Blog - biscuits and such
southern food blog
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Bobbie’s Rolls

This past weekend I took a trip to Durham that I’d been planning for months.  You see, Paula Deen was coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center.  I know that everyone has mixed feelings about Paula Deen but y’all, I find her completely entertaining.  And that’s what she is, an entertainer.  The show was pitched as her and her sons, Jamie and Bobby, telling stories and cooking food with too much butter.  So my mom, my dear friend Megan, and I got tickets and we were SO PUMPED.

You know where this is going.  If you follow me on twitter you’ll have seen the disappointed tweets I sent out into the universe after she up and cancelled her whole east coast tour.  Her excuse was something to do with a lousy production manager and not wanting to put on a sub-par show but frankly, after driving all the way to North Carolina to see her, I would have taken anything.  I was devastated and angry and might not even watch her show for a while.  I won’t go so far as to cut butter out of my diet, but I am definitely not pleased.

With or without Paula I had other things planned in Durham, so I made the trek down.  It was a great weekend full of lots and lots of margaritas, a few photoshoots, so much gossiping and catching up that I lost my voice, and time spent with some of my favorite people.  I got to partake in some of my favorite Durham activities, try some new restaurants, and take in the 70 degree weather (which, after all this damn snow, felt like heaven).

My mom convinced me to stay an extra day so I got back Monday night and much of yesterday was spent grocery shopping, editing photos from the aforementioned photoshoots, and recovering from the aforementioned margaritas.  Which means that last night we dined on leftover turkey soup and some of my grandmother’s rolls.  These are the perfect dinner rolls, fluffy and warm and ideal for paring with soups, stews, and butter.  Butter that I will not be dedicating to Paula Deen.

Bobbie’s Rolls

1 cup whole milk

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp vegetable shortening

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 egg, beaten

2 cups bread flour

1 tbsp butter, melted

Scald the milk.  Stir in sugar, salt, and shortening, remove from heat.  Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Stir into milk mixture.  Add in egg.  Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  Knead 10 minutes.  Form into a ball.  Grease a bowl and place the dough in, flipping once.  Cover and let rise 1 hour.

Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper.  Divide the dough into 8-10 pieces.  Form a ball by pinching the dough at the base of the ball so the top is tight.  Cluster dough balls together on the baking sheet.  Cover and let rise another hour.

Brush the tops with melted butter.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

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Truffled Mushroom Grits

I mentioned last year that while we don’t do much for Valentines Day, we do a little something.  I like to cook dinner and surprise Dan with a fun dessert.  Nothing big, it’s mostly sentimental because our first Valentines Day as a couple was the first time I got the courage to tell Dan (in writing) that I wanted to spend my life with him.  It was a big deal, complete with out of season sunflowers that he spent a fortune on and a nice dinner.  I like to keep the tradition going (sans expensive flowers), so this year we dined on red wine braised short ribs, truffle infused mushroom grits, and a creme brulee (my first, a check off the life list).  It was lovely, romantic, and totally delicious.

I decided I wanted to do short ribs pretty early on because I think that food is its sexiest when it is fall off the bone good.  Flavor that is rich and deep and makes you close your eyes while you enjoy it is way more appealing than any number of the things that I’ve seen served on this most “romantic” of holidays.  The last time I made these short ribs I served them with my potatoes au gratin but we’ve been a little potatoed out lately, so I thought I’d go towards another member of the starch family, the grit.  I opted for mushrooms because I use them with the ribs and because they give a great woody, earthy flavor to the grits.

I hate writing about food in the context of romance because everything you say about really intense food also makes for innuendo, double entendre, and overall gutter brain.  Which may be why so many television food personalities make me uncomfortable.  It’s hard to talk about how good food can be without it coming off a little naughty (I’m looking at you Giada.  And you too Ina).  To be fair to the dish though, there is something sensual about a good meal.  The way it warms you up, makes you feel like it’s hugging you?  In my mind there are the kinds of good foods that you say wow! this is delicious, I love taco night and the kinds of good foods that make you close your eyes, tilt your head back, and groan.  For the sake of keeping it PG you should bug your eyes out like Paula Deen does every time she tries something good.

Anyway, this post is quickly making me uncomfortable so I’ll cut it short by saying this- these grits are awesome, you should try them.  And now that Valentine’s Day is past, you can make these anytime.  Grits are for lovers, but also for weeknights.  And I hope you had a happy Anna Howard Shaw Day.  And that you’re enjoying the snow, if you’ve been getting it.  Unless this apocalyptic weather has you freaking out, in which case totally call me because DUDE ME TOO.  I think I need to buy snow pants.  And boots.  And a shovel.  And plane tickets to Costa Rica.

Truffled Mushroom Grits

2 cups water

2 cups milk

1 cup grits

2 tbsp butter

4 pieces of bacon

1 cup button mushrooms

3 tbsp white truffle oil

1 tsp salt

1 lemon, juiced

Bring water and milk to a boil.  Stir in butter and salt.  Stir in grits, cover, and drop to a simmer.  Cook on a simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick.

Cook your bacon, and set it aside.  Reserve 1 tbsp grease.  Combine with 1 tbsp truffle oil and set the pan over medium heat.  Saute mushrooms until brown.  Stir the  mushrooms, their juices, and the remaining truffle oil into the grits.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Serve.

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A Perfectly Cooked Steak

Oftentimes I begin to compose posts for this site in my head, far from my computer screen.  Whether I’m driving through suburban Maryland trying to avoid 495 or laying in bed trying to fall asleep, stories will begin to form in my head.  Incidentally this is also how I wrote my wedding vows, over the course of many a late night.  This week I was thinking about this post, how when I was learning to cook meat I would have loved a detailed, in depth post.  In my head, this post began “now that grilling season is upon us.”  Which immediately reminded me that grilling season is not upon us.  That if you listened to that groundhog this week, grilling season will never be upon us.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter that it’s not the appropriate time to grill things.  It doesn’t matter that it is CURRENTLY SNOWING (like, three feet on the ground snowing).  Mostly those things don’t matter because I don’t have a balcony or a backyard and therefore do not have a grill, which means that grilling season doesn’t exist for me.  What does exist is “pan roasting” season, which, in my opinion, is a great way to cook steak.  First of all, let me just say that it took me a really long time to learn how to cook a steak perfectly.  Maybe it had something to do with my being a vegetarian, the fact that my father prefers everything still bleeding, or maybe learning to cook meat is something that just takes time.

In my opinion, a “perfectly” cooked steak is salty and crunchy on the outside with a medium rare center.  Medium rare means pinkish red but warm.  Less cooked alternatives are rare, which is red and warmish and bloody, which is  a cool center.  More cooked alternatives are medium, a solid pink and warm center, medium well (very light pink center), or well done, which is a waste of your money (in my opinion.  Though we do have friends who order their steaks done and dip them in ketchup).  Pan roasting is exactly what it sounds like, cooking over medium heat for a longer period of time on the stove top.  The reason I like pan roasting steaks is partially because, as I mentioned, I don’t have a grill and partially because it creates a delicious crust on the steak, which I think is vital.

As for measuring doneness, I rely on three separate methods (because I have served grossly undercooked meat before and don’t care to repeat it.)  First, there is temperature.  I  use a meat thermometer to take the temperature of the center of the steak, which should be 145 for medium rare.  Secondly, there is the hand test.  With this test you compare the firmness of your hand in various positions to the firmness of the meat.  An open hand has the same firmness as rare meat, thumb to pointer is medium rare, thumb middle finger is medium, thumb to ring finger is medium well, and thumb to pinky is well done.  Finally, there is simply the test of time.  I’ve heard that you don’t want to flip a steak on the grill/in the pan more than once.  I’m not sure why but that always sticks with me while I’m cooking steak.  So, I try and decide on a time per side based on the thickness of the steak.  If the steak is 1/2″ thick I’ll cook it 8-10 minutes per side.  For a steak that’s 1″ thick I’ll go 10-12 minutes.  Usually I combine a general time forecast with a meat thermometer and frequent firmness tests.  It’s obsessive, yes, but the payoff (a perfectly good steak) is large.

Finally, lets discuss seasoning.  Kosher salt and pepper.  That’s it. I use my cast iron pan to pan roast, sprayed with canola oil.  I sprinkle a generous portion of kosher salt and pepper on each side and voila.  Actually, lets also discuss what kind of steak you’re buying.  For this method, eating it with only salt and pepper to bring out the flavor, I buy grass fed, organic strip steak.  Because the flavor is so amazing that it’s an almost otherworldly experience.  It’s just… perfect.  You could also use filet mignon, porterhouse, sirloin, or t-bone.  The key is cooking it over low to medium heat for a longer amount of time so the flavor has the opportunity to really blossom.  Also, after you’ve cooked it, you must let it rest.  “Resting” the meat is just what it sounds like, letting it sit.  You do this so the juices can redistribute, which is vital to having a juicy, delicious steak.  Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to doing what I’ve been doing best lately, being sick in the snow.  Hello Gilmore Girls marathon!

dan measuring the snow outside our window. how much? too much.

Pan Roasted Strip Steak

1 lb strip steak (enough for 2)

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp black pepper

Heat a cast iron pan over medium low heat (3 or 4 or a gas stove).  Spray with cooking oil and let the pan warm.

Pull out your steak and pat it down with a paper towel.  Meat won’t get that crisp edge that is essential for the perfect steak unless it is dry when it touches the pan, so dabbing it down is essential.  Sprinkle half your salt & pepper on each side.

When your skillet is hot, place the steak on the pan and set a timer for 12 minutes (for a steak about 1″ thick).  When the 12 minutes is up, flip the steak and reset the timer for another 12 minutes.  During this time you can also take the temperature and check the firmness.  At the end of the final 12 minutes, or when the inner temperature is 145 for medium rare, remove the steak from heat.  Set aside and let rest 10 minutes.

Carve and serve.

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