Buttermilk Biscuits, with Country Ham and Red-Eye Gravy


Of all the great breakfasts that are traditional
here in the American South, this may be my favorite. Flaky biscuits, country ham and
the exotic, the mysterious red-eye gravy. Keep in mind I just live down here, I’m not
from here, this is merely my outsider’s interpretation of the classic. First thing to do is throw a stick of butter
in the freezer, ideally the night before. When it’s good and cold, I’ll pre-heat the
oven to 475 F — convection is nice. This is the official flour of southern-style biscuits:
White Lily self-rising flour. If you can’t get this, you can approximate it by blending
some more common ingredients. That formula is in the description. About two-and-a-half cups go in a mixing bowl,
it doesn’t have to be exact at this stage. There’s salt in the flour and salt in the
butter, so no more salt at this stage. I do like a teaspoon or two of sugar. Not traditional,
but it enhances browning. Set that aside and get a cutting board. For
years, I made biscuits with a mixture of butter and shortening. I’m trying to get away from
shortening, so I’m using all butter, and I’m using a method popularized by Southern Living
magazine where you grate the cold butter with the big holes on a box grater. This really
helps form flakes in the dough. The faster you do this, the better the finished
product will be. As I dump the butter into the flour, you’ll see how much the shooting
of the video slowed me down. My butter started to melt, and this batch therefore was not
my best. Toss the butter around in the flour and stick the whole thing in the freezer to
get it cold again. 15 minutes later, I’ll put in a cup of cold
buttermilk. Real buttermilk. That lactic acid flavor really shines in these. You just stir
it around until it vaguely comes together into one sticky hot mess. Flour your board,
dump it all out, flour on top, and just mold it gently into a big rectangle. More flour
on top, then roll it out to maybe an inch thick and fold it over on itself. Roll it
out to an inch again, flour, and fold. This is how you get that laminated, flaky texture.
It’s like a very crude puff pastry. I do four folds. Then when I’ve got it rolled out to an inch
the final time, it’s time to punch them out. I just use a metal half-cup measure. Any kind
of cutter with reasonably sharp edges will work. If you use something with dull edges,
like a glass, you’ll mash the layers of the biscuit together and they won’t puff up as
well. Try really hard to minimize trimmings. Yes, you can gather them up, roll them out
again and punch out some more, but the biscuits from the trimmings aren’t nearly as good. Throw some parchment on a baking sheet and
brush melted butter on each biscuit. I love those silicon brushes — very easy to clean.
In the oven they go. They’ll take about 15 minutes in there. While you wait, the next
step is to brew yourself a cup of coffee — not only because, you know, this is breakfast,
but also because red-eye gravy is made with coffee. My coffee was supplied by the sponsor of this
video: Trade Coffee. Truth be told, I’m not a huge coffee drinker, maybe it’s just that
I find the whole scene kind of intimidating. It’s hard to know where to get started with
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And this coffee that they matched me with is delicious. It’s got this kind of roasted
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code “ADAM.” 30 percent off your first coffee from Trade. OK, biscuits are just golden on top and they’ve
puffed a bit. They would have puffed more if I hadn’t let my butter melt, but that one’s
pretty nice, you can see the layers. Yeah, good. Time for the ham. I was in east Tennessee
last weekend — the wellspring of the finest country hams you can buy. Think of it as American
Prosciutto, and just as fine, in my opinion. Some people boil it to keep it soft, some
people just kinda flash-sear it. I like it crispy, so I put it into a cold,
dry pan, and then turn the heat on medium. This is a great way of doing bacon, duck breast
— anything with lots of fat. Fat melts at a much lower temperature than when meat browns,
so as the pan heats up, it renders enough of the fat out that the meat can then brown
in its own fat by the time the pan gets really hot. Like bacon, this will stiffen up as cools,
so you want to pull it before it seems crispy enough. And there we are — beautiful country
ham fond — the beginnings of red-eye gravy. Before it burns, you grab your coffee cup
and just pour some in. Exciting, uh? Scrape the pan clean with a wooden spoon,
turn off the the heat, let the coffee reduce for a second, and traditionally that is it
— bitter as motor oil. Personally, I’m glad that we’re not living in the olden times anymore,
so I go with a big squeeze of honey. Some people use brown sugar. I’ve even heard of
people using sweet barbecue sauce. Again, heat is off, you don’t want your sugar
to burn. When the bubbling is about done, you’re safe to stir in some butter — again,
not traditional, but hardly uncommon. It helps emulsify the rendered ham fat into the sauce
and it thickens everything up. And also, you know, butter’s good. And there it is. Really deep, complex stuff. I don’t use the
word exotic often, but it feels right to me here. Exotic. Split a biscuit along its laminated fault
line, put some ham on the plate. And drizzle on the red-eye gravy. Very strong stuff, you
don’t need much. And an extra biscuit can’t hurt. Now, you can stack this up and make a little
sandwich. This is literally called “biscuit-cut” ham, for this purpose. I tend to treat it
more like an open-faced sandwich. Can’t forget my Trade Coffee. Get 30 percent off yours
by following my link in the description and using the code “ADAM.” Now you go and have
yourself a good morning.

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