Chicken. Waffles.

You might assume that, since I grew up in North Carolina, I’ve had my fair share of chicken n’ waffles. Apparently it’s a Southern sorta dish. I mean, duh, the fried chicken is. But the waffles? It’s something I didn’t know much about. There. I admitted it.

I saw this recipe a while back (ahem, according to the clipping, I found it over a year ago), and I knew I’d need to give it a whirl at some point, to see what all the fuss about fried chicken and waffles being a “perfect marriage of sweet and savory” was about. But for some reason I kept putting it off. I think most of us have an aversion to home-frying. It seems the grease manages to get everywhere, despite using fancy splatter screens. And Chris, well, he’d rather not see the pile o’ shortening in solid form before it melts its way to a hot liquid bed of fry-ready goodness. After all, shortening (or even lard) is truly the only real way to fry chicken, though other methods work just fine in a pinch.

Speaking of other methods, I made fried chicken a while back and posted it on here. It was a different take on your traditional Southern style dish – not brined in buttermilk and fried in shortening, rather it was coated in matzo meal (I’m not kidding) and fried in a vat of canola oil. It was amazing. It’s not a bad way to go if you don’t have time to soak chicken in buttermilk, or for this dish in particular, if frying chicken and making waffles (which also involves cooking sweet potatoes here) is a bit too much, even for a weekend.

Me? I decided to make this specific dish at the last minute before heading out to wine country for the day (it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it…), and in the midst of getting ready to leave, I hustled down to Faletti’s and grabbed a whole chicken, some buttermilk, and a couple of other necessities, threw it all down on the counter, cut the chicken into 8 pieces with the quickness I harnessed from my dad’s teachings, and tossed that sucker into buttermilk until we got home later that night. I already had some mashed sweet potatoes in the fridge, which is what inspired me to cook this in the first place (and they had goat cheese in them, which imparted a tasty flavor into the waffles!).

The recipe is definitely intended to be eaten in 8 servings (maybe less if the wing or drumstick portions aren’t enough for ya). It’s rich, it’s hefty, and it is perfect when you dip back and forth between maple syrup and Frank’s hot sauce. The sweet/savory thing? I totally get it now. Which is probably why, after Sunday afternoon, I had to figure out another dish for dinner that night, as someone in this house managed to eat each and every leftover piece of chicken straight from the fridge, with a tiny crumb trail left as evidence from the fridge to island. The advantage? Lots of leftover waffles that resulted in breakfasts and even a couple of dinners over the upcoming weeks. The disadvantage? I’m feeling another urge to make it again, fried mess and all, because I only ate one whole piece. Decisions, decisions.

Buttermilk-Fried Chicken n’ Sweet Potato Waffles
barely adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2011; serves 8

printable versions
entire recipe
fried chicken only
waffles only 

ingredients
chicken
2 c buttermilk
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lg onion, thinly sliced
1 c assorted chopped fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme)
2 t paprika
2 t cayenne pepper
4 1/2-lb fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 c vegetable shortening
3 c all-purpose flour
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
2 t cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

waffles
2 c peeled, 1/2″ cubes red-skinned sweet potatoes
1 c whole milk
2 lg egg yolks
1/4 c (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 t freshly grated peeled ginger
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground cloves
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
6 lg egg whites, room temperature
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

serving
Hot pepper sauce (Franks)
Pure maple syrup

special tools
A deep-fry thermometer
waffle iron

instructions
Marinate chicken
Whisk first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken; cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Fry chicken
Melt vegetable shortening in a large cast-iron skillet. Arrange a deep-fry thermometer in skillet so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium heat until shortening reaches 325 F. While this is getting to the correct temperature, prepare waffle mix (see below).

Meanwhile, mix flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne in a large brown paper bag. Drain chicken, leaving some herbs still clinging. Season generously with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, add chicken to bag, roll top over to seal, and shake well to coat chicken. Let chicken stand in bag 1 minute; shake again.

Fry chicken in skillet until golden brown and cooked through, 10–15 minutes per side. Sprinkle with additional salt, if desired. Repeat with second batch of chicken. Make waffles simultaneously (see below).

Waffles
Place sweet potatoes in a steamer basket set in a large saucepan of simmering water. Steam potatoes until tender, about 17 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and mash well. Add milk, egg yolks, brown sugar, butter, and ginger; whisk to blend.

Preheat waffle iron. Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add potato mixture and whisk to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until peaks form. Add 1/3 of whites to potato mixture; fold just to blend. Add remaining whites in 2 batches, folding just to blend between additions.

Coat waffle iron with nonstick spray. Working in batches, add batter to waffle iron (amount needed and cooking time will vary depending on machine). Cook until waffles are lightly browned and set.

Serve 1 waffle with 1 piece of chicken and both sauces.

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they were perfect

The hotel where we stayed after our Lost Coast hike didn’t serve the most amazing breakfasts I’ve ever had in my life. There weren’t 3-course breakfasts complete with pancakes, stratas, poached eggs, and sticky buns. There weren’t fancy cappuccinos and passion fruit. Shoot, we were lucky to get the breakfast we’d “ordered” given the fact that a new chick was training.

But they were memorable, and that’s what matters at the end of the day.

Each morning, we rolled outta bed and walked to the porch to admire the ocean, thinking about our big plans of either reading or wine-tasting later that day. We’d let out a good stretch and walk over to the door, open it, and find a tray of treats way better than what we have at home – fresh fruit, coffee, and warm scones. I could have stayed in my room for the rest of the day, honestly, but instead we wandered downstairs for the rest of breakfast – an omelet, yogurt with fruit, or tasty steel cut oatmeal.

Like I said, the breakfasts were nothing spectacular, nothing fancy, nothing I couldn’t have easily made on my own, but at the same time, they were perfect. The scones were the best part, though. Flaky and tender, warm, and eaten while sitting in bed, I figured it didn’t get much better than that.

The scones, or lack thereof once I got home, had me a little sad the following week.  I guess I was on a little bit of a scone kick, salivating when I saw them at Peets that following weekend, and then finally just deciding that I’d make some myself. I need an excuse to eat some lemon curd anyway. And so did you, seeing as how I left you last week with a jar of the stuff and nothing but a piece of bread or a spoon to eat it with, right?!

So here’s the other end of the promise – lavender scones. I tossed in some buckwheat flour to give them a little heartiness, but you could use all-purpose all the way, or even whole wheat, if you prefer. And of course, if you’re already out of the lemon curd, first I’m sorry, and second, these are just fine on their own, too.

Buckwheat Lavender Scones
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2012; makes 16

time commitment: <1 hour

note: scones can easily be frozen prior to baking. freeze individually on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes and then toss them in a bag. add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

printable version

ingredients
2 c all-purpose flour plus more for surface
1 c buckwheat flour
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t dried lavender buds
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 c plus 2 T buttermilk
2 t finely grated lemon zest
1 t vanilla extract
lemon curd, store-bought or homemade

instructions
Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flours and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter; rub in with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whisk 1 cup buttermilk, zest, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until shaggy dough forms.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until dough forms, about 5 turns. Pat into a 10×6″ rectangle. Halve dough lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise into 4 squares. Cut each square diagonally in half into 2 triangles. Divide between baking sheets. Brush with remaining buttermilk.

Bake until scones are golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 13–15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon curd.

Cobbled Together

In an effort to avoid the grocery store this weekend, I raided the heck out of our pantry to see what we could eat to get through the week. You see, I already have an issue with letting good food go to waste, and this is only intensified when I’m forced to let things go to waste as a result of being away for a few days. These are the times when I might cobble together a recipe with a ton of random ingredients (panzanella salads are great when there’s lots of produce involved, and this Moroccan shepherd’s pie was a great way to use up mashed ‘taters) or conversely, I might make something uber simple using some standby grains or pasta.

In general, they aren’t meals that really make one salivate, but they get the job done, more or less.

Of course, there are always the exceptions – the dishes you toss together, pulling stray carrots and a forgotten bunch of scallions from the crisper to add up to enough stuff to make a meal come together – that somehow end up tasting like you’d planned it that way all along. It helps when you have a few fresh ingredients hanging around (thanks, Joanne, for the tomatoes!), because those are the ones that provide the inspiration, the kick-start to power you through to the end of the recipe, if you even have a recipe in the first place.

(The fresh ingredients are also the ones that make me feel a little less guilty about tossing leftover bagged shredded cheese into a perfect biscuit dough, knowing full-well that a freshly-grated cup of cheddar would have been tons better, not only in terms of taste, but also quality and texture.)

So, here we are, at the moment where I did something like that and actually get to tell you about it, because I truly feel that this new-found recipe is something you just might want to make yourself. I take that back – it’s something you should make yourself. Rarely is there a time in the year where the produce is this perfect, this satisfying, and this accessible than now – when you get to eat fresh corn and! fresh tomatoes ’til your heart’s content. And I’m telling you this: if you do have access to both ingredients, straight from the market or the store, please do purchase them. I think I already mentioned my stubborn desire to avoid those places this week, and as a result my trusty freezer bag o’ corn came in handy here. And while it was fine, mighty fine indeed, I know it could be that. much. better. with just-shucked morsels of yellow goodness.

If the mixture of tomatoes and corn isn’t enough to get you in a tizzy, have you noticed the biscuits on top? Need I say more?! Even though I’ve moved away, I still read the blogs of many Chicagoans, and I tell ya – Midwesterners get some kinda excited about summer produce. Tim over at Lottie + Doof posted a tomato cobbler recipe from Martha Stewart a couple of weeks ago, and it sounded like the kind of food they’d have in Paradise. I figured I could make it work, or something like it, even if I didn’t have but approximately half as many tomatoes, no regular onions, heavy cream, or Gruyere on hand, not to mention a penchant for never adhering to the regular ol’ all-purpose flour suggested in most recipes.

So yeah, you could say this recipe is a pretty far leap from the original, but that’s what happens from time to time. You may not have scallions on hand, and maybe you have a different cheese, or no cheese at all, and maybe you have neither pancetta nor bacon for the smoky twist I was craving. Maybe the carrots aren’t doing it for you, and understandably so, maybe you don’t have 10 types of flour in your pantry (15-20 if you count the ones used almost solely for gluten-free cooking). You might even be one of those people who are afraid of a little shortening in your life, for reasons I just can’t figure out. I promise you – it’s okay, and ultimately, it might even be better to use this as your inspiration, and run with it (after, or course, you put down your knife…).

I’m sure Martha would understand.

Tomato & Corn Cobbler
Inspired by Lottie + Doof; serves 4-6 as a meal

time commitment: 2 hours (~40 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
filling
2 T evoo
2 oz finely chopped pancetta or bacon (optional)
6 scallions, chopped
2 carrots, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh or frozen corn (2-3 ears if fresh; thawed and drained if frozen)
~1 lb cherry tomatoes
~1 lb heirloom tomatoes, medium dice
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 T white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

biscuit topping
1 c white spelt flour
1 c whole wheat flour (or use 2 cups all-purpose flour to replace both)
2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T shortening, cut into small pieces
1 c grated cheddar cheese, plus 1 T, for sprinkling atop biscuits
1 1/2 c buttermilk, plus ~2 T more for brushing

instructions
Make the filling. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, then add onions and carrots, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Toss in corn and remove from heat; let cool.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss onion/corn mixture, tomatoes, red-pepper flakes and flour with 1 1/2 t salt and some pepper.

Make the biscuit topping. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and 1 t salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms.

Transfer tomato mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon large clumps of biscuit dough (about 1/3 c each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Bake 30 minutes. Remove, and brush dough with buttermilk, and sprinkle with remaining T cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, another 30 minutes or so. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.

Finally, I Bathed in Buttermilk

There was a moment in time, not too long ago actually, that I could not for the life of me get the thought of a juicy, gnarly-shapen heirloom tomato out of my head. I imagined them, bursting with seeds and almost tie-dyed in their outward appearance, in a number of iterations, but at the time the markets were instead selling peaches and strawberries and maybe some squash by the bushels. A couple of tomatoes sat sadly on the corner of one table, and all the while I thought I’d be none the wiser if I just nudged them onto the ground and walked away, because I was damn tired of being taunted.

I don’t like being taunted.

Let there be no doubt – peaches, strawberries, and squash are lovely in their own right, but a tomato is what I craved. And then I missed a couple of Sundays at the market, probably the same weekends the troves of ‘maters made their awaited debut. All the while, I resorted to the canned version and made a tomato-semolina soup (okay, but not earth-shattering) and a roasted tomato and red pepper soup (totally earth-shattering, so stay tuned for this post). Then, I got some decent fresh tomatoes and made a panzanella salad with quinoa, but the quinoa was undercooked, which I’ve never done before (overcooking quinoa is my strong suit), so this merits a re-make.

To make a long story that shouldn’t be long short, I finally got what I’d really been craving and I scored those tomatoes. Then I had my way with them.

Now, some of you may say something like this when you realize I slathered them in buttermilk dressing: “wow. that’s a lot of dressing there, girlfriend. you know, you really don’t neeeeeed to put anything on a perfect heirloom tomato. it takes away from the flavor of the tomato, which should be left as is.”. This is just being way too judgmental. You should get with the program :). Others may say something like this: “damn. that’s a good lookin’ salad. not the first thing that came to mind for fresh tomatoes, but it’s worth a try.”. I’d say you’re on to something, and I like that you’re open-minded. And then there’s the rest of you, who’d say: “by golly I love me some buttermilk dressing, and I’m ’bout to tear this salad DOWN! then!, I’m going to drink the rest of the dressing and rub it all over my body.”. That’s what I’m talking about. Full of enthusiasm! I heart you.

Okay, so maybe you won’t bathe in it, but you’ll sure as hell want to. Of course, only if your thoughts are in line with the last group, and maybe the second. I’m totally in the last group, but generally I don’t like a lot of stuff on my ‘maters either, so I sorta blend into the second. And to be truthful, I normally don’t bathe in my food, but I made an exception.

What can I say? In-season, heirloom tomatoes have that effect on me.

Heirloom Tomato Salad w/ Buttermilk Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2010; serves 4 

okay. one thing I will say about this salad, aside from the fact that I adored it, is that the blue cheese can come or go. if you’re big in to blue cheese, you may like it. if you’re not, you may think it’s waaaaay too much. I like blue cheese, but I preferred the salad with just the dressing, and no cheese…

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
dressing
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/3 c buttermilk
2 T finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and pepper

salad
3 slices of white bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (optional)
2 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes (various shapes and colors), cored, & cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges (I used a pineapple corer but you could also just cut the core out with a knife)
1/2 c thinly sliced shallots
2 T evoo
1 T fresh lemon juice
kosher salt
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese (optional)
2 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally
2 T fresh Italian parsley leaves

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Season dressing with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toss bread cubes onto a baking sheet and bake for ~10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Place tomatoes and shallots in large bowl. Add oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and toss. Divide among 4 plates. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle with blue cheese, if using, as well as green onions, and parsley. If you want a crunch to your salad, divide the croutons among the 4 plates (for leftovers, keep the croutons separate from the salad until eating.).

Bittersweet

Speechless is an appropriate term for how I felt this weekend.

Morose is an appropriate term for how I felt yesterday.

Emotional embodies both. I’ll explain.

As we all know now, I turned 30 last Friday. It ranks in the top 2 of all birthdays, and was filled with loads of fun, friends, food, and wine – my very favorite things. Hubs had quite a few tricks up his sleeve, as expected, and surprises were aplenty. The first was an out-of-town guest, our good friend Todd who we met in Italy almost 10 years ago. Todd lives in Pennsylvania and made the trip, and seeing him was birthday present enough, but it didn’t stop there.

I found what at first glance looked to be a puppy leash (I know – I won’t stop with the puppy nonsense!) in my bag once we were back from lunch, or perhaps an old man’s suspenders. After seeing a grin emerge from both Hubs’ and Todd’s faces, I quickly realized that the strap attached to a brand new camera! I tore into the box akin to the way a 4-year-old might rip open a coveted Christmas gift, eyes wide and with excitement written all over my face and exhibiting reckless abandon, not caring who or what my flailing arms might encounter. So soon, you’ll see some digital SLR quality pics, thanks to a Pentax K-x that has barely left my grip.

Within seconds, another cat was prematurely let out of the bag, so to speak, as Hubs instantaneously raved about Luke’s help in finding a perfect beginner camera and his eagerness to help me learn about it. Which meant only one thing – he and Cheryl were en route from Minnesota! The day just kept getting better and better.

Once I realized we had a little party going on in a matter of hours, I knew it was time for “Hot Dog Night”, and we proceeded to procure groceries as such (more on those lovelies later this week). Jennifer & Jon came over, Todd was there, and Cheryl & Luke as well as Hope showed up later on that night; the weekend apparently was just getting started, and day 1 of my 31st year didn’t seem so lame after all. Not to mention cake – red velvet cake – from Bake.

Saturday went as most perfect Saturdays go, with a visit to Handlebar for brunch and a few re-runs of Modern Family, interspersed with a camera tutorial courtesy of photographer extraordinaire, Luke, and some mighty fine biscuits (recipe below) that served as photography practice.

And that night, the final surprise was unveiled. Following a stop outside our storage locker for what looked like a bag full of wine bottles, we proceeded to dinner, and I became nervous again, not knowing where we were going or who would be waiting. Turns out, Hubs had been planning with the lovely folks at Mado an exceptional dinner that not only was a treat to me, but to the rest of the group as well. In addition to the 8 of us who’d already been around for Friday’s festivities, there were 5 more: Hope’s boyfriend, James, my buddy Caroline (culinary school) and her husband, and Rachel and Andy – who recently moved away from Chicago to Milwaukee (sniff, sniff). I couldn’t have picked a better group of 13 myself :).

Luke took plenty of pics, and we consumed plenty of wine. 14 bottles to be exact. That night, Mado catered to a plethora of special diets all at once – a table of 13 of us had gluten intolerance, dairy/lactose intolerance, pescatarianism-but-usually-vegetarianism, and a preggers chick to deal with. It went off without a hitch, and we were all stuffed by the end of it. Stuffed and drunk. The rest of the night’s shenanigans included more wine and Rock Band till 4, and a puppy visit that my cat scoffed at.

That Hubs, he really is something, isn’t he? You don’t need to answer here; it’s a rhetorical question, you see. I can’t say what my life would be like without him; where I’d be had we never met. He is what they call a diamond in the rough, the butter to my bread, the shrimp to my grits; he is everything and so much more.

But when I think about how it all happened, how “we” came to be, it brings me back to yesterday’s feelings.

You see, I didn’t go to Italy (where Hubs and I  met) on a whim those 9 years ago. I didn’t go because I’d been dreaming of it all my life, or because I had a special interest in the Italian Renaissance. I went to get away from life; to be on my own, in a way.

I’d lost two of my favorite people the year before. Three days following my 20th birthday (the other one in the top 2), I received the worst call of my life. From my dad, in the middle of the night. My 17-year-old brother had been killed in a car accident. There was nothing that could have been done to save him; he had died on impact and just like that – he was taken out of my life forever. I remember screaming into the empty air, tears soaking my pillows, and I remember waking my roommates without knowing what I’d say or how I’d say it. My then-boyfriend’s family drove to pick me up from college in the middle of the night; we drove home in silence – other than sobs and sniffles I was quiet, blank. I remember that day and those that followed as if it were yesterday. I spent those following months at home with my family, being with my mom, dad, and sister and helping to take care of my gramma, who’d been diagnosed with end-stage cancer the day of my brother’s accident. I spent weeks upon weeks at home with her, at which time we watched hours of The Price is Right, paid her bills, and of course, ate peanut butter s’mores. It was not a typical college girl’s summer, that’s for sure.

Yesterday marked 10 years since that dreaded phone call. It’s gotten better, but it’s never easy and while 10 years seems like so long ago, I see it so clearly. Every year on that day I think of him, just like every other 364 days of every year, but this year seems a little bit different, a little bit harder. I miss him so, no matter how annoying he was, or how baggy his jeans were. I’d let him smoke packs of cigarettes if he were here with me today, and I wouldn’t even complain…

…And so, it was that year, months later, that I decided I needed change, and I decided to study abroad in Italy. It was there that Hubs and I met and while I think in sadness about what brought me there, realizing the irony of it all, I smile knowing that, no matter how tragic, how terrible the circumstances were, I know that, because of meeting him, I have become a better person, and that I went on that trip to find him.

So with that, I am humbly thankful – because in being surrounded by death, I learned to live. I learned that life can be so short, our time here with the ones we love so horribly finite. I learned that each and every day is a gift, and that if all else fails us in life, we still have the ones we love. Most of them, at least.

This past weekend was so perfect for so many reasons – but mostly, because I was surrounded by some of my favorite people – my friends, who mean the world to me and so much more.

Thank you for being there.

Now, let’s eat some tasty biscuits.

Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits
From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Gourmet; makes a dozen

if you like blue cheese, you will like these biscuits. if you don’t, you should probably find another cheese to blend in, or perhaps use the original Gourmet recipe linked above. really, any biscuit will do, but I enjoyed these thoroughly. blue cheese flavor permeates every bite, and the scallions add a distinct zing. plus, they come together in no time, so there really is no excuse for not giving them a whirl. did i mention they freeze well? freeze a few (unbaked) and pull ’em out for a last minute slab of carbohydrate by adding a few minutes to the baking time.

printable version

ingredients
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
2 t sugar
3/4 t baking soda
1 t salt
6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 c crumbled blue cheese
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 c buttermilk (or let 1 c milk + 1 T vinegar sit for  5 minutes to curdle)

instructions
Preheat oven to 450 F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips, or with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in blue cheese and scallions. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 16 to 20 minutes and rotating the pan once halfway through baking.

Something Else to Root For

root vegetables


Allow me to introduce you to a new friend of mine. A new kind of pie. And I’m not talking about some weird combination that you’ve never tried in a dessert pie. Although I did find a recipe for a red wine and pear pie that I need an excuse to make. But seriously. Savory pie. Oh yeah – that’s it. You know what time it is. Now, you may be skeptical. And you may be even more skeptical when I tell you that the pie was full of root vegetables – specifically the subtype with taproots. Meaning – rutabaga, turnip, parsnip, carrot, celeriac. At this point, you may be about to head your little mouse (or finger if you are the laptop kind) to the back button. Don’t be so fast to leave. I almost did the same thing. In fact, I did. It took me a couple of smaller likable root veggie dishes (like a rutabaga & potato mash) to even consider giving this a chance. Would it help if I told you that this particular friend of mine has a particularly starchy accessory with ingredients including butter & buttermilk? No? What if I added the earthy, woodsy, almost minty herb, rosemary? Now you’re hooked eh? Thought that might do it.


baked veggies

I should warn you – this dish is not a “throw together during the week” dish. It’s gonna take some time, a little knife skill, a good peeler (unless, unlike me, you can peel with a knife without paring away half of the inside while still managing to leave peel intact), and some good tunes in the background. You’d like a recommendation? Ok…. try the new Chris Isaak album, Mr Lucky. Nice and chill, a little jazzy, great background music. It also helps if you have a good husband or wife, or even friend around to help with the peeling. Mine suddenly realized how much fun it was to surf the web when I asked. But that’s ok – I strangely enjoy coming home from work and working in the kitchen. Peeling vegetables. Even washing a few dishes. Especially with a nice glass of wine waiting. Which it was. I even peeled some veggies and did the first part the night before, while I was making Friday night’s dinner. Not a bad idea either.

biscuit addition
So, without further adieu – Friend, meet Root Veggie & Mushroom Pie. Root Veggie & Mushroom Pie, meet Friend. Oh, and the sidekick – Rosemary Biscuit Topping. How could I forget?!


all done

Root Vegetable & Mushroom Pie w/ Rosemary Biscuit Topping
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine; serves 8 as meal, 10-12 as side dish


So, what might I do differently if I made this dish again? This dish has proven to me that I am not a huge fan of celery root. I’d leave that big honkin’ thing out and add another rutabaga. But if you like celery root, by all means leave that thing in there. One piece of advice – I’d highly recommend that you put a ridged baking sheet underneath the baking dish. This dish will practically pop out of the baking dish while in the oven, especially after the biscuits are placed atop. Unless you want a house full of smoke, put the tray underneath. Not that that happened, or anything. But just that it might :). Oh, and if you do have this as a main dish, all you need in addition is a small side salad such as arugula with shaved parmesano-reggiano and champagne-lemon vinaigrette.



ingredients

Filling:
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetarian bouillon base
  • 2 very large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large rutabaga, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 turnip, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms,* broken into 1/2-inch pieces, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons imported dry Sherry
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Biscuits:
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 1/3 cups (or more) chilled buttermilk

instructions

 

For filling:
Bring 6 cups water and bouillon base to boil in large pot over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve bouillon. Add carrots and next 5 ingredients. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; reserve vegetables and broth.

Melt butter in same pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Mix in garlic and rosemary; stir 2 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in reserved broth, then cream and Sherry. Cook until sauce is thick and reduced to 4 cups, whisking often, about 8 minutes. Mix in reserved vegetables and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer filling to buttered 13x9x2-inch baking dish. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with foil; chill.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake filling, covered, until bubbling, about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare biscuits.

For biscuits:
 

Stir first 4 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, tossing with fork until dough is evenly moistened and adding more buttermilk by tablespoonfuls if dry.

Drop biscuit dough atop hot filling by heaping tablespoonfuls; sprinkle with pepper. Bake uncovered until tester inserted into center of biscuits comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

 Cool 15 minutes. Then dig in.

In the morning, I’m makin’ Waffles!

buttermilk waffle with cherry almond sauce

.. with cherry-almond syrup. Yum. I won’t spend a ton of time talking about this recipe. It’s early enough where you still have time to make it if you want! You are likely to have a bag of frozen cherries in your fridge, and the other ingredients are pretty basic. Plus, it’s a great way to get some use out of that old rusty waffle maker that’s hanging out all lonely in the back of your cabinet.


I found this recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine. At first I didn’t think it was too entirely special, but I was wrong. Nothin’ like fluffy buttermilk waffles topped with a syrupy cherry sauce with real cherries that squish in your mouth at every bite. Not to mention the additional toppings that can also be invited to the party – nuts, whipped cream, ice cream if you want it for dessert, whatever. What you don’t need is any other syrup. This is a party where maple syrup is not on the guest list. I didn’t use the Bon Appetit waffle recipe – it was a little odd because it didn’t have eggs in it and seemed like it would be really thick. So I just made standard buttermilk waffle batter and used the syrup recipe. I bet you can substitute any frozen fruit and any type of preserve in this recipe. You could even use a different extract. For this round, I used apricot preserves since I didn’t have cherry preserves. It worked well. I think next time, I might try this recipe with cranberries and orange extract. Maybe some orange zest too. The cherries would also pair well with vanilla extract. Let me know what combinations you try and how they work!


waffle and sauce



Buttermilk Waffles w/ Cherry-Almond Sauce
Sauce adapted from Bon Appetit magazine



ingredients
1 10-12oz bag frozen pitted dark sweet cherries (not thawed)
1 cup cherry preserves
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


instructions
Combine frozen cherries (or other fruit) and cherry preserves (or any preserve) in medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until cherries begin to thaw and juices form. Boil gently until sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and stir in extract.



Heat waffle maker according to instructions. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in bowl. In separate bowl, whisk eggs into buttermilk; add water, vanilla, and lastly, butter. Slowly add these ingredients to dry mixture and whisk just until blended. Now cook waffles according to waffle maker instructions. When finished, place waffles on plates and top with cherry sauce and whatever else you want!


chris likes waffles


As you can see, you’ll want to sop up every last drop of sauce!