Before Food Network, before the Cooking Channel... we tuned into PBS to watch Graham Kerr, Justin Wilson or Nathalie Dupree. Our eyes were opened to regional food, international or southern, it was something new to eat. Mom used to say that... "I wish there was something NEW to eat!" The era of cooks before us were stuck in their repertoire of Wednesday Meatloaf or Fried Chicken Sunday. Their mother's had done it that way, and it was habit.
When I married in 1970, I had one cookbook... Betty Crocker's red edition, the OLD one! Four hundred seventy-nine pages; it had recipes for Cheese Fondue and Waikiki Meatballs, Beef Stroganoff and Stained Glass Cookies...I thought it was the only cookbook I'd ever need!
In the 1970's, I'd watch New Southern Cooking on PBS. Nathalie Dupree talked like me and her southern upbringing spilled over to her recipes. Her tv series on PBS was as much about entertaining as it was cooking. Relaxed and welcoming, I liked her style.... and I loved her recipes!
No respecting southern cook should be without a good recipe for Pimento Cheese. It's a staple at luncheons, weddings and Grandma's kitchens across the south. But lately, Pimento Cheese has been bumped up a notch on the social register. It seems that big city chefs have discovered the orange deliciousness can be parlayed into upscale recipes. I read an article at the Washington Post this week that included several wonderful recipes for the Southern Spread. The following, a recipe from Nathalie Dupree's new cookbook Southern Biscuits would satisfy Mom's criteria for "something NEW to eat!"
Pimento Cheese Biscuits
The Washington Post, April 20, 2011
Makes 16 to 18 biscuits
- 2 1/4 cups store-bought or homemade self-rising flour, plus more as needed (see NOTE)
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 ounces pimento or roasted red bell peppers, chopped (from a jar)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion (optional)
- 1 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
- 2 to 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, for brushing
Position the top oven rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Brush a baking sheet with a little softened butter.
Combine 2 cups of the flour and the cup of cheese in a food processor; pulse two or three times. Scatter the 1/4-inch butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse two or three times, then scatter the 1/2-inch butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse two or three times, until the mixture resembles well-crumbled feta cheese, with no piece larger than a pea.
Add the pimento or roasted red pepper, the onion, if using, and 3/4 cup of the buttermilk. Pulse briefly to incorporate. When the blade stops, remove the lid and feel the dough. Add just enough of the remaining buttermilk or flour as needed; pulse to form a slightly wet dough. Pulse once or twice more until the dough looks shaggy but holds together.
Generously dust the work surface with flour. Use more of the flour to coat your hands.
Turn the dough out onto the work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour. Fold the dough in half, then pat it out into a 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Flour again if necessary and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time.
Pat the dough out into a round 1/2-inch-thick for regular biscuits, 3/4-inch thick for tall biscuits and 1-inch thick for large biscuits. Brush any visible flour from the top. For each biscuit, dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter.
Dough scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although they make tougher biscuits.
Carefully transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet, arranging them so they are touching each other. Bake on the top oven rack for 6 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet front to back. If the biscuits seem to be browning too quickly on the bottom, slip a second baking sheet under the first one to help insulate the biscuit bottoms. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until the biscuits are light golden brown on top.
When the biscuits are done, brush the tops with melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down onto a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.
NOTE: To make self-rising flour, combine 1 cup all-purpose Southern flour (such as White Lily, which has more gluten), 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 months, or freeze for up to 1 year.
Adapted from "Southern Biscuits," by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs-Smith, 2011).