Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve been away from my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been over two thousand miles away. Feels weird. I miss her. I wish I was back in the Mitten sometimes, but especially times like now so that I could cook my mom a good meal as a way of showing her that I do love and appreciate her.

For any of my followers that are also far away from their moms on Sunday,  if your mother has passed away, or if you just don’t have the kind of relationship with your mom that you’d like to and the holiday is difficult for you–I’m sorry for that. I hope you can find a silver lining to the day.

Food has never failed to be one for me, so let’s focus on that for the moment.

Today’s recipe was actually the meal that I made for us on Easter. However, I thought it would work this week just as well. It also piggy-backs on last week’s where I shared the second best biscuit recipe I’ve ever had or made. I do hope some of you were able to give it a try like we both know you wanted to. But if you’re STILL dragging your feet and putting it off, maybe this week’s recipe & pictures will finally put the boot in your rear and make you just do it already.

Bargain shoppers know that the closer you get to major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the better price you can get for the huge ‘roast’ style cuts of meat like whole turkeys and hams in grocery stores. We haven’t had ham since Christmas and since we do enjoy it,  I knew for sure that I was going to wait until the last minute to buy an inexpensive one to make for Easter dinner. I just wasn’t sure of how and with what else to serve it with.

It didn’t take very long before I made up my mind. I’d been craving breakfast for dinner for a while. Since it’s just the three of us all the way out here I thought that that would be a simple, yet delicious celebratory meal: Easter Brinner.

I for one, just couldn’t imagine having a real ham brinner without the biscuits. So, I didn’t try. I cooked a ham and a batch of the newfound biscuit recipe that I was still swooning over and still wanting more of after they were gone–with some modifications that in my opinion, made it even better.

First off, I loveloveLOVE this ham. The rub I put together is sweet, zesty and with just the right amount of aromatic ‘kick’ from the cloves and nutmeg. It pairs just right with the berry glaze that gets brushed over the ham while it warms up and causes it to form that dark, bark-like, sugary crust on the outside. Using a standard/spiral ham is also pretty impossible to mess up as the thing is already cooked in the first place. So long as you don’t dry it out, which if you follow the baking time, is extremely difficult to do, it should turn out great.

The first time I made these biscuits, I left them plain, without any major seasonings added to the dough outside of some sugar and a tiny bit of salt. They were definitely delicious enough on their own. However, for Easter I did want to try and mix things up and see if they could be improved upon. I was right. They could. Best part was, the only changes I made from the original was the addition of 2 ingredients: black pepper and bacon drippings.

Just two simple ingredients and WHOA. They really did elevate the biscuits in not only flavor but the appearance. Although it’s definitely visibly flecked throughout the dough, the pepper isn’t overwhelming. Promise, it really isn’t: so do use the whole tablespoon. The biscuits also browned more evenly across the top and bottom and the layers were more pronounced than they were the first time I made them. The edges became perfectly crisp while the inside stayed light and fluffy. This  is just how biscuits ought to be.

See this?

Black pepper biscuit, sliced in half. Ham. A fried egg cooked just to where the egg white has set and the yolk is still runny. Smear both sides with the ham glaze. Smash it all together into one. This kids, is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve ever had, bar none. And it was my Easter Brinner. (Actually, I loved it so much that I ended up having two, but mind your business).

I only wish I was back home so I could make this meal for my mom. I kinda think she’d be pleased with it.

Happy Mother’s Day and Fiesta Friday #171, where I’ll be linking this post up to.

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Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens & King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Ham

  • 8 lb. cooked ham, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey

For Biscuits

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/drippings (solid or liquid, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, ground cloves, and nutmeg.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the outer skin in crisscross pattern, being careful not to pierce the actual meat. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the skin with your hands. (It may get messy, and it may not all stick to the ham. That’s fine. The excess will form a syrupy sauce in the bottom of the pan as it cooks;  yum.) Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the bottom rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until heated through (inner temp should be near 140 degrees F.)

Meanwhile, pour reserved ham liquid, OJ, jam, berries and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, and brush some of the glaze over the ham as it cooks.

Remove the cover from the roasting pan and crank oven up to 425 F. Allow ham to cook for about 20-35 more minutes until the skin gets crispy, brushing/basting with a bit more of the glaze. Remove from the oven, cover with foil again and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the extra glaze.

For Biscuits: Keep oven at 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the bacon fat and pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Back when I was still in the Mitten, I didn’t eat too much red meat.

In that area, ground beef was pretty cheap before and when I first started cooking but almost directly after that, it suddenly became…not so cheap. And other cuts like chuck, eye of round, steak and whatnot were hardly ever within the price range of what was do-able for a girl who regularly peruses the sale ads and basically gets what most inexpensive. So, I didn’t eat it too much because I didn’t get to buy & cook it myself too much.

Figures.

It didn’t bother me ‘too’ much. If you guys have been following me for a while, you’ll know that my favorite protein, by far, is chicken. It’s not only delicious and better for you, it’s also usually more inexpensive than red meat. The last of which, really matters to yours truly.

However, I do like red meat. And in spite of not having quite as much of a chance to cook with it than with white meat, I do think I walk away with pretty tasty results. When I get the odd craving for it, I REALLY get a craving. It’s a stronger one than the one I get for chicken, to be honest. It can be satiated by one of three things:

An epic humongous, juicy burger, an epic humongous steak salad, or an epic humongous steak sandwich. Either will do: just so long as I get it.

While I was living in the Mitten, (since red meat wasn’t the most inexpensive choice in the grocery store when cooking for a family) I would usually just treat myself to one of the dishes at a take-out place or sit-down restaurant every once in a while and my craving would be satisfied and that was the end of it.

As it turns out, things are somewhat different on the west side. There are of course going to be certain things that are going to be pricey anywhere, at any time of year, guaranteed. However, since coming here I’ve discovered that for some reason, certain cuts of red meat are just cheaper than they are in the Midwest. I mean, REALLY good deals when and if you know how to find them. As a result, I’ve been able to flex my beef-recipe muscles out and giving them more experience than they’ve ever had before in the Mitten.

One of the meats that we’ve been able to get at a really good deal is Tri-Tip beef. The tri-tip is a cut of muscle; in diagram terms of the cow, it’s in front of the Round portion, beneath the tenderloin and above the flank. It’s kinda shaped like a boomerang, and is a really beautiful piece of meat. It’s got the lean cut of tenderloin, with just enough marbling of fat to give it the moisture and tenderness that’s on the fattier cuts, like round. I’d never heard of it at all since coming out here, but let me tell you: since we’ve been here I’ve prepared it three times.

Two out of three of those times was using this recipe.

Whenever I’m not largely familiar with a dish or an ingredient, I do prefer to keep things simple so as to not mess it up. That’s what I did here and even though it’s a simple enough recipe, the flavors more than make up for it. I looked up the standard way to cook a tri-tip in the oven (since me and the grill don’t get along), then I assembled together some of my favorite spices, blended the two together and came out on the other end with what you guys are seeing here.

There is one tool that I HIGHLY recommend you use when cooking this (and frankly, I think it’s something every home cook should have in their kitchen anyway): an instant read thermometer. Why?

Regardless of how you like your steak/burger cooked, the tri-tip is a cut that IS supposed to be cooked on the red/pinkish side. I don’t want to say it should still be bleeding by the time it’s done (after all I do take my steak/burgers  medium to medium well). But, this should still be somewhat…leaky. You cook it past medium and you’re in the danger zone of nuking it into leather. Now, if you’re a professional chef you MIGHT be able to guess-timate the exact moment when to take this out of the oven, let it rest (during which the temperature of the meat rises and continues to cook while the juices redistribute and settle), and slice it. But, most of us aren’t pros, and therefore, should rely on the trusty instant read thermometer that will tell us EXACTLY when the beef is at the right temp to take out of the oven. (Plus they’re very inexpensive and can be found at Target/Walmart/Marshall’s/Amazon so there’s really no excuse for you not to have one.)

I don’t know which I love more about this recipe: that it was an inexpensive way to hit the spot of my rare but strong craving for red meat, that it was so easy to put together with minimal ‘labor’ involved, or that it tasted so good. Why don’t we just call it all three?

Coffee and beef are a great combination and the coffee in this rub really does stand out nicely. The paprika and cumin give it an earthy, smoky flavor, while the other ingredients balance it out with sweetness and spice.  What this yields is a slab of meat that will more than deliver either an epic steak salad, steak sandwich or just a killer hunk of beef.

Believe me, I’ve had them all.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #168, co-hosted by Petra @ Food Eat Love and Lina @ Lin’s Recipes this week.

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Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Recipe Adapted from NYT Cooking

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole Tri-tip steak, about 2-3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons ground coffee; a dark blend preferably (I used French roast)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • About 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • About 2 tablespoons beer (I used Guinness)
  • About 1 tablespoon Canola or vegetable oil

Directions

Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl and set aside

Remove the silver skin and trim the excess fat from the steak; it’s fine if there is still some marbling on the surface.

 Rub the soy sauce and beer into the meat so that it seeps inside. Rub the spice mixture evenly into both sides of the meat. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch Oven or pot over high heat. Sear the Tri-Tip on both sides until a dark crust has formed, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Spray a  broiler rack or oven rack with cooking spray and place it over a sheet pan that you line with aluminum foil.

Place the meat on the rack and roast in the oven until the thickest, most center part reads about 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t allow it to cook for too long: this cut of meat is supposed to be reddish/pink.

Allow the meat to rest for about 10-20 minutes before slicing against the grain.

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Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

I went to a huge, popular science museum recently where there was a planetarium theater. The show I saw there was about the relationship between different ecosystems and consumers in the environment. The screen of the theater was huge; it felt like you were actually apart of the movie itself, which was nice. It was the overall message of the movie itself that had me feeling kinda, well…meh.

In a nutshell, the whole thing was one giant guilt trip for the way that humans burn through resources on the planet. Food, just about any and every kind of food takes a lot of energy, work and effort to produce. Humans not only eat too much of it, we waste too much of it. It’s more than the planet’s got to offer and if we don’t cut our consumption, alter our methods of collection and chill out overall, it’s all going to run out and we’ll be royally screwed.

No joke, that was legit the underlying, not-so-subtle point.

The movie heavily emphasized that to alleviate this concern, one of the main things we can all do is severely cut our consumption of meat–especially beef, and up our consumption of plant-based foods. Essentially, we should all become vegetarians.

Sigh.

Alright, so…listen. It’s not that I don’t get it. I do. Humans suck. We consume too much and produce too little. Heck, the US has a president, a whole damn administration and quite a few supporters who want to pretend that climate change is one big hoax that we don’t actually have to worry about.  It’s awful. I won’t deny it.

But. You see. Here’s the thing. Keeping it one hundred…

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I’m not giving up meat, B. It’s not gonna happen. I will likely be eating meat until the day I die an old lady in my bed, (or the day the president of my country gets us all killed in a nuclear war with Russia or North Korea). I tried to go vegetarian once. It ended badly for me and turned me into an…unpleasant person to be around to say the least. For all the vegetarians who follow my blog, I wish you nothing but the best and even thank you for lessening your planet footprint/ resource consumption.

But personally? The vegetarian lifestyle ain’t my ministry. I’m a carnivore, damn it.

Today’s recipe is one of those things that when I eat, I’m immediately reminded of how much I love meat and how hard (close to impossible) it would be for me to go without it. Apart from being pork shoulder (my favorite cut of the pig in general), the flavor combinations here are really unique and complex. Star anise is a sweetly fragrant, almost floral spice. It’s hard to explain the flavor if you’ve never used it before, but it’s something that goes well with both sweet and savory applications provided you don’t go overboard with it. It provides a great compliment to the saltiness of the soy and fish sauce that gets rubbed into the meat then set overnight in the fridge. I added a few of my other favorite spices to the mix to liven up the flavors, then the next day roasted the shoulder in the oven until it was tender and the aromas filling the kitchen were making me slobber.

We ate this dish with my recipe for Baked Egg Rolls that’s already on the blog and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. Do yourself a favor and try it out for yourself.

This week’s Fiesta Friday #165  is co-hosted by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes. I’ll be sharing this dish at the link up. Have a good weekend, all.

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Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 7–8-pound skin-on, bone-in pork picnic shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions 

Grind star anise and coriander seeds in either a coffee grinder or with mortar and pestle. Slice the  garlic, then mash to a paste using the side of a chef’s knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the dry spices, soy sauce, fish sauce, and paprika.

Lightly score pork skin crosswise in a tight pattern with a very sharp knife, cutting through the skin and some fat, but taking care not to slash the meat itself. Transfer pork to a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid or a roasting pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper and rub with marinade. Cover (use foil if using a roasting pan) and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place pork, covered, in oven; reduce oven temp to 300°. Roast pork, basting with juices every hour, until meat is fork-tender and bones are very loose, 5–5½ hours.

Uncover pork and increase temperature to 450°. Roast, basting every 5 minutes and adding water by ¼-cupfuls if juices become syrupy, until pork is dark brown and skin is crisp, 15–20 minutes.

Carefully transfer pork to a platter. Skim fat from pan juices and pour remaining juices over.

Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

Gumbo Ya-Ya

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I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras celebration before. I’ve never been to New Orleans before. I think I would like to go to both one day, despite my being an introvert. Mardi Gras just so I can say that I did it. New Orleans, mainly for the food (of course).

And speaking of food, another disclosure: until now, I’ve never even cooked or had real gumbo before. That one, I’ll concede is a bit more serious. I’ve made Jambalaya several times before, but gumbo was something I hadn’t tackled. I wouldn’t even order it in a restaurant if it was on the menu. Why?

Sigh. Well…the word ‘gumbo’ itself derives from the vegetable okra and….I don’t like okra.

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Actually, false. I don’t not like okra. I kinda hate it. A lot.

I know. But it’s true. I just can’t get with that gelatinous inner texture. Triggers my gag reflex. And since just about everyone cooks gumbo with okra, I just steered clear of it. Not because I didn’t think I wouldn’t like the rest of the stew that is the dish itself. I always knew that when made correctly, it was probably delicious. I just didn’t want it with that darn okra inside.

This year though, it finally hit me: if I was so curious about gumbo, why not just make it for myself WITHOUT the okra?

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*taps temple* See? Thinking.

Gumbo purists who believe gumbo isn’t gumbo without okra may want to just stop reading right here and move along. Personally I don’t recommend it, as this stuff I’m peddling today is damn tasty with or without your funky okra, but hey, it’s your world.

In my view, as long as your gumbo has a delicious base of well-seasoned broth and meat, then it’s still a gumbo worth trying. This one has both, mainly because it’s a genuine from scratch process from start to finish. That’s right, Buttercup: not only are we starting out with fresh meat, we’re making our own chicken broth.

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Don’t freak out. It’s not that serious, I swear it’s not. Making chicken broth is simple; you throw a whole bird in a stock pot with some water, herbs and veggies, and as the saying goes, set it and forget it for a while. It’s an extra step, but you’d be surprised the difference it makes, especially in a dish like gumbo where the broth is so essential to its success.

The only other laborious part of making gumbo is the roux: the flour-oil mixture you make that serves as both a slight thickener and a flavor booster. So long as you stay attentive to it, keeping a watchful eye AND a regularly stirring hand, it should turn out fine. After that, you’re pretty much done doing ‘work’. Just dump in your broth, spices and veggies and let that sucka go until the flavors have melded and it tastes like money.

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We’re huge meat lovers ’round here, so I not only had the chicken from the scratch-made broth, but smoked andouille and smoked turkey sausage in my gumbo as well. The flavor that the sausage adds is pretty much everything. Don’t leave at least one type out. As for the rest, I know that gumbo proteins can range from chicken, sausage, shrimp or even crawfish. All of these would be delicious in this; just add the meat towards the end so that it doesn’t overcook in the time it takes for the gumbo flavor to develop in the broth. As for veggies, well…I’m gonna just recommend that you do what works for you. That means if you like okra, throw it in. If you’re like me and you don’t, forget about it. If there’s another veggie that tickles your fancy, I’d say go ahead and throw it in there too. This is for Mardi Gras. Who cares about rules? Laissez les bon temps rouler, eh?

Oh! But please, PLEASE don’t leave out the scoop of rice on top. That part I must insist on.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #159, co-hosted this week by Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative CookY’all be easy.

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Gumbo Ya-Ya

Recipe Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (about 6 pounds; you can use 2 3lb. Chickens if you like)
  • 16 cups water
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 ribs celery, each cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 bay leaves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, finely chopped, plus 1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

 

Directions

In a large heavy stockpot, place the chicken, water, the quartered onions, celery ribs, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper together. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Partially cover and allow to cook for about 2 hours, until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken from the pot, place on a plate or in a bowl and cover with aluminum foil until cool enough to handle. Strain the broth and allow to cool.

In a large pot or a Dutch oven, pour about 2 tsp vegetable oil and add the onions and bell peppers, cooking until they are softened and slightly translucent. Remove the veggies to a small bowl, and saute the sausage until slightly browned on both sides. Remove the sausage to another small bowl and set aside. Do not drain off the grease from the pot.

In the same pot, combine the vegetable oil and all purpose flour over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to make a roux until the mixture has thickened and is the color of milk chocolate, about 15-20 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it, roux can burn VERY easily.) Add the veggies, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, remaining 2 bay leaves, remaining salt and cayenne and the Worcestershire sauce. Pour in the strained broth, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for about 1 1/2 hours, tasting and adjusting for seasoning.

Remove the chicken meat from the bones and roughly chop, then set aside. Discard the carcass. Place the chicken and sausage into the gumbo broth and allow to cook for about 15-20 minutes. Take off the heat and use a wide spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Sprinkle with the green onions and parsley and eat with crusty bread, or over rice.

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Pulled Brown Sugar Chicken

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There are, naturally, plenty of Golden State Warrior fans to be found out here.

I’ve kinda become one myself for various reasons.

First, one of their starting power forwards, Draymond Green, went to my alma-mater Michigan State University. In Spartan country, we have a saying of “We Bleed Green”meaning that no matter what happens or where we go, we’ll always be Spartans and the ‘green’ (from our school colors of green & white) will always flow through our veins. I tend to follow college athletics more closely than the pros, but if there’s a Spartan on the team,  I’ll usually be rooting for them to win by default.

Yeah, it’s that serious.

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The other reason I tend to root for Golden State is that I just like the Curry family; Golden State’s point guard Stephen, his wife Ayesha, and their two kids. Lord knows they’re an attractive bunch, but I also like that Steph and Ayesha have been together since they were kids and by all appearances, seem happily married. I’m sure most of us sports fans remember the post-game press conference a little over two years or so ago when Steph brought their eldest daughter Riley with him in front of the cameras and she completely stole the spotlight with her charisma and spunk. That was so cute to me.

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After that press conference, I noticed a definite spike in the branding of Steph Curry as a ‘family man’, with a brighter spotlight on his wife and kids and the dynamic they have as a family. As it turns out, Ayesha Curry is a foodie and a lover of cooking and baking, which, is another detail about her that makes me a fan. She recently opened a pop-up restaurant to showcase her cooking skills, landed her own show on Food Network, and this past fall released her very own cookbook, “The Seasoned Life.”

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As both a GSW and Curry family appreciator, (and an avid cookbook collector) I knew that I wanted the book. My older sister made it a birthday present for me and as soon as it arrived in the mail from Amazon, I immediately started thumbing threw it for the first recipe to try out.

You guys know me well enough to know that it was DEFINITELY gonna be something with the word ‘chicken’ in it. But I do think that even if it wasn’t my favorite protein, I still would’ve picked this dish first. In the recipe notes, Ayesha herself says that if there is any recipe that someone has to try from the book, it’s this one. Upon testing that theory, I gotta say that I totally understand why.

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The title may be somewhat misleading or off-putting; for some people brown sugar with chicken may sound like a clash of ingredients and flavors that just shouldn’t mix, but au contraire. The brown sugar is but one of the ingredients in one of the best damn sauces I’ve EVER had; the sweetness is balanced with soy sauce, fresh ginger and garlic. It friggin works. Trust me.

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The chicken first gets seared over the stove,then baked in the oven until it’s fall apart tender and the sauce has thickened into syrupy, sticky, sweet/salty/slightly spicy stuff that is honestly delicious enough to slurp up all on its own with a spoon.

I mean, my GOD, is it good.

Ayesha hit a solid three pointer, Curry-style with this chicken. It’s officially received the Cooking is My Sport Stamp of Approval. So, I guess she can say that now she’s *really* got it made. Smile.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #157, co-hosted this week by Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower and Su @ Su’s Healthy Living.

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Pulled Brown Sugar Chicken

Recipe Adapted from “The Seasoned Life” by Ayesha Curry

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Garlic powder & onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • About 2 stalks of green onion, chopped

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a fork and prick the chicken breasts all over evenly. Season both sides generously with the kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.

In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter with oil over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken in the pot (working in two batches if need be) until both sides are browned, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate when they are done and cover with foil.

Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are translucent and softened. Halfway through, add the minced garlic and continue to cook until the garlic becomes fragrant—don’t let it burn. Pour the chicken broth into the pot and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom bits up with a wooden spoon.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, dark brown sugar and ginger. Pour the sauce into the Dutch oven and let it cook with the onions and garlic for about 2-5 minutes until sauce has slightly thickened.

Add the chicken back to the pot, cover with lid (or aluminum foil) and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake until the chicken is tender and can be pulled apart with a fork and the sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes more.

When chicken is done, sprinkle with green onion and serve atop rice if desired.

Texas BBQ Pot Roast

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It’s January. It’s cold outside. In most parts of the country, the weather is pretty crappy. It still gets dark pretty early in the evening. It’s Friday afternoon.

And you-know-who is now the president.

All of the above means that we deserve some MAJOR comfort food.

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I almost didn’t post this recipe. Almost. The lighting on the day I cooked it was REALLY bad, to the point where there was barely any sunlight outside at all and very little natural light to shine on the food.

All my fellow food bloggers out there know that shooting pictures of monochrome ‘brown’ foods like beef are difficult enough as it is, but without sunlight? Eh. It’s not picnic, I’ll tell you.

But ultimately I decided, what the heck? It’s a few hunks of beef. I think it looks like a few hunks of beef. Maybe not as pretty as they could be, but what makes a dish at the end of the day is the taste.

And I promise you, it does not fail to deliver on that.

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There’s not many bells and whistles to this dish. It takes the sweet and tangy flavors that remind me of barbecue and infuses them into a hunk of beef that is cooked low and slow in the oven until fork tender. It’s no grilled so we obviously don’t have that charred, charcoal flavor, but…it’s still pretty great stuff.

In fact, upon tasting, my older sister remarked that the sauce that it produces is VERRRRRRY close to the homemade barbecue sauce that our grandmother always made for holidays when we would grill out.

Which suffice to say, is very high praise indeed.

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The low roasting temp makes the beef come out so juicy, moist and tender. The sauce that it makes is the perfect blend of sweet and tangy flavors. It made for an absolutely delicious sandwich, guys. I mean, wow. I ate mine with caramelized onions and peppers and pickled gherkins, as pictured. But however you’d like to eat it, I guarantee you’ll be satisfied.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #155. Y’all be easy.

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Texas BBQ Pot Roast

Recipe Adapted from Family Circle Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 1 pot roast (about 4-5 pounds), such as bottom round or chuck (I used a London Broil cut)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 cup bottled barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory Brown Sugar)
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • 1/8 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 large onion (1/2 pound), chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prick the meat all over with a fork or knife on both sides.

In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, smoked paprika, pepper and seasoning salt. Rub the mixture evenly over both sides of the meat.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or pot over the stove over medium high heat. Just before it starts to smoke, sear the meat in the pot until a crust forms on surface, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the meat to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Place the onions and green pepper together in the Dutch oven and sauté them in the residual oil and drippings until just tender/translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute more until the garlic is fragrant.

In a medium bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, vinegar, broth, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and chili powder. Pour into the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Add the meat back into the pot, cover and place in the oven. Roast for about 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork tender, turning the meat every hour or so.

Let the meat stand in the pot for about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, drain off about 2 cups of the liquid from the pot and place in a small saucepan. Bring the liquid in saucepan to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer until thickened into a sauce. Skim off the fat on the surface, then serve with the meat.