Archive for February, 2012

Angel Biscuits

29 Feb

Angel Biscuits

M: Ah, Sunday morning.  Coffee is brewing.  Bacon is sizzling on the stove. And best of all, it’s time to take those fluffy, golden biscuits out of the oven.  Idyllic.  But what’s this?  The oven door opens to reveal… dang it.  The biscuits didn’t rise.  Not one bit.  Flat as a dollar.  Yeah, we’ll eat ’em anyway, but the magic of the moment is as deflated as those buttermilk biscuits we were so anticipating.  I’m sure there are those biscuit veterans for whom this is never an issue.  If this is you, keep it to yourself, as biscuit fail has made me cranky and I might say something discourteous. For the rest of us, if only there was some benevolent biscuit force peeking in to ensure biscuit lift.  Well, here it is.  In this case, that benevolent force is a second leavener in the form of yeast to ensure a satisfying rise.  These biscuits are sometimes called “bride’s biscuits”, because they are all but foolproof for even a new bride, inexperienced in the kitchen (I suggest new grooms refrain from pointing this out when served).  It takes an hour long proof for the yeast to do its thing, so it doesn’t have quite the spontaneity factor of knocking out a batch of traditional biscuits.

Biscuit purists may bristle at these, which are breadier and lack the flakiness of traditional biscuits,  but the guaranteed rise and a softness just made for sopping puts this in the win column in my book.  I thought the yeast would make this more roll than biscuit, but I was very pleased to wind up with something that had some of the earmarks of a well-made powder biscuit.  The texture gives the secret away, but you’re not likely to hear any complaints.  It’s not polite to talk with your mouth full, after all.

Recipe: Angel Biscuits

Summary: Takes a little longer than your typical biscuit, but a “no-fail” rise may be worth the wait. The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook


  • 1 (1/4oz) Packet Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 T Lukewarm Water
  • 5 c Southern Soft-Wheat Self-Rising Flour
  • 1/4 c Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 c Vegetable Shortening
  • 2 c Buttermilk
  • 4 T Butter, melted


  1. Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water and let rest until is becomes foamy.
  2. Stir together flour, sugar and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. Cut shortening into flour with a pastry cutter until pea-sized pieces form.
  4. Stir yeast into buttermilk and add to bowl, stirring until mixture is moist (in this state, dough may be refrigerated for up to one week).
  5. Roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/2″ thickness.
  6. Stamp out biscuits using 2″ biscuit cutter.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick spray and let rise 1 hour, until doubled in bulk).
  8. Bake 18-20 minutes at 425 degrees until lightly browned.
  9. Brush with melted butter and serve hot.



Posted in Bread


Stuffed Pork Chops

23 Feb

Stuffed Pork Chops

M: The image of a roast suckling pig with an apple in its mouth has been around hundreds of years, crossing cultures and continents.  There has been speculation that it serves some value in the roasting process, but the general opinion that it is a purely aesthetic choice.  While it does seem to shape the mouth of the pig into a bit of a smile, the flavors associated with apples and pork complement each other so well, it seems like they *belong* together.  The natural smooth, salty tones of pork are uplifted by the subtle, tangy sweetness of apple.  While we’re not roasting a whole pig today, the flavor pairing suggested in that iconic image are brought together to great effect in this dish from another icon of Southern cuisine, Chef Paul Prudhomme.  As Chef Paul himself said, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”  This well-crafted meeting of sweet and spice tucked neatly inside a juicy chop is easier than it seems and doesn’t take a whole pig to get you there.

According to the North Carolina Pork Council, pork is the world’s most consumed meat and N.C. is the second largest producer of pork in the United States (Iowa being #1).  We serve it in many ways and for every occasion there is pork to be had, be it the beloved Christmas ham, pulled pork sandwiches, or a good old fashioned pig pickin’.   Hard to believe we go to New Orleans to find this recipe that stuffs pork chops with more pork.

I loved this one.  Ground pork and bread crumbs provide terrific heft and texture to the stuffing, but pureed apples, diced peppers and onions and a phenomenal blend of spices really bring it home.   Not too sweet, a spice blend that’s right on the money and so, so juicy.  Just right.  And did I mention those spices?  Somebody should really sell this stuff.

Recipe: Stuffed Pork Chops

Summary: Pork chops stuffed with peppers, onion, pureed apples, spices, bread crumbs and… more pork.  Hooray! From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.


  • 2 Unpeeled Apples, cored and chopped
  • 7 T Butter, room temperature
  • 3 T Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tsp Nutneg
  • 1 T Salt
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp White Pepper
  • ½ tsp Dry Mustard
  • ½ tsp Rubbed Sage
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp Dried Thyme
  • 12 oz Ground Pork
  • 1 c Onions, chopped
  • 1 c Green Bell Peppers
  • 2 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 (4 oz) Can Diced Green Chiles
  • 1 c Pork or Chicken Stock
  • ½ c Fine Bread Crumbs
  • ½ c Green Onions, finely chopped
  • 6 (1¾ in. thick) pork chops


  1. Puree apples, 1/2 stick butter, brown sugar, vanilla and nutmeg in food processor.
  2. Mix seasoning blend by stirring together the salt, onion powder, cayenne, garlic powder, white pepper, dry mustard, sage, cumin, pepper, and thyme in a small bowl.
  3. Brown ground pork in remaining butter in a large skillet.
  4. Stir in onions, bell peppers, garlic and two tablespoons seasoning mix and cook 5 minutes, stirring and deglazing pot.
  5. Stir in chiles and cook until mixture is brown (6-8 minutes).
  6. Add stock and cook 5 minutes.
  7. Add bread crumbs and cook 5 minutes.
  8. Add apple puree and green onions and cook 5 minutes before removing from heat.
  9. Using a boning knife, cut a large pocket into each pork chop.
  10. Sprinkle each chop with seasoning and prop, pocket side up, in a baking dish.
  11. Fill each pocket with 1/4 c (or so) stuffing.
  12. Bake 70 minutes at 400 degrees, adding pan with remaining stuffing to oven to cook for the final 20 minutes.
Pork Chop Stuffing Baked Chops


Tomato Gravy

17 Feb

Tomato Gravy over Biscuits

M: This time of year I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the me of summer.   Tomatoes are a huge part of the menu at my place all summer long.  But summer doesn’t last forever, so sometime around mid-August when they are at their most plentiful,  I get to canning.  I  try to have a couple of dozen quarts in the pantry before I’m through.  It sounds like a lot, but I’m usually budgeting its use come spring. While not much beats a fresh tomato,  good tomatoes processed properly can carry you through the rest of the year just fine. And I have to say, there are times when canned tomatoes can outperform fresh (sacrilege, I know).  That usually means soups, stews and sauces for me, but tomato gravy is a more than welcome addition to the lineup.  Somewhere between salsa and pasta sauce (but not quite either), this is versatile stuff.  This week started with biscuits with tomato gravy (which exceeded my expectations).  It worked well over leftover pot roast the next day and I finished up the batch by taking the submitter’s advice of stretching it into an excellent tomato soup with the addition of a little milk.  That is a lot of mileage for the plucky little tomato, half a year out of season.

Many of the recipes I’ve seen include dairy or flour as a thickener, but this one sticks to little more than tomatoes, onion and bacon grease.   And it works with just about anything.  Many a good meal has been built on these basics.  Turns out I’ve been making versions of this all my life.  I just didn’t know to call it gravy until coming South.

Recipe: Tomato Gravy

Summary: This uncomplicated year-round tomato gravy relies on little more than bacon grease and onion to support a bright, clean tomato flavor. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.


  • 4 slices Bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 c Sweet Onion, chopped
  • 2 c peeled Tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper


  1. Fry bacon in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until crisp.
  2. Remove bacon and set aside.
  3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon grease from skillet.
  4. Add onions to skillet and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).
  5. Add tomatoes and juice and cook until thickened (about 5 minutes).
  6. Remove from heat and stir in thyme, salt and pepper.
  7. Serve over biscuits, meat or vegetables, topped with bacon.


Tomato Gravy Simmering


Braised Collard Greens with Ham-Hock Broth

10 Feb

Braised Collard Greens with Ham-Hock Broth

M: Slimy, bitter, mushy, stinky, ugly.  No, these are not less popular cohorts of Snow White.  They are the most common responses I received from collard haters in my recent informal poll.  I have a hard time imagining anyone not loving their greens, but when I volunteered that I would be cooking up a big mess o’ greens to go with a BBQ rib dinner,  I got the wrinkled noses.  HATE collards.  Hate.   Love or hate. It seems like that’s the way it goes.  Not much in between.  But I made made them anyway because, well, I fall squarely into the “love” camp on this one.   When they reached the table, my dining companions did try the collards, bless ’em.  And while I can’t claim any full on conversions,  I did manage to put a chink in that hater armor.  Not mushy, not slimy.  Only a little bitter.  All three of those have a lot to do with how you cook them, how long you cook them, and how long they sit around.  It was acknowledged that they don’t eat them, but when they did is was all but universally in buffets or cafeterias.  I like a cafeteria as much as the next guy, but you know, it doesn’t necessarily speak to how it was cooked or how long ago.  Cook ’em well, but eventually they are going to approach mud consistency.  Score one for home cooking.  As for the bitter, that is cut down dramatically when liquid is present.  Steaming or sautéing isn’t necessarily out of the question, but cooking with liquid will take some of the bitter out of it, if that is your complaint.
Ok, we’ve addressed as well as we can, three of the five big complaints.  We’re left with stinky and ugly.  I can only do so much here.  Stinky is perhaps in the nose of the beholder.  The smell of collards on the stove is a great one for me.  While I didn’t grow up on greens, it still draws a certain nostalgia for me, not to mention anticipation.  Finally, we are faced with the last big complaint.  They are ugly.   Yeah, I can’t do much with that.  Cook them down right and they start to look like something from the black lagoon.  Avert your eyes if you must, but give them another try.
I am pleased to report I heard from more fans than detractors of my favorite of the three in “meat and three”.  Some spoke of their favorite ways to cook it, others of the amount of vinegar required to make it “just right”, and one Alabama native acknowledges a secret urge to follow a woman home when he sees her shopping buggy full up with collards.  We’ll take that in the spirit it was intended.  One fella explained that it has been on his table weekly since new year’s, recipe adjusted for who made it to dinner (he omits the red pepper for his daughter and leaves out the bacon for his, *sigh*, vegetarian wife).
This SFA recipe does the job.  I do generally include a little vinegar (“to get it started”, as a friend of mine puts it) and a dash of hot sauce, just because.  Also, the ham-hocks and greens are normally part of a single pot cook for me, but I was impressed by how much flavor gets packed into this prepared broth.  Braising is a great way to go.  The liquid pulls some of the bitter from the greens and the greens soak up that good pork flavor.
And yes.  The haters are probably going to keep hating, but keep cooking.  I’m pretty sure they have it wrong.

Recipe: Braised Collard Greens with Ham-Hock Broth

Summary: If you love collards, you’re in business here.  If you hate them?  Well, we’ll work on that.  From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook


  • 1 tsp Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Slices Bacon, diced
  • 2 c Onions, diced
  • 1 c Ham-Hock Broth (recipe below)
  • 2 Lb Collard Greens, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Black Pepper


  1. Cook bacon in oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat until crispy (about 8 minutes).
  2. Add onion and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add broth and bring to boil.
  4. Add collards and stir until they begin to wilt then stir in salt.
  5. Cover pot and cook 40 minutes (stirring occasionally).
  6. Season with salt and pepper.


Recipe: Ham-Hock Broth


  • 3 Smoked Ham-Hocks
  • 8 c Water
  • 2 Sprigs Thyme
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 3 Black Peppercorns
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Medium Onions, peeled and quartered


  1. Lightly brown hocks in a large pot over medium-high heat (about 2 minutes).
  2. Add water and all other ingredients and bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer about 3 hours, skimming occasionally.
  4. Strain through fine sieve and cool to room tempersture in an ice bath.
  5. Cover and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 months.