Thursday, December 17, 2009


Holy cow, I made biscuits! Honest-to-goodness, delicious biscuits! And it was so incredibly easy!

OK, biscuits may not be the hardest thing in the world to make, but I’ve always avoided them for some reason, probably because I have an irrational fear of any recipe that involves cutting butter into flour (pie crust, etc.), plus I’ve made a heck of a lot of baking-soda breads that haven’t turned out well. But when I saw this recipe so highly praised at The Smitten Kitchen and realized that it used cream instead of butter, there went my feeble excuse for avoiding biscuit-making. Even with my questionable dough-handling abilities, I was pretty sure I could manage to stir melted butter and heavy cream into some dry ingredients, pat the dough out flat, and cut it into circles (not owning a biscuit cutter, of course, I just used the top of a drinking glass). I was skeptical the entire time, waiting for flat, dry lumps of sadness to emerge from the oven, so imagine my thrill when they came out light, flaky, and puffy, just like real biscuits! (“But they are real biscuits,” A had to keep reminding me.)

We served these with a cider-braised chicken dish (from the St. Paul Farmers Market Cookbook) that turned out a little disappointingly, but the biscuits so wildly exceeded my expectations that I didn’t even mind. Now that I know I can whip them up with no trouble on an average weeknight, the possibilities are endless! They’ll be great dipped into soups, or spread with homemade jam, but when I get back to cooking after New Year’s, my first order of business will be to try them with creamed chicken on top.

The biscuits are best straight from the oven, but I still found them pretty tasty the next day, after a brief zapping in the microwave. But if you don’t want to eat 10 biscuits right away, you can either freeze the leftover biscuits or—and this sounds like a brilliant idea I’ll certainly be trying soon—freeze the dough rounds to bake later.

3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside.

2. Sift 2 cups flour, the baking powder, and the salt into a large bowl. Fold in 1¼ cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining ¼ cup cream, little by little. (I ended up using about 2 additional tablespoons.)

3. Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball, and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Cut into rounds, 2½ inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps, press them flat again, and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter (or brush it generously with butter if that seems easier) and arrange biscuits on the baking sheet.

4. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or freeze for future use. (You can also freeze the uncooked dough rounds; they can be baked straight from the freezer, although a few extra minutes of baking time will be needed.)

Yield: About 10
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good, if frozen

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Oh, yum. I spotted this why-didn’t-I-think-of-it recipe in Pioneer Woman’s brand-new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I love her humor and her tantalizing concoctions (accompanied by dazzling step-by-step photographs), even though they’re a bit richer and heavier than I’d usually cook for our little Southern Californian household of two, one of whom has a petite appetite and the other of whom hunches over a computer in a cubicle all day instead of performing grueling, calorie-burning ranch labor on the wide-open prairie. (Really, the only other PW recipes I’ve actually made are the fabulous ranch dressing and oatmeal-jam bars.) But this twist on the iconic flavor combination of potatoes and leeks, with some bacon thrown in, sounded too good to pass up—and you know how I love pizza.

It was fully as delicious as it sounded. The only real changes I made were to omit the goat cheese (because even though I keep on trying it, I just don’t like goat cheese), and halved the amount of mozzarella (because a pound is a lot of cheese). I can see that the goat cheese would add a zippier flavor, and if I’d had some asiago or Gruyere, I might have thrown a bit on there, but we both loved it plenty well as is. If I were making this just for myself, I might have reduced the bacon (to, say, 4 slices) and increased the leeks (to at least 4), but A was horrified when I mentioned it the idea (if anything, he wanted more bacon and fewer leeks—but then, this is the man who got bacon chocolate chip cookies for Valentine’s day, and he doesn’t share my adulation for leeks). So we’ll just keep that ratio the way it’s written.

Tips: Do be sure to use fresh mozzarella, because you need the moisture it provides, and do be sure to slice the potatoes paper-thin. This is the only potato pizza recipe I’ve tried where the potatoes aren’t cooked beforehand, and while that does make things easier, I worried the whole time about ending up with crunchy potatoes, especially since I’d sliced them by hand (a mandoline seems useful, but so very sharp and scary, and where would I keep it?). In the end, while the potatoes were not raw as I’d feared, they did have a bit more bite than usual. I liked the chewy, slightly al dente texture that resulted, but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted them any less cooked than that. So keep ’em thin!

1 pound pizza dough
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
3 leeks, rinsed well to remove grit and thinly sliced
5 small red or Yukon Gold potatoes
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Roll out the pizza dough on a baking sheet, drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle it lightly with salt.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until cooked but not completely crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off most of the grease, but do not clean the skillet. Return it to the stove and, over medium-low heat, saute the leeks until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove the leeks from the heat and set aside.

3. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the potatoes very thin. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer all over the crust, slightly overlapping the edges. Sprinkle the potatoes lightly with salt, then lay the mozzarella slices in a single layer on top. Place the leeks on top of the cheese, then sprinkle the fried bacon pieces over the top. Add a generous dose of grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of pepper.

4. Bake 8 to 11 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good