It all started with leftovers. Not those things that sit in Tupperware containers in the back of your refrigerator for too long, growing mold because you didn’t want to eat the same thing on Monday as you did on Saturday. Maybe that’s just me. But it did all start with leftovers. The type that isn’t prepared. That one ingredient that you buy for one recipe but the recipe only calls for about a quarter of the container, so now you’re stuck with a lot of buttermilk. That’s what happened to me, at least. And during the holidays, of all times. What joy!
If you caught it in my last post, the one about half moon cookies, the recipe called for buttermilk. I don’t really know much about the stuff, and neither does my family, it seems. “I think it’s the healthiest milk there is,” “It’s all naturally fat free,” “I don’t know if anyone just drinks it,” “Doesn’t it make all yogurt?” I don’t know if any of that is true, but I do know that I had too much buttermilk to try out a big, tall, brimming glass of the stuff. So I decided to reduce (my quantity of buttermilk), reuse (it in another recipe), and recycle (again, reuse it).
It was Christmas morning and the scene was set. The tree was outfitted with lights, blinking, and presents stuffed underneath. Coffee was brewing. My brother was headed in from Charleston. My sister, her husband, and my nephew were on their way out to our house. My moms were reading on the couch. I was in charge of food.
I walked down the stairs, opened the fridge to find some inspiration and what did I find? Buttermilk. I moved it out of the way, in search of the eggs, but then, with all clichés in mind, it hit me. It was eleven in the morning: brunch time. I could make breakfast and lunch. No restrictions. And what can buttermilk do better than any other milk? Make biscuits, but of course! And that started a frenzied hour of cooking. I thought: Biscuits, eggs, home fries, you know, a good southern breakfast. I thought: Avocado, mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, and brie to be classy, you know, a good healthy northern lunch. Perfect.
The biscuits weren’t hard to make, actually quite easy. And on top of that, they were delicious – they were crisp on the top but gave way to a slight finger poke, flaked open to reveal that commercial-esque explosion of steam, and were moist beyond belief. I hold true to what I said: Buttermilk can do it like no other.
The home fries, sautéed with onion, garlic, butter, salt, and pepper, took longer than I had anticipated, but my family sat patiently over by the tree, reminiscing about days past and about the newest member of our family: Sean Kaplan (my sister’s new son). I hovered over the stove making sure that I didn’t let the potatoes burn too much.
The biscuits finished up about the same time as the eggs and home fries. I put some mixed greens in a bowl next to the avocado, simply cut up, and next to the sliced and salted tomatoes. “It’s ready, you hungry?” Actions speak louder than words. They all jumped up and started over to the island where I was dorkily snapping pictures of my food. “Don’t be vain or anything” “No, Mark, it’s because I’m writing a blog” “Oh, right.” Family: nothing but the best. Right?
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1 tbsp. milk or cream for brushing
Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425° F.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper, then sift again into a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist). This is where I start to make things up on my own
In the same bowl, knead the dough gently a couple times over, just to make the dough a whole unit. Fill a separate bowl with enough water to dip your hands into. Wet your hands and pull off a ball of dough just smaller than a normal stress ball. Does that sound strange? Roll with it. Literally, roll the dough into a ball, then press it gently onto a buttered baking sheet. I fit about 6 on one sheet. Bake them for 17-19 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool slightly. Everyone knows that biscuits are better a little warm, right?