Saturday, January 9, 2010

Farm-Fresh Friday: Biscuits & Gravy

They say good food is the way to a man's heart. Speaking as a woman, it's a good way to get into a woman's heart too. The next time you wake up with someone, if it's someone you want to keep around for awhile, fix him or her some good scratch biscuits and gravy. This comforting breakfast plays a big part in my happy marriage - I make this whenever my husband comes home from one of his frequent work trips - and I can personally attest to its impact on overnight guests.

And the best part?

It's easy as a preacher's daughter and goes from nothing to the table in under an hour!

Kimberly's Butter Biscuits
¾ cup warm water
1 heaping tsp yeast
1 ½ tsp sugar
2 cups white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp frozen butter, divided

Preheat oven to 450° F (225° C).

Pour the warm water into a small bowl and whisk in the yeast and sugar with a fork. Set in a warm place, such as on top of the preheating stove, and leave it alone while you put everything else together.

If you have a food processor, throw in all the dry ingredients and whiz them up to mix. Cut 3 Tbsp frozen butter into small cubes and drop them in, running the food processor until the butter is cut finely into the flour mixture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

If you don't have a food processor, then combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and use a cheese grater to grate in 3 Tbsp frozen butter. Work the grated butter into the flour mixture with your fingers or a fork until it resembles a coarse meal.

By now the sugar-yeast water should have a thick bubbly covering over the water. Pour that into the flour-butter mix and stir it quickly with a fork; as the dough starts to come together, begin to knead it with your hands. It will flake off and not look like it's going to hold together, but trust me, it will. Knead it only until all the ingredients hold together in a big doughball, and then stop kneading it.

Transfer to a floured countertop and roll it out, about 1" thick. Use a drinking glass to cut rounds and lay each one on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue to roll out the trimmings and cut rounds; when you can't roll out anymore, you can shape that dough into a little biscuit with your hands.

Put the biscuits in that warm spot and let them rise for about 20-30 minutes, then bake them for 10-12 minutes or until they're golden. Just before serving, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter and brush that over the biscuit tops. Serve hot with honey or gravy.

...Gravy? Did I say gravy? Oh, yes I did.

Gravy has fallen out of style in America's supposedly health-conscious culture. However, I would like to point out that low-fat packaged foods have done nothing to combat the rise in obesity and diet-related health problems; besides, you only live once, and the occasional hearty breakfast is better for your quality of life.

This gravy I'm about to share with you is my adaptation on the Vegetarian Chicken Gravy on page 70 of Ann Jackson's fantastic cookbook, Cookin' Southern Vegetarian Style. Even though it's vegetarian (unless you start with meat drippings, about which more in a minute), it does taste exactly like chicken gravy. People who don't like gravy love this one, so give it a go!

Ultimate Biscuit Gravy

If you're serving meat with this breakfast, such as sausage or bacon or ham, cook that first. We don't do pork in our house but I do occasionally cook up some chicken sausages or turkey bacon. Do this in your cast-iron skillet, if you have one, and start the meat while the biscuits are rising. By the time the meat is done and draining, the biscuits will be ready to go into the oven, and you can whip up the gravy while the biscuits bake.

So start the gravy either with a deep dry skillet, or with the fat and drippings leftover from cooking the meat. Turn the heat on very low, and throw in a huge handful of flour - Ms. Jackson is right, the best is a combination of white flour and chickpea flour, but I've used whole wheat and barley and rye and just about every other combination you can think of. They all work. Toast the flour slowly on low heat, stirring, until it starts to turn a little bit golden, and then add in about ¼ cup nutritional yeast.

Keep toasting for another minute or two, and then drop in 1 Tbsp butter and a splash of toasted sesame oil or olive oil. Stir that into the flour until you have a thick paste. Whisk in 1 or 2 cups of liquid - most of this should be milk or soymilk, but you can also add any combination of broth, coffee, cream, or whatever strikes your fancy; I've made gravy with the leftover liquid I drained out of a butternut squash. When I just use milk, I like to stir in a big spoonful of this vegetarian chicken broth powder I get at the produce shop, but it's not technically necessary.

So anyway, whisk in the liquid and turn up the heat. Let the gravy cook up, stirring often, while you add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. As it cooks for a few minutes it will thicken, and by then the biscuits should be ready. Split the biscuits and spoon gravy over the two halves, and serve with sliced apples or other fruit, your optional breakfast meat, and good quality coffee.

No comments:

Post a Comment