Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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♥ Mama’s Biscuits ♥

A wooden rolling pin

Image via Wikipedia

I’m just back from my annual retreat with my Romance Writer Ink sisters. We had a GREAT time (as usual!) The women in the group do most of the cooking while we’re there, and I have to say, we’ve got a great bunch of cooks.

I make a breakfast each year, and I always make the same thing. Biscuits and gravy. I’m always happy to share the how-to, and this year our speaker, the fabulous Jean Brashear,  asked for my recipe. (If you haven’t yet, check out her book, The Goddess of Fried Okra. It’s great!)

So while I was sharing, I thought I’d share here, too.

Mama’s biscuits:

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

2 C flour
2 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t salt

Mix the dry ingredients, then add enough buttermilk to make a sticky dough—about 1 cup.

Flour a pastry board, dump the dough onto it and knead lightly until just manageable.

Pat out dough (you can use a rolling-pin, but Mama never did) until it’s about an inch thick.

Cut out biscuits.

Put enough oil in your biscuit pan to cover the bottom well. Heat the oil in the oven until very warm. One at a time, turn biscuits over in hot oil and scoot to the edge until all the biscuits are in the pan. Bake at 450 for twenty or twenty-five minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Easy-peasy, huh?

I gave the recipe to a friend once, who came back and said, “You left something out. Don’t you put oil or fat or something in the biscuits?”

“No. You don’t. The oil or fat is in the pan.”

“I’ve never heard of any kind of bread without fat in it.” She had I-think-you’re-wrong look on her face. “Neither has my mom.”

I called my mother to see if I’d been making them wrong for fifteen years, but she assured me it was the way her mama taught her.

I told Marilyn Pappano, who had the pleasure of living several places in the south while her husband was in the navy, about that once. She said she’d seen them made that way many times when she lived there, and since Grandma Reeves was born on the Delta (Mississippi Delta) that makes sense.

What recipe do you make when you’re cooking for a crowd?


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Prime Your Rib

Barefoot Contessa - Sur La Table 3

Image by urbanbohemian via Flickr

Ever been afraid of a piece of meat? Not afraid in the “boo!” sense, but afraid you’ll do something to ruin it? I have.

For the last ump-teen years, G-Man and I have bought a prime rib (or beef loin) for Christmas Eve dinner. This year we were running a little late *sigh* and when we got to the grocery store we decided to “bless” with our business, they had three primes left. Two too-smalls and one too-large.

G-Man suggested buying the too-smalls, but I pointed out that for the same $$ we could have the too-big one. We’d just have to cut off what we didn’t want to eat Christmas Eve and freeze it for later.

That piece of meat cost almost as much as my first car. Okay, my first car was really an old pickup and belonged to my grandad, who I’m sure gave me a really good deal, but still! For $20 more back in the day, I had four wheels and went places.

So I was just a little bit intimidated by this hunk of meat, and by the cooking process.

As usual, I got out my go-to girl’s cookbooks (Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa is my girl!) and once more looked up how to cook PR. (When I only cook something once a year, I have to relearn how to do it.)

You start by preheating the oven to a temperature hot enough to brand a steer (I’ve got the scar on my wrist to prove it.) Then you rub enough salt onto the meat to preserve it for the winter, then pepper, and put your expensive cut in the oven (at 500 degrees) for 45 minutes.

Forty-five minutes of killer hot on a piece of meat that cost more than my entire monthly food budget when I was first married. I get a little nervous every year.

Then WITHOUT opening the oven to see if your meat has gone up in flames, you turn the heat down to 325. After half-an-hour of normal cook time, crank the heat back up to 450 until the center of the chunk registers safe.

There’s a resting period of twenty minutes before slicing begins. Twenty nervous, nail-biting minutes during which the woman-in-charge doesn’t know if she succeeded and will be a triumph with everyone sitting around the Christmas Tree and singing her praises, or a failure who’ll live through the rest of Christmas (and with my family, who never forgets anything–throughout the rest of time) with her tail between her legs and a big red F (for failure) on her chest. (A really big F.)

Luckily, and thanks to Ina (who is a dear cooking buddy and destroyer of diets) this year we triumphed, and I had a blast doing it.

So, what’s your favorite special meal to eat for Christmas?