Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Marriage of Two Biscuits

Last year around this time, my good friend Mark got Boyfriend and I a gift certificate for Art Smith’s Restaurant, Table Fifty-Two in Chicago. Art Smith was Oprah Winfrey’s longtime personal chef and he finally opened up a restaurant of his own. The reviews for the food and the ambience of the restaurant were nothing but great. Since we were armed with the gift certificate and it was one of our last weekends in Chicago, we made a reservation and got dolled up for brunch. We couldn’t score dinner reservations on such short notice so we settled for an early brunch. Our decision could not have been smarter. The day was warm with spring in all its glory. The space is small but has large windows letting in the fresh spring air and shedding the warm glow of the midday sun on the light, white, and simply decorated room. After we ordered, the waiters brought us chive and chevre drop biscuits cooked in a cast iron pan. These biscuits were salty, tender, buttery and so good. I-don’t-remember-the-rest-of-the-meal kind of good. Mind blowing.

Fast forward 1 year. Those biscuits are still on my mind. I go to Glas Magisinet and I see the Le Creuset cast iron pans and think of those biscuits. I thought about those biscuits again when I saw an Ina Garten recipe for chive biscuits. I thought I’d try them and see how they turned out. The result was good. The chives added a nice savory flavor to the biscuits. The texture was a bit dense but very rich and definitely satisfying. Instead of having the goat cheese inside, I made a goat cheese spread scented with lemon zest. But what if…? What if instead of taking the pansy route of serving the goat cheese on the side, I mixed it all together? The next weekend, I made it happen. The result was a more dense and less buttery version of the Art Smith as they were cut and baked instead of baked in a cast iron pan with dollops of butter. This version, while not as buttery had all the taste. The biscuits were oniony and savory from the chives and had the subtlest bit of tang and creaminess from the chevre. The buttermilk added tenderness to the biscuit and the butter them nice and flaky. They were beautiful and tasted delicious. I’d serve them with a bit of softened creamed cheese mixed with a bit of lemon zest. Make these!

Chive and Chevre Biscuits
Makes 8
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup creamy goat cheese, cut or broken into chunks.
3/4 cup half-and-half or buttermilk (I prefer the buttermilk)
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, 200 degrees C.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a tall mixing bowl. To the mixing bowl, add the butter and the goat cheese. Mix the flour and the butter and cheese with an electric mixer until the butter is the size of peas. Start slow as the flour will probably fly. When the butter is the size of a pea, add the buttermilk and mix until the buttermilk is just absorbed. Add the chive and mix it a little bit more until the chives are mixed through, about 15 seconds. Not all of the flour will be part of the big dough ball in the bowl and that’s ok. Knead the dough in the bowl a couple of times until the flour has all been gathered into a ball. Put the dough onto a floured board and knead it again a couple of times until it’s formed into a rectangle. Flatten out the rectangle until it’s about ¾ inch thick. Using a 2 to 2 ½ inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds of dough. Place the biscuits on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Brush each biscuit with a little bit of the egg wash. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until the tops are golden brown and firm. Serve warm.

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