Tag Archives: buttermilk

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Nothing says southern hospitality more than hot biscuit straight out the oven, especially when you have a house full of people.  Buttery and fragrant, these biscuit can be the foundation of a great southern breakfast.  They’re not the easiest…then again, I wouldn’t say they’re hard to make either.  I guess the best description would be messy.  Yes.  They’re a big, fat mess but well, well worth it.  While testing this recipe I found out several things. 1.  If you eat too many biscuit you’ll get sick of them and never, ever want to eat them again.  At least for a day or two.  2.  If all your ingredients and tools are in place this recipe is infinitely easier.  And 3.  If you are the least bit fussy or persnickety, making these biscuit will most assuredly help you lose that type A mantle we all sometimes wear.  The messy part is when you gently mix together the flour and butter with the buttermilk.  You DON’T want to over mix the dough yet it seems impossible to mix as it all clumps up on your hands.  I’m here to tell you, it’s okay!  When I couldn’t mix the dough anymore because it was stuck like a big, heavy ball on both hands, I squeezed it off each finger, back into the bowl it went and onward I mixed…gently…almost coddling the dough.  After that it was pretty smooth sailing.  Here are some tips I wish I had had prior to baking these nuggets of love.  Believe me when I say, freeze your butter.  You’ll use a box grater to grate it into the flour and you don’t want it  to melt while you grate.  Clear off your counter.  You’re going to need more room that you think.  Do not use parchment paper.  For some reason the bottoms of the biscuits kept browning waaaay too fast when I used it.  I used a large, non-stick, light-colored baking sheet.  Have it out and placed next to the area you plan to roll out the dough.  Generously flour the area where you will be rolling out the dough with all-purpose flour, not self-rising flour, along with your rolling-pin and bench knife if you have one.   If you don’t have a bench knife then grab a sharp chef’s knife.  Keep your flour bag for dusting close at hand.  Have a ruler close by to measure the rolled out dough if you can’t eye-ball it.  I can’t.  I have to measure everything so I keep an old, thin ruler in a kitchen drawer.  It also has all the presidents on it ending with President Clinton so I like to impress myself with all the presidents I’ve forgotten.  Could you identify President A. Johnson?  Didn’t think so.  It’s my favorite as it’s plastic so it can quickly be washed then stored.  I think the last tip would be to move as quickly as you’re able to maintain a cold dough.  Wait, one more tip.  Never twist the bench knife, knife or biscuit cutter while cutting the biscuit dough.  Cut straight up and down and you’ll have lots of pretty layers.   I prepared 3 sweet butters  to serve with the biscuits.  Cinnamon butter which consisted of butter, confectioners sugar and cinnamon.  Blueberry butter made with blueberries, butter and confectioners sugar.  And the last was strawberry butter prepared by finely chopping a few strawberries and mixing them into butter and confectioners sugar.  Add to this breakfast some thickly sliced bacon prepared in the oven for easy clean up,  some spicy Southern sausage, a beautiful, freshly made fruit salad and you are a belle of a hostess!

As I mentioned above I baked these biscuit on a light-colored, non-stick baking sheet.  If a dark-colored baking sheet is used make it a point to keep a close eye on the biscuit bottoms as they will brown much faster.  You might want to consider baking them at 400° so as to avoid rapid browning.  I haven’t tried it with these so I’m not certain what the outcome would be but it is a suggestion.  These biscuit don’t color up much; the tops remain blonde so don’t go by overall color in terms of how done they may be.  I cut this dough into squares in order to have fewer scraps to re-roll.  Feel free to use a round or square biscuit cutter, just make certain it’s sharp.  A soft wheat flour will make all the difference in your biscuit.  White Lily is my all-time favorite but King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill are perfectly fine.  Try to find buttermilk from a local or small dairy.  Whole Foods has a great one by the name of Lazy Meadows.  It’s whole, not homogenized, non-GMO and from north Georgia.  Good stuff!

Southern Buttermilk Biscuit

  • Servings: 30-35 biscuit
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 5 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, frozen
  • 2 cups ice-cold buttermilk
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°.
  2. In a large bowl mix flour and salt.
  3. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the butter directly over the flour.
  4. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is coated with the flour and the butter is in lumps the size of peas and smaller.  If you have naturally cold hands you may use your hands to cut the butter into the flour.  If they’re naturally hot, as are mine, use either the pastry cutter or fork because the heat from your hands will melt the butter.
  5. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in the cold buttermilk.
  6. Using your hands gently mix the ingredients together, scraping the dough off your fingers when you need to.
  7. When the buttermilk is almost incorporated into the flour transfer the dough, with your hands, to a floured board or counter.
  8. Gently fold the dough over and over, maybe 7-8 times, then gently roll out or pat into a 11″X9″ rectangle.
  9. Cut off any rounded edges and set the scraps aside to re-roll if using a square biscuit cutter or cutting the dough with a sharp knife.  If using a round biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuit and set the scraps aside to re-roll.
  10. Place the cut biscuit on a baking sheet, close to each other if you like an all-soft biscuit or 1″-2″ apart if you prefer crispy corners.
  11. Bake 13-15 minutes or until golden on the bottom.
  12. Serve immediately.
  13. To re-heat, warm in a 225° oven for 10-15 minutes.  These biscuit are warm and tender again after re-heating.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

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Buttermilk Pastry Cream Tart with Slightly Drunken Blueberries

Pining for those summer days so hot  you walk barefooted through the house? I am.  I’m longing for those nights that are so hot and sticky the AC’s set at 68° and I’m sleeping in nothing but a t-shirt. And I’m looking forward to those bright mornings that are blisteringly hot and all I want for breakfast is a cold, tropical smoothie.  It’s been windy and rainy here with cold days that cause me to daydream of sun-warmed fruit in all its forms, every manner of summer salad, fried chicken and blackened dolphin.  Watermelon.  Peaches.  Oh, man…and corn on the cob taken off the grill at 8:30 at night and it’s still light out.  But in the meantime I’ll trick my mind, my mouth and my heart with this charming and delightful tart that satisfies my senses.  I’m a huge fan of pastry cream.  I could eat bowls of the stuff.  Just a taste check while making it is all the temptation I need to merrily skip down the road of licking the bowl, licking the spoon and finally throwing in the towel and eating spoonfuls.  Pastry cream is like vanilla silk on your tongue.  It wraps itself around your mouth and mind like the moves of a cat, smooth and fluid, to the extent that I don’t give a good goddamn if beach-time begins tomorrow.  I love buttermilk equally; in biscuit, salad dressings, cakes and breads.  Buttermilk pastry cream is the ultimate…it’s gilding the perfect lily.  Buttermilk’s celebrated tang and texture take the usual vanilla pastry cream to the next level, a level I’m all too happy to reach.  I assuage my barely guilty conscience by reminding myself  that buttermilk is not a high-fat product.  And as my son, James, was quick to point out, blueberries are filled with antioxidants and good for your eyes.  The better to see you with, my dear tart!  He really enjoyed the filling, the crust and the berries on top so as he was walking out of the house just now I asked him if he had any thoughts or words…”I ate it!”  was all he said.  As he did a hasty scan of the refrigerator he hopefully called out, “Mama, we got any more of that buttermilk tart?”  That’s all I needed to hear to know I’ve got a blue ribbon treat in hand!

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Buttermilk Pastry Cream Tart with Slightly Drunken Blueberries

  • Servings: one whole tart
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Buttermilk Pastry Cream is an extraordinary filling for a fruit tart.  This recipe is standard and found everywhere but is tried and true.  However, the flavor of the filling will be compromised by using a low-fat buttermilk.  I strongly suggest you go the extra two feet in the dairy section of your grocery store and buy the full-fat.  I’ve explained in other posts that buttermilk is the liquid left behind after churning butter from cream.  It is far lower in fat than whole milk and is chock full of probiotics.  So forget about the reduced fat junk.  Blueberries are gorgeous on this tart and incredibly delicious but pretty much all berries are, so go crazy.  I typically use a rectangular tart pan, so everyone gets a good portion of crust, but any shape will work as will a pie pan.

  • one baked tart or pie shell
  1. Fill baked tart shell with cooled pastry cream and smooth top.  Chill until serving.
  2. Prior to serving, top tart or each individual slice with berries.

Buttermilk Pastry Cream

yield: 2 cups

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Make an ice-water bath in a bowl large enough to hold a medium sized sauce pan.  (Put enough water and ice in the bowl to hold the sauce pan but not so much that water flows into the cooked pastry cream.  This will stop the cooking process.) Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together sugar, flour and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Combine buttermilk and egg yolks in the saucepan.
  4. Over medium heat whisk in flour mixture until smooth and continue whisking until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Remove from heat and place in waiting water bath.  Whisk in vanilla extract.
  6. Let cool completely before using.  Cover with plastic wrap directly on pastry cream to avoid “skin” developing and store in the refrigerator.

 

For the Blueberries

yield: 2 cups

  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, more if needed
  • 2 cup blueberries

 

  1. In a small bowl whisk sugar and cornstarch until all lumps are gone.  Set aside.
  2. Place a medium sized pot over medium heat and add lemon juice, water and brandy and simmer for one minute.
  3. Add the blueberries and simmer two minutes, gently stirring all the while.
  4. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and gently stir until the blueberry juices have thickened.
  5. Taste the sauce and, if needed, add sugar.
  6. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before topping tart.  This is also great served hot on biscuits, shortbreads and peach crumbles  with brandied whipped cream.

Kale Salad with Sour Cherries, Frico, Toasted Pecans and Buttermilk Dressing – the last summer salad

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It is STILL summer.  In spite of Target’s back-to-school onslaught, New York city’s fall fashion blitz and the legions of Facebook women dreaming of their first sip of Autumn’s pumpkin spice coffee.  It’s 93° outside right now, with a “real feel” of 109°.  It’s hot.  Lord, it’s hot.  I don’t care how low the AC is set in the car I cannot cool off.  Water trickles down my back into my panties.  My hair hangs flat and listless no matter how much volume product I put on my roots.  But I can still power-walk outside under the gorgeous columns of palms and Florida oaks.  I can lazily float in the pool.  And I can sip rum drinks on that said float.  I can always cool off.  Not so for the cold.  But even when the asphalt is screaming hot, come August we start thinking of the cooler days ahead.  This salad is ideal with the combination of lightness in the kale and the dressing and the more substantial feel of the frico, sour cherries and toasted pecans.  It’s an easy segue to a more filling meal.  Frico is merely baked parmesan and let me tell you it’s a staple in MY kitchen.  Company drops by unannounced? Throw a tray of shredded or grated parm in the oven and minutes later you have a bangin’ hors d’oeuvre perfect to serve with cocktails.  It’s salty and savory, completely unexpected, highly distinctive.  After letting the sheet of frico cool a few minutes it can be broken into cracker sized pieces and served.  How easy is that?  Oh, you want more?  Okay.  Spread the parmesan cheese in long ovals on your parchment paper.  After baking and completely cooled carefully peel the parchment paper off the oval strips.  Use them as a crouton or bread stick jutting stylishly out of your salad or soup.  Toss a bit of allspice or freshly cracked black pepper into the unbaked cheese and then bake for an even more complex flavor.  Crush the frico into crumbs and scatter atop a lobster mac ‘n cheese or really any casserole.

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Frico.Is.Great.Stuff.  Wait, wait!  Guess what?  It lasts weeks.  The longest it’s stayed in this house is a week and a half.  Little mystery hands keep nibbling at it.  And if you store it in an air-tight container it remains as crisp as the day you pulled it out of the oven.  There are only two rules you have to keep in mind.  The unbaked cheese has to be scattered over parchment paper and the frico has to cool completely before storing in order to maintain its crispness.  But other that, easy-peasy.  Now on to this dressing.  I know some people are downright scared of buttermilk but don’t be.  Look what it does to biscuit and fried chicken.  This particular buttermilk dressing is lemony, tangy and oh so light.  I use non-fat Greek yoghurt, Duke’s Light mayonnaise and reduced fat buttermilk and it still finishes silky, cool and inviting.  It’s my new favorite salad dressing.  I make it in a mini-food processor but it can be prepared in a blender or with a stick or immersion blender.  I’ve mentioned in other posts that when making a salad with kale it pays to “massage” it with a few drops of olive oil.  After discarding the tough stems and chopping the greens into small pieces squeeze the kale as if you are kneading dough or squishing mud between your fingers. This breaks down the leaves a bit making the salad more tender.  Use both hands and rough it up for a few minutes.  When you finish you’ll see the size of salad greens has been reduced.  If you wish to use less kale you can also chop some romaine lettuce but mix it in AFTER you massage the kale.

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I haven’t given amounts for the salad part because everyone has their own preference.  There is no right or wrong way to assemble it.  If you don’t like pecans use walnuts or almonds.  Just make sure you roast them in the oven for a few minutes to bring out their sweet flavor.  If you don’t care for nuts, leave them out.  Same with the dried cherries, although they are truly outstanding in this salad.  Go ahead and substitute them with dried cranberries or blueberries.  I typically get my dried berries in big bags at Costco.  Homemade spicy croutons are fabulous tossed into this dish and if you have dinner guests they’ll certainly give you thanks for that special touch.  So let’s get to it!

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Buttermilk Salad Dressing

  • Servings: approximately 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor and process for 1 minute.  The dressing will be smooth with small bits of lemon zest and cheese.
  2. Chill until serving.

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Frico

  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Line a standard jelly roll pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, one on top of the other.  It is imperative that you use parchment paper or you won’t be able to get the frico out of the pan. Parchment also gives you prettier more evenly baked  cookies and cakes so you will be using this paper often if you don’t already.  Makes clean up easy.  It is your friend.
  3. Scatter the cheese over the parchment paper in an even layer.  It’s fine if small spots of paper show through.  It’ll kind of look like lace.
  4. Bake 6 minutes or until golden.  The darker it becomes the crisper it becomes.
  5. Hold both layers of parchment and place frico, still on the paper, on a cooling rack.
  6. Allow to cool until easy to handle before breaking into pieces.  The frico will peel right off of the parchment.
  7.  Store in a tightly covered container when completely cooled.

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Whole Wheat Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes, tall and fluffy!

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Girls like pretty.  Boys want flavor.  When the two meet it is a glorious blending, a union, an alliance of shared contentedness.  In our house there are three boys and one girl.  Jimmy, James and Pericles, the dog, represent the males of the house.  I am the solitary female.  As a result most of the cooking I do pleases and teases their taste buds but I enjoy a good-looking dish.  Though I have to add they appreciate a gorgeous plate and I, in turn, have pretty high standards when it comes to tastiness.  James’ high school and college years brought many an overnight houseguest which thrilled me to no end.  I fussed over those boys taking special orders for cafe con leche, biscuit and gravy and this breakfast, the cake-like whole wheat buttermilk pancakes with masses of fresh blueberries jumbled in.  Those darling boys would come home sometimes at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning usually stopping to cool off in the pool before coming in.  They’d get a running start from the driveway, propel themselves through the air and execute flawless cannon balls.  Although we pretty much always woke up from those distinctive “thumps” of a 185 pound boy hitting the water, I savored every single moment.  I’d snuggle deep into the covers of our bed delighted knowing they were happy and safely back home.  I knew those days were numbered and, sure enough, all those boys have graduated and moved on to their new professional lives and careers.  This is one of those breakfasts that we all took great pleasure in sharing.  The nutty flavor of the whole wheat plays off the tang of the buttermilk and the berries give that pleasing “pop” of color and flavor while cutting through the richness of each mouthful.  This recipe calls for a large amount of berries because I feel EVERY bite should be loaded with them.  These pancakes cook up tall, light and fluffy belying the fact that they are 100% whole wheat.  I ALWAYS use a large teflon coated griddle or pan otherwise I find the whole process turns into a disaster. For the first few pancakes I give the griddle a very light spray of non-stick spray and after that the butter in the batter is sufficient.  But definitely use a non-stick pan.  And remember, buttermilk is your friend.  It’s lower in fat and calories because the fat from the buttermilk has already been removed in order to make butter.  Buttermilk is what’s left after it’s been churned and made into butter.  A fermented product, it’s loaded with good bacteria vital for a well-functioning digestive system.  Low-fat buttermilk is carried in most grocery stores, is fabulous for cooking and baking and keeps forever in your refrigerator.  If you’re ever at a market or farmstand and they offer fresh buttermilk SNAP IT UP.  Mass produced buttermilk pales in comparison, fresh is tart and cool, rich and smooth.  I’ve been making these pancakes for years and quite some time ago changed the recipe a bit to fit our needs.  I remember making these for James when he was in Pre-K.  He would pick them up whole as though they were slices of toast.  I add a trace more sugar to the batter than traditional pancakes thus making syrup optional, almost unnecessary.  Really, they’re almost like cake.  Okay.  They’re cake.  Whole wheat cakes from a pan.  So good.  So satisfying.  And you”ll be the most loved mom on the planet for a good half hour!

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Whole Wheat Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pints fresh blueberries
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • 2 large eggs, well mixed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl mix buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla extract.  When well combined add blueberries.  Mix well.
  3. Bring non-stick griddle or skillet up to medium heat.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the blueberry buttermilk into it.  Mix well.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or measuring cup to ladle out batter for small pancakes.  I use 2 serving spoons, one to scoop and the other to scrape the batter off the bowl of the spoon.  I find small pancakes are easier to flip.
  6. When you see a few bubbles rising in the pancakes turn them over with the thinnest spatula you have.  For a 3″ or 4″ pancake it’s a few minutes.  Depends on the size of the cake and the heat of the stove top.  I also go by the cooking smell.  If it starts smelling a little too toasty in the kitchen I drop what I’m doing and flip those bad boys over.
  7. After turning, cook for 1 minute, transfer to serving platter and continue cooking pancakes until batter is gone.
  8. If serving pancakes with syrup use good Vermont maple and warm it up first.

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Sweet Blueberry Buttermilk Cornbread in a Jiffy

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Ever had cornbread that’s so darned rich it’s really corn CAKE?  Well, that’s what I made the other night.  I wanted collards for dinner, masses of thin, green ribbons slow simmered in a gorgeous pot likker seasoned with bits of smoked ham, chopped onion, vinegar and red pepper flakes.  And resting on top of my greens I wanted a thick chunk of cornbread.  Collards and cornbread go hand in hand.  Since this pot was only for Jimmy and me I made it much spicier than usual adding more vinegar and quite a bit more red pepper flakes.  To cut some of that heat I wanted a rich, sweet cornbread.  I’m not one to put any kind of fruit in cornbread…I had always thought that just ruined it until this week when my friend Janey brought over some soup, blueberry cornbread and a HUGE dark chocolate candy bar studded with almonds.  I had been feeling puny so the soup really hit the spot.  I wasn’t going to even try the cornbread because of the blueberries but she had purchased these things at Whole Foods and probably paid $9.00 for that little chunk of bread.  A firm embracer of “waste not, want not”, I tasted it.  Oh, sweet baby Jesus.  It was so good!!  I thought, “I can do this and do it my way.”  So I did.  Since I won’t pay $6.00 for that little, crappy container of fresh blueberries at the grocery store I opted for canned blueberries in a light syrup.  Don’t get pie filling.  Just make sure the berries are well-drained after softly rinsing them well in a colander.  And, of course, be very gentle when stirring them in and keep the mixing down to a bare minimum.  If you’re wondering about frozen I didn’t use them because I think they would start defrosting while folding them into the mix and their juices would turn the batter purple.  Other than those pointers it’s pretty simple.  And it’s so good-looking! Deep purple against that soft yellow is just lovely.  But you could use peaches, canned, fresh or frozen.  Or other mixed berries.  But try this.  You’ll love it!  And use your cast iron pan.  It will give you a crispy, salty crust that will make your head spin!  You could easily serve this Thanksgiving morning with bacon for breakfast.  And your family can snack on it through the day until dinner is served.  It’s really good the next day, too, cold.  Oh, and the recipe doubles really well.  Just add 12-15 minutes to your baking time.  I hope you like it!

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Blueberry Buttermilk Cornbread

yield:  1 10 1/2″ cake

  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yoghurt, I use Fage non-fat
  • 2 tablespoons honey or molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 15 ounce can blueberries in LIGHT syrup, I use Oregon brand
  • a scant 1/4 cup of canola oil for the pan

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Preheat oven to 400°.

  1. Pour oil into pan and swirl it around making sure to cover all the bottom and up the sides.  I use a 10 1/2″ iron skillet.
  2. Place pan in oven.
  3. Drain blueberries in a colander and lightly rinse to get off any excess purple syrup.  Drain well and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients breaking up any large lumps and set aside.
  5. In a small bowl mix buttermilk, yoghurt, honey or molasses and egg.  Mix well until smooth.  I use a small whisk to break up the yoghurt.
  6. Add buttermilk mixture to Jiffy Corn Muffin mixture and stir until there are no dry spots but try not to stir too much.
  7. Very gently fold in drained blueberries, trying not to break the berries as they’ll stain the batter purple.
  8. BEING EXTREMELY CAREFUL SO AS NOT TO GET BURNED, remove hot skillet from oven and pour in batter.  Return to oven.
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I know I’m getting old and grumpy when someone minimizes a crisis in my life by dismissing it as inconsequential.  One of the worst ever was back when I was living and working in Puerto Rico.  I was barely able to meet the expectations of my grandparents while living at their house so when I was offered the cottage behind my uncle’s house I snapped it up faster than you can say “andale”!  It was perfect.  Plenty of privacy and air conditioning.  I quickly settled in and began the day-to-day routine of work at Delta.  Weekends were spent going out at night and during the day we enjoyed some down time at any number of beautiful beaches.  Like stateside there would always be the random weekend when there were chores to be done, laundry, a little cleaning, the grocery store so I would hang close to the house and when finished with my tasks would reward myself by sunning outside in my itty-bitty bikini.  My towel had been spread out in the direct path of the sun’s blazing rays.  Radio was on.  I had some sort of cold drink close by.  Oh, but did it feel good.  I closed my eyes and put my face up, up, up right into the sun.  By all accounts it should have been perfect but I wasn’t comfortable even after shifting positions.  I felt ooky.  Something just wasn’t right.  I opened my eyes and just inches away, maybe two inches, were two black beady eyes coldly staring at me.  It was a full-grown, red and black fighting cock.  Huge.  Totally caught me off guard.  I was startled but I didn’t want it to recognize the FEAR in me so I shooed it away.  That bird gave me a look that said, in no uncertain terms, “Do you know whom you’re dealing with?”  With that, and with lightning speed, he pecked my shin so hard that blood spurted out.  Did I freak?  You know I did.  I screamed and grabbed all my tanning supplies, towel, radio, everything and ran into the cottage slamming the door behind me.  Jesus.  Life is hard enough.  I called my uncle, furious.  “”Oye, Panino, si, si es Manima.  No!  NO! Todo NO esta bien!”  And I proceeded to inform him of the danger he had living in HIS backyard.  How that brute of an animal attacked me and drew blood and, at any given moment, could wound or worse mutilate his two precious baby boys.  He chuckled and gently said as if speaking to a child, “No, no.  That’s not a fighting cock.  It’s just a silly little chicken.”  I was incensed, LIVID, and just a little bit scared.  That thing was big.  “Listen, you leave him alone and he’ll leave you alone” he calmly replied and that was the end of that.  I stayed in my conditioned air cottage and fretted because I knew I couldn’t stay locked in forever.  I had things to do.  I hand washed a few things and looked through the window for that damned bird.  Coast was clear.  I almost dismissed the nasty incident while hanging the fine washables on my little wooden drying rack.  Without warning I heard the war shriek of the fighting cock.  I spun around to see him spread his enormous wings, talons unfurled ready for more blood, as I hauled ass for my house and safety.   He let out another war cry while descending and that’s when his talons ripped into the backs of my legs.  I was his prey. I shrieked and howled with pain.  I was scared to death of that thing.  It was clear who was in control.  And it hurt.  Did I mention it hurt like hell?  I made it inside my little bungalow where I cleaned my wounds and felt sorry for myself.  I was safe for the time being but I had to go to work the following morning and didn’t look forward to the long death walk down the driveway to the street.  Whenever I left the cottage I walked backwards and started taking a broom with me.  It was the perfect weapon.   When I came home in the evening I would find my broom hidden between bushes and a wall.  It was fine until the day I came out of the cottage and someone had taken the broom.  It must have been midday, hot and quiet.  I looked around and seeing nothing scurried down the drive.  Killer cock made his move.  As I heard his battle scream I felt his claws sink in…again.  Sweet baby Jesus, that’s it.  I burst into bottled up tears. Island life can be difficult.  I missed my family, I missed the States, I missed hamburgers, I missed my friends, I missed my car, I missed salads and dammit, I was tired of being treated like a Yankee.  I don’t remember where I was going but I made a beeline down the street to my grandparents house.  My grandfather was a man’s man.  His persona was as big if not bigger than Ernest Hemingway’s.  NO ONE messed with Papa Pepe.  Ever.  He had horses and guns and knew quite well how to use them.  He would save me.  I found him upstairs on the balcony in his rocking chair.  With his cane.  “Dios mio, nena, pero que te pasa?”  “My God, child, what’s wrong?”  Nose running and with tears all over my face I sobbed the story of what had just happened and what had been happening.  “Nena, tu eres una molestia.  Deja de llorar, caramba!”  “Child, you’re a pain.  Stop crying, darn it.”  “Please, Papa.  Help me!  Panino won’t listen.  He says it’s just a chicken but it’s not” I cried.  Without saying a word he got up and went to his bedroom.  He came out with his sunglasses on, (always with dark green lenses), and his hat.  Can’t go out without your hat.  Lord, but that man was handsome.  Still not speaking he left the house and walked down the street to my uncle’s with me stumbling and sniffling behind him.  He flung open the gate and he made the death walk loudly asking “Where is it, dammit?” “Y donde esta, conyo?” “Maybe over there?” I answered and waved my hand towards some shrubs.  He marched over to the bushes and angrily parted them finding my friend Cujo Bird ready to attack.  Gripping his cane tightly he pulled his arm back and with a seething, “Mira, bruto! @#&**@”^&%$##@!!” gave that bird a mighty, mighty beating.  It was fabulous.  I was so happy.  I was almost dancing!  He just whaled on that bird until it stopped screaming and just lay on the ground playing possum.  My grandfather didn’t even break a sweat.  Hat didn’t move…there was no blood on his linen clothing or dress shoes.  There may have been a few splatters on his walking stick.  And with that, and not saying a word, he turned and walked back to his house.  No one, but no one, made mention of that incident until a few weeks later I was making the walk of death and realized I hadn’t seen my foe, the rooster, in a while.   I found my uncle and casually asked, “Y el pollo?  No lo he visto.”  “And the chicken?  I haven’t seen it lately.”  And do you know how he answered?  This is rich.  “Oh nooooo!  That was no chicken.  That was a fighting cock.  It attacked one of the boys so I put it in a bag, drove it out to the country and let it loose!”  Really?  REALLY?  In celebration of the wonderful memory I offer you, gentle reader, Fried Chicken.

I know it’s hard to make out but to the left of the photograph one can see Papa Pepe’s pistola, his pistol, dangling from his holster.

 

 

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

  • Servings: 2 pieces per person
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • low-fat or non-fat buttermilk, about 4 cups
  • skin on pieces of chicken with excess fat cut off
  • Tony Chachere, Sazon or the spice mix of your preference
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • peanut oil or shortening

 

I’m just going to talk you through this.  I’m sorry but Fried Chicken is like a running conversation to me.  I can’t do bullets.  Clean your chicken pieces and, leaving the skin on, trim any bits of excess fat.  Mix buttermilk with 2 or three tablespoons of Tony Chachere or spice mix of your choosing.  If you like heat add some now, cayenne is great. Place the chicken pieces in a shallow dish and pour mixture over making sure the pieces are well coated.  Place in refrigerator and let marinate for as long as possible, overnight is great.  When ready to start frying set up an assembly line.  Place a colander in a deep bowl and drain the chicken in the colander.  Season chicken liberally with spice mix, still allowing it to drain.  I put that to my left.  In a large bowl or glass dish mix 3 or 4 cups of flour with a couple of tablespoons of spice mix.  That I position in front of me.   To my right I have a large jelly roll pan or sheet pan covered with cooling racks, the same racks you use to cool your cookies.  Tin foil is okay in lieu of the racks.  In a cast iron skillet or heavy pan add oil or shortening until it comes up about 1/3 of an inch high on the side of the pan.  Heat to 325° but no higher.  I use a candy thermometer.  It’s a little hotter than medium.  While the pan and oil are heating up the I dredge the chicken.  My left hand is my wet hand and my right is my dry hand.  With my left hand I place one piece of chicken in the flour mixture and using my right I cover the piece with flour, turning and patting to make sure each piece is completely floured.  Shake the excess flour off then put it on the rack or tin foil.  You get a better scald on the chicken if it drys a bit.  When the oil has reached 325° I place the thighs in the middle of the pan skin side down.  They take longer to cook and the middle is the hottest.  Legs, wings, breasts go on the sides.  If I have a lot of chicken to fry I often use two frying pans.  But don’t crowd the pan.  No more than 4 or 5 pieces at a time depending on the size of your pan.  Fry chicken 10-12 minutes per side.  Keep your eye on the heat adjusting so the four doesn’t burn but making sure the chicken is cooked all the way through.  When the chicken is done let it drain on cooling racks over a sheet pan.  DO NOT drain on paper towels.  You’ll get soggy chicken and after all that work…well, that would just be a shame!

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Whole Wheat Coconut Ginger Scones

 

This morning on my walk I had my iPod cranked as usual when a medley of songs came on.  Puerto Rican salsa.  I love it. It makes me so happy I want to dance in the street and I sometimes do if no one’s around.  It made me think of the time I spent in Puerto Rico when I was working with Delta and one of my dearest friends, Rita.  Rita was born and raised in Puerto Rico, also started with Delta and, from the moment we met, we clicked.  She was the person who kept me roaring with laughter and almost always in trouble.   She was part of the Delta group who would go out dancing at all the fancy clubs in Old San Juan.  We had a blast.  We were all in our early twenties, gorgeous, happy, and looks for days.  When we’d tumble out of the last club, hot from dancing and slightly tipsy from one too many rum drinks, we’d all make a beeline for the churro cart.  It was parked in front of the cathedral, always, always, always, and the little churro man would start serving up the sweet, steaming pastry.  There would predictably be seven or eight of us, all chattering away a mile a minute.  “Oh, my gosh! Did you all see who I danced with? He is so cute!” or “I can’t believe he didn’t come here tonight!  What if I don’t ever see him again?” and then ALWAYS “Yeah, you know that guy I danced with all night?  Well, guess what?  He’s married.  Yep.  Pendejo.”  We’d laugh and tease each other, “Oye, nena.  Yo te vi!  Aha.  Yo te vi con ese papito!!”  We’d each finish our churros and made-by-hand hot chocolate and, one by one, slowly make our goodnights.  Monday would be here soon enough and we would all be back at work.  And it was one of those workdays that Rita and I came tearing back from lunch and cut through the front of the ticket office.  It must have been a Friday because she and I were flying out for the weekend, she to visit friends and I was headed home.  Anyway, we tore through the ticket office to get to the reservations office, where we worked.  And there, sitting all slouched and bad boy, was the Prince of Cute.  I would say our eyes met, but that was not the case.  He slowly took me in, eyes clearly enjoying what they saw, lazily looking up and down with a most naughty grin on his face.  I have to admit, I did the same.  His body language screamed privilege and indulgence.  The kind of boy who could, and would, play tennis at the club all day then drink and gamble all night.  My kinda guy.  I flashed him my best “I’m better looking than you” smile.  Who cares?  I’d never see him again.  Oh, man, but he was so darned cute.  I glanced down at the ticket  that my co-worker, Ketti, was issuing him… Toten Bacardi.  Yes.  Of the Bacardi dynasty.  Damn.  Rita whispered, “Hurry up, conyo! We’re late!” and we quickly disappeared into the reservation cave.  At the end of the day, we split a cab to the airport, and after catching up with our airport friends, settled into our seats.  As airline employees we had to dress well and be discreet.  After all, our travel was essentially free.  We traveled just about anytime we wanted, and almost always in first class.  We were seated in the very last two seats of first.  “Thank you.  I’d love a glass of champagne!” and that’s when I saw him.  My noontime ne’er-do-well.   Senor Sardonic.  This time our eyes met. He gave me an “Ah ha!” smile and I responded with a “Helloooo” smile, with that, he dropped down into his seat five or six rows in front of me.  Wheels down and we’re off.  I told Rita everything.  We laughed and giggled far into the flight, when I mentioned to her I was going to the restroom.  I was making my move.  Rita, in her true-to-form crazy way issued a dare… a double-dog dare.  She threw down the devil-may-care, all or nothing challenge.  “Fleje,” she said to me.  That was our nickname for each other, it’s slang for a little piece of dead cuticle.  “Fleje, I dare you, no, I double-dog dare you to do something cafre, tacky, really tacky.”  Jeeez.  Back then a dare to me was like waving a red cape in front of a bull.  I truly gave no thought to repercussions or consequences.   I had absolutely no guilt what so ever.  And neither did she.  Maybe we were a little too foolish.  But I wanted to date him.  I wanted to run with the big boys.  At least for a little while.  Only now I couldn’t.  Because of the dare.  Rising out of my seat, and to the occasion, I made my way down the aisle to the restroom.  I fluffed my hair and checked my lipstick.  I admired my outfit.  I remember what I had on.  It came from “the store”, my father’s clothing store.  Size 4, cotton, Christian Dior, 2-piece top with skirt, in a pale blue print.  Seriously feminine.  With 4-inch, cafe con leche colored leather heels.  Tres, tres sexy.  I shook my head with regret.  I knew what I had to do.  As I opened the door to the restroom, my gaze swept the first class section.  There he was, aisle seat, of course.  I made my way down the aisle, and as I approached him, our eyes met.  Closer and closer I approached and when I was almost a mere breath away, I did it.  I met the challenge.  I sucked my teeth.  Loudly.  Tongue to the upper right canine, slurping as though I had the world’s largest piece of mango string stuck up there.  And that closed the deal.  At once he looked away with distaste and revulsion.  He was lost forever.  Rita, however, observing it ALL,  applauded and toasted my inventiveness and creativity.  After all, boys were like buses.  Miss one, there’s another right around the corner.  So, for my querida Rita, I bring to the table Whole Wheat Coconut Ginger Scones.  Not exactly churros, but for a couple of ex-It girls, they’ll do just fine!

These scones are so great. Easy and not that bad for you. I swapped out for coconut cream, a thick coconut paste, for the oil that I couldn’t find.  Most Caribbean or Indian markets will carry several forms of coconut creams.  I found it at my neighborhood Publix grocery store in the island section.  A little six-ounce box.  These scones call for no dairy products but the coconut cream will give you the same result as butter, a rich and flaky texture. And if you’ve never baked with whole wheat pastry flour, try it. Unlike whole wheat all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour yields a light, tender product.  I’m crazy about it.  The recipe originally came from the New York Times, I made a few small adjustments.  You’re welcome to do the same.  Ginger butter, spiced cream cheese and hot chocolate all go really well with these.

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Whole Wheat Coconut Ginger Scones

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, I use light brown
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons coconut cream or oil, not the stuff in the can, the cream is a super thick paste
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup finely diced candied ginger

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together, I use a whisk, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Stir in the sugar breaking any lumps.
  3. Place in your food processor the plastic blade.  The metal blade can heat up your dough, never good.  Add your flour mixture then the coconut cream.
  4. Pulse until the flour has the consistency of coarse cornmeal.
  5. Beat together the buttermilk and honey and add to the food processor.
  6. Add the ginger and process all until the dough just comes together.
  7. Place dough on a very lightly floured work surface and shape into a 3/4″ thick rectangle.
  8. Cut into six squares then cut each square diagonally into triangles.
  9. Place the 12 scones onto the parchment paper and bake 15 minutes.
  10. Cool on a rack.

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