Biscuits

Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits, I love biscuits…especially with gravy, don’t you?  They are my de facto standard for comparison of breakfast diners, as you may have noticed in our previous posts on Southport Cafe & Bakery and Frank’s Diner.  In fact, my best friend and I used to meet once a week at our local Braum’s for biscuits and gravy before 1st period in high school.  Even my first meal as a Chicago resident was cornmeal biscuits and spicy gravy at  the cafe  A Taste of Heaven down the street.  What is surprising is that I never made biscuits from scratch until last year.  Yep, I grew up on “whop-em” biscuits and as Mississippi comedian Jerry Clower would say, “them biscuits ain’t fit to eat.” I now agree (no offense, Mom).  We have tried a number of different biscuit recipes and are sharing some of our favorites.  As you can see, our two trusty sources for biscuit recipes are Martha Stewart and Paula Deen and there is some contention in the house as to whose are better.

So, this Saturday morning, don’t scare your neighbors with “whop-em” noises from your kitchen – try one of these four recipes we’ve grown to love!

~ Scott

Martha Stewart’s Baking Powder Biscuits (makes 6)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • 1 egg white for brushing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry blender (or smashing with your whisk), cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.  Add remaining 1 cups flour, and toss to combine.  Pour in heavy cream a little at a time; using a rubber spatula, fold cream into dough, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until dough just comes together.  The dough will be slightly sticky.  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  With floured fingers, gently pat dough into a round about 1 inch thick, pressing in any loose bits. Do not overwork the dough. Use a floured 3-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits as close together as possible. (Before I had a biscuit cutter, I used to make these as if they were small hamburger patties).  Place biscuits on an unlined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Generously brush tops of biscuits with cream-egg white mixture.  Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

The large amount of baking powder really makes these biscuits rise, and the crunchy top is a result of brushing the tops with the cream-egg white mix.  These biscuits are great served on their own or with gravy.  The soda biscuits listed next are more traditional in that they have a denser texture that holds up well for covering with jam.

Baking Powder Biscuits

Baking Powder Biscuits

Martha Stewart’s Soda Biscuits

  • 1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and powder in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse once or twice to combine.  Add butter, and process until dough looks like coarse oatmeal.  Add buttermilk, and process a few seconds more, until dough just comes together.  Turn out dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pat into a 7-inch circle about 1 inch thick.  Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 wedges, but do not separate.  Bake biscuits until golden brown on top and firm, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve warm with butter.

Paula Deen’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and butter.  Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough.  Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth.  Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.  Place the biscuits on a greased pan and coat tops with melted butter. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ham Gravy & Fried Egg

Paula Deen’s Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup milk

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.  Cut butter into mixture until it begins to look like cornmeal.  Make a well with flour mixture and slowly add milk into the middle.  Knead dough with your fingers and add milk when necessary.  Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to desired thickness.  Cut with small biscuit cutter. Butter bottom of skillet and place biscuits in pan.  Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

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March 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

Untitled (Scott)

After a three-month absence, we are making our way back into blogging with a couple of photo essays. Since we started Balmoral Bites, we have tried to get in the habit of carrying our digital camera (now camera phone) whenever we go out for food or drinks. And, as much as I love taking photos of food, I also like to sneak in a few pictures of Scott. I now have a  nice collection of photos and thought I would share a few of my favorites. Here’s a selection in chronological order – starting with our July 2007 trip to Chicago when we were apartment hunting and ending with a 2009 Christmas dinner at Tango Sur.

~ Lauren

...at Vermilion for Indian-Latin fusion food in downtown Chicago, July 2007...

...at Cullen's Bar & Grill for comforting Irish pub food in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood, December 2008...

...at Iguana Mexican Cafe in OKC, December 2008...

...at Hop Leaf Bar in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, March 2009...

...at Southport Grocery and Cafe for brunch in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood, May 2009...

...at Frank's Diner in Kenosha, WI, September 2009...

...at Tango Sur for Argentinian food in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood, December 2009...

January 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm 2 comments

Ode to Our First Garden

Snowy Backyard

It is currently 21 degrees in Chicago and our small backyard is covered in heaping mounds of snow, but I am sure that the soil beneath is resting, awaiting the spring thaw, and for us to sow the little seeds we have stored away in our basement. Last spring, we eagerly planted our garden full of herbs, jalapeño & habanero chili peppers, arugula, radicchio, broccoli, cucumbers, green onions & bulb onions, carrots, and approximately eight different varieties of tomato plants. And, although it is belated, here is a pictorial ode to our first little city garden.

~ Scott and Lauren

Cucumber Vine

Tomato Plants!

Lemon Boy Tomato Plant

Sweet 1000 Tomato Plant

A single day's tomato harvest

Arugula

English Thyme, Sage, and Lavender

Thai Basil & Sweet Basil

Gnarly Purple Carrots (now we know, this is what happens to carrots that aren't spaced far enough apart)

Bulb Onions & Green Onions

Farmer Scott with his amazingly tall Green Onions!

January 9, 2010 at 5:27 pm 2 comments

Wisconsin Eateries

We recently took a two-day roadtrip to Wisconsin. We left bright and early on a Friday morning and returned home by Saturday night, but made time for plenty of good food in between. Our first stop was Frank’s Diner in Kenosha, WI. On Labor Day 2008 we had hoped to eat at Frank’s on our way to Milwaukee for a Brewers ballgame, but hadn’t thought to check into whether they would actually be open on the holiday – they were closed. So, we were glad to finally make it back to Frank’s during their regular business hours.

Frank’s Diner was featured on the Food Network series Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, which is how we discovered it. On this particular Friday morning, the small diner was filled with locals as well as tourists, probably as a result of this TV show. We were in a hurry to make it to Racine, WI for a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed SC Johnson headquarters, so we quickly placed our order. The food was good for a diner and the  atmosphere was charming and energetic. In fact, the original part of the Diner is an old wooden train car.  In hindsight, we probably should have ordered one of their garbage plates which is what they are most well-known for. We  would definitely stop at Frank’s again when passing through Kenosha – a great halfway point between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Frank's Diner in Kenosha

Frank's Diner in Kenosha

Frank's French Toast + lots of cinnamon!

Frank's French Toast + lots of cinnamon!

Frank's Biscuits and Gravy

Frank's Biscuits and Gravy

Our next stop was the County Clare Irish Inn and Pub in Milwaukee, where we were guests of both the inn and pub.  They have a menu full of traditional Irish Pub fare, but with more flavor.  The pot roast had a nice Guinness gravy and the fish-n-chips was pretty standard. The next morning we had breakfast with other overnight guests down in the pub, which included eggs, bacon, hashbrowns with grilled onions and peppers, potato cakes with syrup, and a side of fresh fruit.

County Clare's Pot Roast

County Clare's Pot Roast

County Clare's Friday Fish Fry

County Clare's Friday Fish Fry

And, finally, our last Wisconsin eatery was Alterra at the Lake, a coffee shop and cafe located in the historic 1888 Milwaukee River Flushing Station.  Their menu is compiled using seasonal ingredients from local farms and includes soups, sandwiches, wraps, freshly-baked goods, and breakfast all day. We were tempted to order their Local Yolk-el breakfast dish just for its name, but settled on lunch instead. Scott ordered a hot sandwich with Usinger’s naturally smoked turkey, tomato basil cream cheese, spinach, provolone, and bruschetta mix melted on rosemary ciabatta. Lauren ordered a cold wrap with curried chicken salad – a sweet and spicy blend of chicken, craisins, walnuts, onion, celery, honey, and cayenne pepper with fresh greens. Both were delicious and Scott especially liked  the fresh crispy bread.  And, before we departed to head back towards Illinois, we stocked up with some whole bean Brazilian traditional dry roasted coffee,  rose melange tea, and a couple of cool Alterra t-shirts.

Alterra Coffee and Tea
Alterra  Rose Tea and Cappicino
Alterra's Rosemary Turkey Sandwich
Alterra’s Rosemary Turkey Sandwich
Alterra's Curried Chicken Salad Wrap
Alterra’s Curried Chicken Salad Wrap

September 27, 2009 at 10:00 am 2 comments

Grilled Pesto Pizza

Grilled Pizza with Basil Pesto, Fontina, and Lemon Boy Tomato

Grilled Pizza with Basil Pesto, Fontina, and Lemon Boy Tomato

Grilled Pizza with Arugula, Proscuitto, and Fontina

Grilled Pizza with Arugula, Proscuitto, and Fontina

There is nothing like enjoying the summer months outdoors by the grill.  We enjoy it so much that after seeing Bobby Flay prepare a grilled pizza with asparagus pesto on Food Network’s Boy Meets Grill series, we have added it to our regular rotation.  It is a great weeknight meal because it is quick and easy to prepare, but it is also ideal for entertaining and letting your guests decide on toppings.  This summer we were fortunate to have our small but plentiful garden only steps away from our grill. We used our fresh tomato, onion, arugula, and basil on our pizzas and they were so tasty. They key to a great grilled pizza in the summertime is getting your hands on some of that fresh produce from the local farmers market, produce store, or your own garden.

Ingredients

  • pizza crust (we keep it simple and use Boboli thin crust from the grocery store)
  • pesto (we have used both basil and arugula pesto, both of which are easy to make at home)
  • fontina cheese, thinly sliced (fresh mozzarella works too)
  • toppings of your choice (tomato, onion, arugula, etc.)
  • olive oil
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt

Preheat grill to 400F degrees. Prepare the crust by brushing olive oil on both sides and place on wax paper.  Next, prepare a platter with the sauce and toppings of your choice so that everything can be taken outside at once. Once outside, start by placing the pizza crust face down on the grill for a few minutes – until crispy – then flip over.  Quickly assemble the pizza by spreading a thin amount of sauce, cheese slices, and your other toppings.  Close the grill for a few minutes or until the cheese is melted, but stay closeby and keep an eye on the pizza so your crust doesn’t get too crispy or burn! When adding leafy greens like arugula, spinach, or basil, toss them with a little olive oil and sea salt and wait to add until after the pizza comes off the grill. Also, after the pizza is off the grill, we add freshly ground black pepper to the sliced tomato. Slice the pizza and serve.

Pizza Crust brushed with EVOO

Pizza Crust brushed with EVOO

Arranging the Fontina Cheese

Arranging the Fontina Cheese after spreading the Basil Pesto

Cutting the Pizza

Cutting the Pizza

Slice of Pizza

Slice of Pizza with Lemon Boy Tomato, Fresh Basil, and Onion

September 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm Leave a comment

Grilled Pork Sandwich & Jicama-Carrot Salad

Finally, I’m posting one of my favorite meals to cook – pork tenderloin sandwiches hot off the grill. I’ve used this dish on many occasions when entertaining and feeding large groups at home. This dish originated back when my best friend Nathan and I used to live together, and grilled out almost every Saturday night. The idea of this sandwich is a bit of a merger of a French Dip and a Cuban. It’s great because it is simple and really takes no more effort to cook it for 20 or 2. The only real key to this dish is knowing how to properly grill a pork tenderloin so that it is just done, crispy on the outside with loads of succulent juices in the middle.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • Worcestershire and Soy Sauce
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • fresh loaf French bread
  • provolone cheese, sliced
  • cracked black pepper

There are really three components: the meat, the sauce, and the bread. First, for the meat, coat all sides of the tenderloin with Montreal steak seasoning (this works well because of the course salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic, orange peel, …). Preheat your grill to 400F and oil the surface to prevent the meat from sticking. Place your meat on the grill and pour soy sauce over it. Let it cook for about 1 min to sear it just a bit, then turn over and reduce the heat to 350F and coat again with soy sauce. Continue to cook on each side (usually 3 sides for small or 4 sides on a large one) for 8 minutes at a time, coating with soy sauce each time to create a slight crust. My experience is to cook until the meat begins to firm up a bit or put up resistance to the touch, which is ~165F. Don’t forget it will continue to cook another 5 degrees after you take it off the grill before you cut it. I try to avoid using meat thermometers for this because it just creates a nice hole for the juice to escape that you’ve work hard to create. After the meat is done take it off the grill and cover with foil and wait to cut into 1/4-1/2 inch medallions until after you toast the bread. For other variations in coating the meat while cooking I like Tabasco, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, and Kikkoman’s Teriyaki sauce.

Second, for the au jus-like sauce, add a tiny bit of olive oil and minced garlic  to a small pot and cook until soft. Add 1/2 can beef broth, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and simmer until reduced by at least half. Finally, for the bread, cut a large French loaf into 5-6 inch pieces and then cut each piece into halves. Toast the bread face down until crispy (either on the grill or in a toaster oven) and then place a slice of provolone on the top half. Assembly time! Place the meat on a slice of bread, drizzle approximately 1 tablespoon of sauce over the meat and the top slice of bread, and then press it shut and enjoy.

Have you ever seen “odd ball” vegetables in the supermarket and cannot keep yourself from picking one up? Well the jicama (aka – Mexican turnip) is one of those – however, I actually let the first one spoil before I got around to using it…oops. With our fresh purple carrots growing out back this summer, I was looking for a carrot salad recipe, and low and behold this Food & Wine jicama recipe found me and it was unbelievably simple, so I gave it a shot.

  • 1/2 large jicama (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/8 -by-1 1/2 -inch sticks
  • 4 carrots, coarsely grated
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 jalapeño chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions: “in a bowl, toss together all the ingredients” – yes that is it. The jicama is somewhat sweet and has a texture similar to an Asian pear. I would suggest next time only mixing in 4 tablespoons of the oil, then more if needed. The oil has a tendency to cover up the flavor of the jicama.

Meat and Bread - ready to be assembled!

Meat and Bread - ready to be assembled!

Grilled Pork Sandwich & Jicama-Carrot Salad

Grilled Pork Sandwich & Jicama-Carrot Salad

September 10, 2009 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Tomato Basil Soup

In the late summer, nothing is better than a tomato fresh out of the garden.  They are so red and flavorful – I wish I could enjoy them all year long. It seems that during the winter months I must forget just exactly how good vine-ripened tomatoes are because each summer I am amazed at their beautiful deep red color. We are certainly enjoying our homegrown fresh tomatoes this season, but have also been discussing ways to preserve summery tomato goodness. I have a few whole tomatoes in a ziploc bag in the freezer, which I hope to use in soups or stews this winter. We also decided to prepare and freeze a tomato basil soup.

Tomato Basil Soup ingredients

Tomato Basil Soup ingredients

Ingredients

  • approx 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters depending on size
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking sheet, arrange the tomatoes in one layer. Drizzle tomatoes with 1/4 cup olive oil and then add salt and pepper. Gently mix on baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes.

Before Oven-Roasting

Before Oven-Roasting

After Oven-Roasting - and they smell so good in between!

After Oven-Roasting - and they smell so good in between!

In a 6- or 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for approx 10 minutes or until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup to the consistency of your liking. Taste for seasonings.

Tomato Basil Soup - simmering

Tomato Basil Soup - simmering

Tomato Basil Soup - after the immersion blender

Tomato Basil Soup - after the immersion blender

This soup can be served hot or cold, with or without a splash of whole cream.  We enjoyed one small serving and then froze the remainder in three 3-cup containers. We are looking forward to enjoying the soup on cool fall nights over the next couple of months.

Ready to freeze

Ready to freeze

September 7, 2009 at 11:16 am 1 comment

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