Blog - biscuits and such
southern food blog
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Sweet Potato Pancakes


You know when it’s really late at night and you have a brilliant idea so you’re all NOTE TO SELF: REMEMBER THAT YOU WANT A UNICORN BIRTHDAY CAKE and then the next morning you’ve forgotten and along comes your birthday and no unicorn cake and you’re sad?  Or something along those lines?  I do that all the time.  Sometimes it’s ridiculous stuff that then leads me to have ridiculous dreams which then leads me to say ridiculous things to Dan when he tries to say goodbye to me in the morning and I’m still sleeping.  Like “don’t you know you can’t ride unicycles on the ceiling?”  Because you can’t.  Gravity.  You’d fall.


On Friday night my last thought was that I really wanted sweet potato pancakes and that we should eat brenner on Saturday night.  Because I love brenner and it’s that time of year where sweet potato pancakes are exactly what I’m craving.  But, alas, by Saturday morning it was gone.  Vamoose.  No sign of brenner.  Fast forward to later in the day when I was making the grocery list for the week and stuck on what I wanted to eat that night.  I was heavily considering throwing in the creative towel and making artisan quesadillas when my mind jumped from the shape of a quesadilla to PANCAKES.  And then I remembered, I wanted pancakes.  Mental high five, Elena.


I downloaded this recipe last fall after watching that Rachel Ray show where she goes to a town and tries to eat for under a certain amount of money.  I don’t think it’s on the air anymore.  I don’t particularly like Rachel Ray, but she was in Asheville, North Carolina (one of my favorite places) and so I watched it.  And Rachel made a stop by the Tupelo Honey Cafe and ordered these pancakes that looked incredible.  So I downloaded the recipe and promised myself (and probably Dan) I’d make them immediately.  But I didn’t.  It’s now a year later and those pancakes have not shown their face in this apartment.


Part of the reason it has taken me so long to make these pancakes is that for a while, I lost my pancake touch.  When I was a kid, I made awesome pancakes.  Light, fluffy, crispy, delicious.  But all last year, every time I tried to make pancakes, they fell short.  Flat, greasy, burned, chewy, awful.  I read every pancake how-to I could get my hands on, I practiced and practiced, I just couldn’t get them right.  My batter wasn’t fluffy enough, my griddle was too hot or too cold, it just wasn’t working.  So when my craving for sweet potato pancakes hit me yesterday, so did my performance anxiety.


And amazingly they just… worked!  The first one sucked, but isn’t that a rule?  The first pancake rule?  The rest were perfect, totally delicious.  I’m not going to pretend to know why these were great and the ones I made last year were awful, I’m just chalking it up to luck.  And my advice to those of you in pancake peril?  Medium heat on your skillet (cast iron works best for me) and wait until you see the bubbles!  These are worth the angst, up there with my other genius late night ideas, like buying Cracker Barrel stock.


Sweet Potato Pancakes
Source: Tupelo Honey Cafe

1 1/3 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs

1 tbsp butter, melted

1/2 sweet potato, cooked and mashed

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Combine all dry ingredients (except spices) in a large bowl.  In another bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, melted butter.  Add that to dry ingredients.  In a third bowl, mix honey, spices, and potato.  Add this to the pancake mixture.  Mix until incorporated but don’t over mix.  Let the batter stand at least 1 hour.

Heat your griddle (skillet) to medium heat.  Add the batter, and cook until bubbles appear (see photo above), flip, and then cook until golden brown on both sides.

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Caramel Apples


One of my favorite things about fall has always been caramel apples. If apples are any kind of in season, I want to rub them in caramel and sprinkle toppings on them.  As long as an apple has crunch to it, dip it in mini marshmallows and I’m in heaven.  Last year, a few months after Dan and I moved to Takoma Park, Maryland, we attended the Fall Festival.  For weeks after we first saw a poster, I was jazzed.  I was so excited about the caramel apples and apple cider and pumpkin bread!  Because what is more “fall” than apples and pumpkin?  NOTHING!  Unfortunately, Takoma Park’s food vendors disagreed.  We ended up with a lime fizz  and fried plantains.


Last fall we appeased our desire for caramel apples by buying caramel dip at the grocery store and pretending like it was the same thing, even though clearly it wasn’t.  The thing I love about caramel apples isn’t just that it’s an apple dipped in caramel, but that the caramel is used, when hot, as a glue, and then the whole thing is chilled and eaten together.  That’s a sensation you just can’t get with the dip from the grocery store.


This weekend I had a three year old to entertain (in D.C.’s best imitation of the Pacific Northwest), so we pulled out all the stops and made caramel apples.  As you’ve probably gleaned from the rest of this post, I don’t really want to settle for just caramel on my caramel apples.  I like toppings.  Three of my favorites are toasted pecans, mini chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows.  I also enjoy caramel and chocolate double dipped together, but that seemed a little complicated for this weekend’s endeavors.  So we set up what amounted to a caramel apple factory line.  First I made the caramel, let it cool, and then we dipped the sliced apples in different combinations of our liking.  We opted for sliced apples because they’re easier to eat, and because it gave us more variety.  And what can I say?  They were a huge hit.  It was decided, in fact, that princesses love caramel apples.


photo by dan

Caramel Apples

4 apples

Caramel (recipe here)

2 cups mini marshmallows

2 cups mini chocolate chips

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Make your caramel, set it aside to cool slightly.

Set out your toppings in different bowls.  Slice your apples.  When your caramel is just a little warmer than room temperature, dip your apples in caramel, and then whatever toppings you like.

Arrange on a plate and chill for 30 minutes.

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Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich


Dan and I are the first of our group of friends to get married, which has put us in a unique position.  As I’ve mentioned here before, we’re well… homebodies.  We go out occasionally, but we really prefer to entertain at home- both our guests and ourselves.  And when we do go out, we go out with other couples, do the dinner at a restaurant thing.  It’s been a while since we partied with Solo cups.


The thing is, most of our friends and a lot of our siblings and cousins (alright, my siblings and cousins- Dan’s are all settled down and mature) are still living the carefree and single lifestyle.  A lifestyle that we only mostly remember.  So when we party with them, we either get drunk under the table or we’re incredible uncomfortable (and awkward).  It’s the consequence of being at different places in life, I guess.


Last weekend we were invited to our friend Dave’s country birthday party (that started at 4pm), and I did a stupid thing.  I assumed, because the party started before dinner and was to last until well into the evening, that there would be food.  Because it’s been so long since I’ve been to a party where they didn’t have food that I forgot.  I forgot there was such a thing as a party with multiple kegs but not a dorito in sight.  Free beer, but BYOD.


About an hour after we got there my stomach was growling so violently that I could envision skewering one of the many corgis running around.  So Dan and I made a trip out to one of his college haunts, a place called Bubba’s.  On the drive to Cockeysville Dan regaled me with tales of eating at Bubba’s two, three times a day.  It was so good. So I had reasonably high expectations and was delighted when we got there and the menu featured a sandwich called the “Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich.”


Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the ONE ingredient that you would think the “southern fried chicken sandwich” would have would be FRIED CHICKEN.  No.  That would be one of those assumptions that would make you and I into donkeys.  Because this sandwich included deli meat, cheese, and bacon.  And by deli meat I mean what looked like packaged chicken from the grocery store that had been tossed on the griddle.  Not breaded.  Not fried chicken pulled off the delicious, moist bone.


It was one of the most disappointing sandwiches I’ve had… ever.  But that’s what I get for ordering something titled “southern” outside the south.  I always do that, and I’m always disappointed.  You see, when I saw that sandwich my mind immediately raced to the most delicious sandwich on Earth, the Shrimp Boat chicken sandwich.  Shrimp Boat is a restaurant in Durham, and while I’ve never had their shrimp, their fried chicken sandwich is to die for.  It’s chicken that is fried, pulled off the bone, and paired with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on a soft bun.  Nothing extravagant, nothing gourmet, but out of this world good.


dan & i with the birthday boy, dave.  it’s worth noting that we had a great time at the party.  next time we’ll be bringing our own fried chicken sandwiches ;)  photo by avery knox.

Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich

2 chicken breasts, bone in/skin on

2 buns

1 romaine lettuce heart

1 tomato

4 tbsp mayonnaise

3 cups buttermilk

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp chipotle

1/2 tsp garlic

Salt & pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups flour

2 slices bread

Peanut oil for frying

Soak the chicken in the buttermilk and half the spices for at least 2 hours.

Toast the bread, dice, and combine it in a food processor with remaining spices.  Combine with flour.

In a large skillet, heat your oil to 350 degrees.  Dredge each breast in breading and fry for 10 minutes on each side.  Set aside to cool.

Toast your buns.  Spread 2 tbsp mayo on each bun.  If you’re going to skip the mayo, you might as well skip the sandwich- it’s that crucial.

Chop the lettuce and slice the tomatoes.  Pile onto buns.  Top with fried chicken that you’ve pulled off the bone in strips.

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