IAt some point I made cookbook reading worthy of a sweet treat and something warm; maybe it's the fact that the creators started to structure them more to tell a story, than print recipes, either way I highly enjoy them. After a recent getaway to Asheville, NC, I was inspired to whip up some Southern fare, but with our kitchen being renovated, I didn't get my chance until this last week.
I decided to start with
biscuits. I think every cook attempts to find their version of the staples and biscuits are definitely one of those
items. I started experimenting a while ago with Alton Brown's recipe, as part of my Good Eats challenge and
was satisfied with the results at the time, however Asheville and breakfast at Tupelo Honey Cafe destroyed that.
As a kid we traveled to South Carolina sometimes during the summer to visit family, so I have had my share of authentic Southern
cooking, but it has been a while and maybe I forgot just how good a biscuit could be.
If you get the chance to visit Asheville, do not miss a breakfast opportunity at Tupelo Honey; the biscuits, the chicken and waffles (did I mention the biscuits) sooo good. Lucky for me they have two cookbooks they sell inhouse, so I made sure to grab the one with their buttermilk biscuit recipe.
Being preggers and thinking about strange things like food and legacies and such, I had a mini panic attack realizing that I was already a terrible mother because I do not yet have a lot of MY recipes down. With my love of trying new dishes frequently, I haven't stuck with say a chocolate chip cookie recipe. What kind of unstable, transient environment was a bringing a child into!? I eventually calmed myself down from that ridiculousness ( probably by eating something) and moved on, however it did leave me with the desire to hone in on the basics and at least get a rough list of food my future child can someday remember fondly as "Mom's...". For biscuits, I believe I found a winner.
The biscuit debate, is long and is often about the fat; butter, shortening, lard or some combo. But certainly, the temperature, type of flour, handling of dough, and many other factors are up for scrutiny on this stupidly simple recipe. Such is the nature of cooking staples; everyone has their preference and ritual for making the perfect creation.
I think the fat is where it's at, so I decided to make Tupelo Honey's buttermilk biscuits (uses shortening), Alton Brown's version because his mission is always to find the ideal recipe (uses both butter and shortening) and a recipe using lard. Please see photo of the three types below...
From left to right, recipe using lard, Alton Brown version, Tupelo Honey Cafe version. And the winner for us
was...Tupelo Honey. Besides the difference in the fat, the recipe for Tupelo says to use a buttered cast
iron skillet, self-rising flour not baking powder or soda, and bake at 425 degrees. Alton's recipe used
all-purpose flour, both butter and shortening, both baking powder and soda, and bake on a cookie sheet at 450 degrees.
The lard recipe only used baking powder and also baked at 450 degrees on a cookie sheet, but besides those items mention,
all three recipes remained pretty similar.
By taste and look they were all very different though. Tupelo's texture was very moist and fluffy while the other two were more crumbly and the lard biscuit was closer to that of scone. I wonder in part if this was due to the cookie sheet method, so I will attempt these two again using the cast iron skillet instead. The lard recipe had a richer more salty flavor and Alton's version was your classic buttermilk biscuit. You really couldn't go wrong with any of the three, but Tupelo's texture and more buttery flavor made it the winner for me, however I will always welcome future challengers.
Try the great debate for yourself:
Tupelo Honey's Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe
Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits
CUESA's Lard Biscuit
Aside from the gift of biscuits, Asheville was amazing. It is this artsy, foodie, progressive (no not just for North Carolina) town backdropped by the Blue Ridge Mountains. We rented a cabin and it was glorious, I didn't want to leave. The most surprising thing about the town though, was the cost, eating out was definitely cheaper than Cleveland and could rival (probably squash in many cases) our culinary scene.
If you ever find yourself in Asheville, here is the list of places that we visited and I would highly recommend them all (also a few we wanted to try but didn't have time):
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Sunny Point Cafe
For Next Time
Blue Ridge Biscuit Company
12 Bones Smokehouse
The many microbreweries!
River Arts District
Omni Grove Spa
Our trip could probably be divided into the following three categories:
(French Broad Chocolate Lounge)
And probably one of our last family vacation shots (minus kiki) before the baby!