

In a spice mill, grind together the remaining 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, the lemon zest and the 3 tablespoons of rosemary leaves until it forms a fine powder. You can also finely chop the leaves and grind them all together in a mortar and pestle, if you don’t have a spice/coffee grinder. Store in an airtight container.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Place the bird on a wire rack on a cookie sheet and put in the refrigerator overnight. Do not cover, as you want the skin to dry a bit in the cool air of the fridge.

At least one hour before grilling, remove the chicken from the refrigerator to begin to come to room temperature. Coat with olive oil and place two pinches of the rosemary lemon salt powder on the inside of the bird and then rub the outside of the chicken with about two tablespoons more.

Set up your grill for indirect cooking and put a layer of unlit briquets in a half moon shape along one side. Fill a chimney starter with briquets and heat until they are covered in a white ash. Pour over the unlit briquets and toss in a hickory chip or two (or some rosemary sprigs). Place the chicken on the grill, breast side down, wings tucked behind the back and legs toward the coals. Close the lid and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over and, keeping the legs toward the fire, cook for an hour more. It is done when the dark meat is 165 degrees F.

The chicken comes out moist and delicious. If there are any leftovers, this makes an awesome chicken salad for lunch the next day – pick the carcass clean and put the chicken meat in a bowl with a little mayonaise, sweet pickle relish, chopped celery and a handful of chopped pecans. Give it a few grinds of pepper and stir before serving on toasted bread.

 

Baked Strawberry Jam

I was watching Jacques Pepin the other day and he made a strawberry confiture that looked awesome. It reminded me of a recipe from Sunset Magazine back in July 1994. I’ve never been a fan of the stove top, stirring and boiling with pectin kind of jam making. This process of baking the strawberries with sugar in a low oven seems inspired for walk-a-way chefs like myself. As I just went to the Ponchatula Strawberry Festival, I had to make some for myself.

This is small batch preserving – I bought two pounds of strawberries but, after hulling and nibbling, only had 1 pound 12 ounces of strawberries. I used 14 ounces of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to brighten the flavors and up the acidity.

The flavor is intensely strawberry without being overly sweet.

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Baked Strawberry Preserves


Hull strawberries and slice in half if large. Weigh the berries and then spread them out on a rimmed baking pan. For about every 2 pounds of strawberries, toss with 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add 50% of the berries’ weight in sugar on top. Stir well.

Bake at 300 F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the berries are very soft and the pan is thickly layered with berry juice. Every 20 minutes gently stir the berries. Once the berries are done, pack the fruit and juice in sterilized jars and refrigerate.

I don’t know about you but my fridge isn’t that empty. I don’t own canning supplies. While I can anticipate inheriting a wide mouth funnel, rubber coated tongs for getting jars out of hot water or even pots with racks to lift hot jars out of a water bath, I don’t have them right now and did not want to twice cook the jam.

Go to Ball’s canning site for directions on safely preserving. They recommend a ten minute water bath. You can also follow the guidelines of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I, however, went old school and used the inversion method for sealing my jars. That means as I made the preserves, I ran my jars, rings and lids (I bought brand new, never used lids) and tongs through the dishwasher to get them really clean. As the preserves finished, I then put the jars, rings and lids in simmering water. Working quickly, I removed the hot jars from the water. After filling the jars with the strawberries to within about 1/8 inch of the top, I cleaned and dried off the top, fished out a lid and ring from the water and set them in place. I then finger tightened the rings and flipped them upside down to cool. The heat and inversion will typically be enough to create a vacuum to seal the jar. Any jars that didn’t seal, I was ready to put in the fridge and eat but they all sealed.

Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t do this with any low acid foods or with jars that aren’t pristine – no cracks or nicks. Once the jars have cooled, check the seals. The lid should be concave (curved down slightly in the center). If you can remove the lids easily with just your fingers or the lids are flat or convex or spring back when you press it, the jars didn’t seal properly. Put those jars in the fridge. Store the other jars in the pantry without the rings. When you take a jar out of the pantry to use, you should be able to lift the jar up by the lid. If it comes off easy, throw it out. If you see bubbles or it is fizzy in any way it is fermenting and needs to be thrown out. If you see mold, throw it out. Your peace of mind and your stomach are more valuable than a couple of jars of jam.

Lecture over! Time to enjoy some jam on toast. Or over ice cream. Or mixed into cream cheese frosting to top cupcakes. It is all good!