“Take two and butter ‘em while they’re hot!” That’s some of the best advice my Mimi has ever given me.
A staple of Southern quickbreads, the biscuit is apropos all day, any day. Whether you sup at supper, dine at dinner, or break real fast for breakfast, the biscuit is your best bet. They make the perfect accompaniment to any meal and are simply divine for a dessert option too. Besides the cottony texture, the harmonious blend of butter and flour and the heavenly aroma fresh from the oven, I simply adore the biscuit’s versatility. They can be amended and flavored for the season with herbs and conserves, made large or small for any occasion and rejuvenated with a bit of butter. And don’t forget their entertaining aspect either- they make marvelous pick up poppers for patties. Let’s just start at the very beginning of the day - a very good place to start!
Biscuits for Breakfast
Breakfast is this Farmer’s favorite meal. I love breakfast for breakfast, breakfast for lunch and breakfast for supper; and, a biscuit fits this adoration marvelously. Whether you start your day making them from scratch, driving through for your fix or somewhere in between, one of my favorite methods for a breakfast biscuit starts the day before.
Classic biscuit fashion - hot and buttered- is simply grand, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t always have time to make a mess of biscuits first thing. Here’s what I do- I make a pan of biscuits the night before and the next morning, I butterfly them, open face style, butter and toast them. They toast back to their glorious state once again and I firmly believe this is the breakfast of champions. Throw on a spread of jam or jelly and your eating like a king first thing!
Lovely at Lunch!
As for a midday meal, whether a luxurious luncheon or a sack lunch, the biscuit again is de riguer. I love to serve a pot of soup with some sour cream biscuits- this version is quick and easy and you can make dozens at a time- perfect to pass around the table in fine silver breadbaskets or simple earthen dishes alike. For a lunch on the go, a PB and J biscuit is marvelous! Use a biscuit from your morning batch or a fresh pan, and spread one side with peanut butter mixed with a bit of honey and the other with your favorite jelly- you’ll feel like a kid again and your kids will love it too!
At many a Southern supper or dinner table, a basket of biscuits shall be present. To switch up their role as an accoutrement to a main dish, try serving your biscuits as the base for open-faced roast beef and gravy sandwiches or the topping for chicken pot pie. Have a hankering for chicken and dumplings for dinner? Let your biscuits be your dumplings, darlin’! Drop your uncooked biscuits into your stewed chicken as you would a dumpling and you’ve got a mighty fine twist on the traditional dumpling. So we’ve had a biscuit now for breakfast, lunch and dinner, now let’s have some for a party!
My go to menu for feeding a crowd involves biscuits. I love to bake a ham and serve ham and biscuits to my guests. I make a station to carve the ham and then serve it sandwich style in between sliced biscuits with an array of condiments to dress up your your plate! Jams and jellies of course are present but I’m a sucker for sweet and salty combos, so maybe I’ll serve a country ham with sweet jams. Mustard’s- sweet, spicy and coarse- all make for great pairings with ham biscuits and I make a tray of assorted picked too for my guests choosing. Spiking a bit of mayo with some seasonal herbs wakes up this great complement to ham and biscuits too. From curried mayo to basil scented mayo, you’re friends will be clamoring back for seconds! Since biscuits can be made dinner-sized or tea-sized, they fit ever so nicely onto any size party plate. Of course the ham may be substituted with a pork tenderloin or even fried chicken strips, but there’s hardly a substitute for a biscuit at any Southern party!
Don’t Forget Dessert!
When it comes to sweet endings to a meal, biscuits for dessert are absolutely delicious. Take for instance my Buttermilk Biscuit Bread Pudding. This dish sends my friends to my table quicker than a duck on a June bug! Made like a traditional bread pudding, I use buttermilk biscuits instead I bread and this is some kind of fine eating! Yet, one of the simplest and most elegant desserts is to use a biscuit in lieu of shortcake (they’re awful close to kin anyways) and top your biscuits with season fruit or berries and some freshly whipped vanilla bean infused cream. In a similar vein, biscuits make a terrific layer for a dessert trifle. Simply topped with some honey or sour gum syrup, this is another amazing biscuit dessert -but I’m biased- a biscuit with honey and butter is this Farmer’s favorite!
So, we’ve journeyed through the day with biscuits and even partied a bit too. I hope you find a biscuit to suit your fancy- any time of day! From this Farmer’s kitchen to yours, let’s make some biscuits y’all!
Mrs. Mary’s Biscuits from James Farmer’s forthcoming book, A Time to Cook
Farmer’s note: the ingredients are measured by dough “feel”, and number of hungry souls clambering into your kitchen.
4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c milk (whole milk or “sweet milk” as Granddaddy says)
3/4 c. Crisco
1. Pour dry ingredients in bowl – cut shortening into dry mix
2. Make a well in center and pour milk into the center, gently kneading with wooden spoon and finish mixing by hand.
3. Transfer moist dough to a floured surface and roll the dough out with a pin or “patty cake” style with your hands (about 1/2 inch thickness)
4. Using a biscuit cutter or small glass, cut out dough into circles and place side by side on a greased baking sheet, topping with a smidge of butter
5. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes
Farmer’s Note: mixing honey with room temperature butter and glazing the biscuits upon removal from the oven will result in a golden, heavenly biscuit.
Hailing from the pecan and peach laden fields of Georgia, James Farmer learned how to be a “hyper-seasonal” cook at the side of his grandmother whose Southern heirloom recipes he revitalizes for contemporary tastes. James is an author of five books, a gardener, floral and interior designer, cook and garden-to-table lifestyle expert. His young, fresh voice shows his generation how to incorporate elegant seasonal garden living into one’s life either on a grand scale or modest budget. Farmer is Editor-At-Large for Southern Living Magazine and has appeared on NBC’s TODAY. James’ fifth book, A Time to Cook, is due Spring 2013. http://jamesfarmer.com/