A staple of just about any Southern meal is the biscuit. Any restaurant claiming to have a Southern dish has a biscuit recipe or they won’t be around long! The ingredients are simple, but the finished product is a masterpiece when properly executed.
Biscuits are used for moppin’ up the gravy or juices from whatever meat, soup or stew you’re eating. Lots of cuisines have a bread of some sort for this purpose: Indian’s use Naan, the Middle East has pita, South American’s use the tortilla, there’s French bread, Italian bread, the Irish use potatoes because they like to be different. In the Southern United States biscuits are what you get.
The best way to make biscuit dough is to mix the dry ingredients first and cut the lard (whatever “fat” you choose) into the dry ingredients until it’s well incorporated. That way there aren’t any lumps of dry floury mix when you bite into your biscuit.
I like food with flavor and sometimes that means altering the basics to get it. Here’s a twist on the basic buttermilk biscuit recipe where I’ve added some herbs.
4 c all-purpose flour
3 Tbs baking powder
1 Tbs salt
½ tsp sugar (optional)
10 oz. cubed, unsalted butter (lard, bacon fat, Crisco…personal preference)
½ c mixed freshly chopped chives, tarragon and parsley
3 c buttermilk
½ c melted butter mixed with ½ c honey for basting (honey is optional)
Pinch together flour, butter, salt, sugar and baking powder until a coarse, cornmeal-like texture forms.
Add buttermilk and herbs. Work dough only until cohesive. Do not knead or overwork the dough or your biscuits will be too dense.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight if desired.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Using additional flour to prevent sticking on the work surface, roll dough out to 1-inch thickness. Cut dough with a round cutter (my grandmother always used a juice glass), baste the top with the mixture of melted butter and honey and bake for 20-25 minutes until biscuits are light brown and fluffy.
I made these herbed biscuits to go with a pork roast I made, using the same herbs. Because these are savory biscuits they would be wonderful in the morning, warmed with sausage and gravy or grits or even just to hold your fried egg.
Try changing the herbs out, too. You could add basil, oregano and a pinch of rosemary that would go well with a tomato-based dish. A dash of cayenne pepper and a little cheddar cheese mixed in would go great with a bowl of chili (if you don’t have cornbread).