Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

I woke up early and decided to make a quintessential southern breakfast for my still sleeping girlfriend. Sausage gravy is one of my comfort foods and it is super simple to make. The biscuits aren’t too hard either – this time I prepared them using shortening, instead of butter so they can be handled a bit more without becoming tough. Although, if you want to use biscuits out of can with the sausage gravy, I won’t tell anyone.

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Buttermilk Biscuits

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk, plus additional for brushing

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender, fork or a stand mixer fixed with a dough hook until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add 1 1/2 cup buttermilk. Using your hands, quickly fold the dry ingredients into the buttermilk until a sticky dough forms. You may need to add more buttermilk.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Gently fold the dough over itself 3 or 4 times to create layers. Press the dough out to 1 1/2-inches thick and cut with a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter. Lay the biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with buttermilk. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until risen and golden brown.

Sausage Gravy

½ pound bulk breakfast sausage
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
Salt and ground black pepper

Crumble the sausage into a large cast iron skillet and cook until no longer pink in the middle and nice and browned. Break the sausage into small chunks as you cook it. Remove the sausage to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Pour the drippings into a heatproof bowl. Return 2 tablespoons of drippings back to the pan. Sprinkle over the flour and cook over medium low heat, stirring and scraping, for 2 to 5 minutes or until the flour is lightly browned. Slowly whisk in the milk, continuing to scrape the bottom of the pan. Cook, whisking frequently, until the gravy is thick. Stir the sausage back in and heat through, seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve over hot, split biscuits.

Nutella Cinnamon Buns

With a brand new container of Nutella Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa in our hands, our thoughts turned to breakfast the next day. Taking the dough recipe from my Easy Cinnamon Buns post, we let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator so we could get an early start in turning it into the buns of our dreams.

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Maybe next time we’ll make a chocolate sauce to top but these are pretty darn tasty as they are!

Nutella Cinnamon Buns

1 teaspoon dry, instant yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 1/2 cups bread flour

4 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, butter, salt, and eggs. Add flour and mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball for about 5 minutes. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Punch down and then cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the dough from the fridge, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let relax for one hour.

Generously butter a 12 hole muffin pan. Mix together melted butter and brown sugar. Set aside.

Roll dough out into a 16×21 inch rectangle. Spread the Nutella across the rectangle, leaving a half inch border. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the covered dough.

Working away from you, roll the dough into a tight log and cut into 12 pieces. Place them in the muffin tin. Cover and let rise for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375F.

Top buns with butter/brown sugar mixture and place in the oven to cook for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Herbes de Provence Roasted Chicken, Potatoes and Zucchini

Herbes de Provence is a seasoning blend featuring many of the herbs which grow abundantly in the Provence region of southeast France. The blend typically includes lavender, savory, rosemary, marjoram and thyme. Some blends also include fennel seeds, sage and tarragon.

As can be expected, it goes well with poultry and vegetables. Tonight’s dinner is a roasted chicken served with potatoes and zucchini, all liberally sprinkled with Herbes de Provence.

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Herbes de Provence Roasted Chicken, Potatoes and Zucchini

5 lb whole chicken
3 to 4 good sized potatoes
2-3 medium sized green zucchinis
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried Herbes de Provence

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using scissors, cut out backbone from chicken and press down to flatten slightly. Rinse off and pat dry.

In a mortar and pestle, combine the salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence. Crush together until well mixed and highly fragrant.

On a mandoline slicer, cut the potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds and the zucchini 1/4 inch rounds. If using a starchy potato like a Russet or Idaho, rinse the potato rounds in cool water, then drain before next step. Waxy potatoes like Yukon golds or red potatoes don’t really need to be rinsed. Place potatoes and zucchinis in a large mixing bowl with all but a tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle a quarter of the herb mix over the veggies and toss to combine. Set out the rounds in rows on a rimmed baking sheet, alternating potato and zucchini. Roast on the lower rack of the oven for 45 minutes or until soft and tender.

Use remaining tablespoon of oil to coat the chicken. Sprinkle around a quarter of the remaining herb mix over both sides of the chicken. Set the chicken breast side up on a roasting pan. Roast for one hour or until thigh temperature is 170 degrees F.

Store leftover herb mix in an airtight container for later use.

German Sausage with Crusty Rolls

My brother-in-law, Wayne, contacted me about the upcoming Elberta German Sausage Festival. That reminded me that I had some German sausage I had picked up from my Dad at the beginning of the summer in the freezer that needed to be grilled.

Poaching and Grilling German Sausage and Brats

8-10 links sausage
4 bottles beer (don’t use your good imported stuff here)
1 large onion, quartered

Bring beer and onion to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Nestle in the sausage links together under the liquid and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature of fully cooked sausages should be around 160 degrees F.

While the sausages are simmering, build a small fire in your grill. Set it up for direct cooking and finish off the sausages with a couple of minutes per side for about 5 to 10 minutes total or until they pick up a nice char.

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You just can’t eat your wurst on a hotdog bun. You need a roll but not just any will do. You must have a crusty roll – what the Germans call brotchen. They’re hard to find in the states and, especially, in the South. When all else fails, sometimes you have to make your own.

The closest recipe I’ve found can be found on the King Arthur Flour website. Go to their blog for a good step-by-step guide with handy pictures. Be prepared – these take a while but they are so very good it makes it worthwhile.

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Don’t I have beautiful buns?

I only divided the dough into 8 pieces – I like a slightly larger bun to wurst ratio! I increased the cook time to 25 minutes.

Serve your German sausage with a good mustard and Hot German Potato Salad.

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Guten Appetit!

Creole Cream Cheese and Pecan Pound Cake

I’ve been craving creole cream cheese lately and was in Metairie the other day, so I stopped by Dorignac’s Food Center to pick up some.

Poppy Tooker has a recipe to make your own batch of this soft Creole cheese. It is good as a snack itself (with a little fruit, cream or sugar) or mixed into cheesecakes, pound cakes and ice creams.

I got the idea for this cake after reading a recipe from the Crescent City Farmer’s Market. Frankly, they didn’t have near enough pecans (only 1/4 cup AND none in the pound cake). Instead of topping with pecans and having a strip of cinnamon brown sugar, I combined them to make a sweet and crunchy topping. They also make it in a bundt pan. I much prefer using loaf pans, as it is an easier shape to cut and store.

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Sometimes the cake falls beautifully out of the pan. Other times, the corners stick. As the cook, I get to lick the bowl with the batter and scoop out all the remnants as well as cut off the not perfect edges to eat them before anybody sees. It is a tough gig but someone has to do it.

Creole Cream Cheese and Pecan Pound Cake

1 cup chopped pecans, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Creole cream cheese

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Grease and flour two loaf pans. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup chopped pecans with brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix well with your fingers to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Add melted butter and mix until mixture resembles coarse meal. Divide and press into the bottom of the loaf pans.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, salt, and baking soda. Use a stand mixer to cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with Creole cream cheese, mixing well after each addition. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.

Evenly divide the batter and pour over the pecan sugar mix in each of the prepared loaf pans. Bake at 300 degrees for about an hour and a half (I baked mine for 95 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Rotate pans about 45 minutes into the cook time. Once done, remove from oven and cool in pan for 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a wire rack and cool completely.

You may need to slice off the rounded portion before inverting, so that the pound cake sits evenly with the pecan topping on the top. Consider those slices the chef’s reward!

Chocolate Rice Pudding with Caramelized Rice Krispies

I bought a big box of Rice Krisipies and was able to make two batches of treats. There were still some left in the box that I needed to find a way to use before they went stale. I read a recipe about caramelizing them and using them as sprinkles on ice cream, cakes, etc. However, that method seemed like a fine way to set fire to the kitchen, so I altered the way to make them. As I’ve been trying to discover a rice pudding recipe I can tolerate (my girlfriend loves, loves rice pudding), I decided to try a chocolate rice pudding to put under the caramelized Rice Krispies.

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Chocolate Rice Pudding With Caramelized Rice Krispies

1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
3 tablespoons arborio rice
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used a Ghirardelli bittersweet baking bar)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Creme de Cacao

In a saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt and arborio rice. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook over a vigorous simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender but the pudding is still soupy. Stir regularly while it simmers.

Add in the butter and stir. Break up the chocolate bar into pieces and add it. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and add the creme de cacao. Distribute amoung four cups. Nestle plastic wrap directly over the pudding to prevent a skin from forming and place in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Sprinkle caramelized Rice Krispies over the top before serving.

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Caramelized Rice Krispies

4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Stir until sugar is dissolved and has begun to boil. Put the Rice Krispies in a large bowl and pour over sugar and water mixture. Stir well until every single piece of cereal is coated.

Place  cereal on a large cookie sheet and bake in 20 minute increments until cereal is desired color, stirring every time you check it. I cooked mine for 40 minutes. Cool on pan and store in an airtight container.

Sprinkle on ice cream, pudding, cakes and pies for a tasty, crunchy topping.

Gouda Malibu Chicken

I remember really enjoying Malibu Chicken from Sizzler Steakhouse as a kid and decided I wanted a version I could make at home. I also wanted to raise it up a notch or two by substituing gouda cheese for the Swiss of the original, marinading the chicken in a little honey before breading and baking instead of deep frying and broiling.

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Gouda Malibu Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shreadded Parmesan/Romana/Asiago cheese (I use the Kraft Shaker)
4 slices good quality ham
4 to 8 slices smoked gouda cheese

Pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness. Mix honey, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Place chicken and marinade in a plastic, zip top bag for at least 4 hours.

Set up three pie pans and place flour in one, eggs (scrambled with a little bit of oilive oil) in another and the bread crumbs and cheese in the remaining one. Remove chicken from marinade and dredge in flour, coat in egg and cover in breadbrumbs.

Place chicken in a buttered baking dish and cook for 20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Flip over the chicken and place on the top of it a slice of ham and enough cheese to cover. Bake for another 20 minutes or until done.

Serve with honey mustard sauce

Honey Mustard Sauce

1/3 cup mayonaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Combine ingredients and whisk well. Taste and adjust as necessary. Store, tightly covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. It can keep up to 2 weeks, if stored properly.