Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Biscuits, finally, and one seriously large ham.

I can't tell you how many times I've made biscuits. They've never turned out right. Once I burned them, but I was standing right in front of the oven. That's how biscuit-challenged I am. All I wanted was a traditional Southern buttermilk biscuit. They steam when you slide a knife between the layers. The top and bottoms are just slightly browned. A few buttery flakes fall onto your lap when you take your first bite. They taste like heaven on Earth. I knew a good biscuit only needs three things: shortening, flour, and milk. I chose Crisco, White Lily self rising flour, and buttermilk.

First step: measure f self-rising flour in a large bowl. Cut in shortening. I couldn't find my pastry cutter, so I used my hands to blend the Crisco into the flour. I stirred in a little more than 2/3 cup buttermilk. Stirring with a wooden spoon, I mixed until all dry ingredients were fully incorporated into the wet.
I squished all the dough into a large ball, flouring it a little more to keep it from sticking. 

I rolled it out about 1/2 inch thick and cut rounds out with a 2-inch biscuit cutter. These I placed on a baking sheet. I baked them for approximately 10 minutes until golden brown on bottom and top.  (See first picture for finished product)

This time I wanted biscuits for country ham. A few years ago when my husband and I went to Virginia to visit my grandparents, we went to the Smithfield Ham store around the corner from my Granny's apartment. We bought a pound; Grant ate half within minutes. It was his first taste of the almost unbearably salty, paper-thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth ham. I've been eating it since I could remember. I equate family holidays with hot biscuits nestling transparent shards of pink pork. The only thing I've altered is the condiment: instead of mayo, I prefer a tiny sliver of butter...but I digress. 

Over the holidays, my mother bought Grant a Smithfield ham. A whole one. Smithfield hams are salt and pepper crusted and cured for at least six months. They require one to scrub the mold off of the skin and soak the ham in cold water for at least 24 hours; hence it requires preparation, something in which I've never excelled. We lugged out the cooler and filled it with cold water. Grant scrubbed away and plunked in the ham.

Country ham is salty. It needs to be sliced--nay, shaved--to be able to be served in biscuits. With my trusty Wustoff Classic filet knife, I made quick work of the entire 15.56 pound monster. 
Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 8-12 biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour
4 tablespoons shortening
a little more than 2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, cut shortening into flour either with your hands or a pastry cutter. With a wooden spoon, stir in buttermilk. Fully incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet. Form dough into a ball. On a floured surface, roll dough with a rolling pin approximately 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 2 inch rounds with a biscuit cutter. Bake on a cookie sheet for 8-12 minutes. 

Smithfield Ham
Feeds an army and a half

Follow the directions on the burlap sack in which it is packaged.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Decent Omelet

It may be a urban legend, but word has it a famous French chef asks all of his potential sous chefs to prepare a omelette before he hires them. I've been making omelets for almost twenty years; however, I've made approximately twelve omelets that I'd willingly present to a renowned chef.  I don't claim to be an omelet master. My omelets are usually stuffed with goodies like goat cheese, a pork product, and some vegetables (if truly necessary). If one belongs to the less is more camp you can never go wrong with a good sharp cheddar and some freshly cracked pepper. 

That said, I do have a formula that works for me. I start with a 10-inch, heavy nonstick pan and heat it over medium heat. French chefs, who often don't care about their hearts, use butter. I use PAM.

After whisking the two eggs in a cup, I pour them in the skillet, twisting it to cover the entire surface.

After about a minute and a half over medium high heat, the eggs will be set enough to fill. I used chopped grape tomatoes and plain goat cheese. I sprinkled them on the left half of the omelet. A twist of salt and pepper would be welcome at this stage, too.

Now comes the fun part. Using a spatula, I loosened the edges and flipped the other half over the filling.

Slide it onto a plate and voila!