Thursday, September 19, 2013

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Sausage Biscuits for a Party

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The weather has turned. The ungodly, soul-sucking heat that followed me on travels in the last two months has broken. Finally, the idea of turning on the oven isn’t the suicidal notion it was just a few weeks ago. Sunday, we made cookies. Last night: a side of salmon quickly roasted with Irish butter, a scattering of salt and pepper, and a few dollops of pesto. And then there’re sausage biscuits.

My California friends talk a good game about their gym routines and diets; low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free, and all that. Whatever. If I put out a basket of sausage biscuits at some shindig at the house, they’re gone.

Nothing fancy, little cocktail nibbles like these are common throughout the South and the variations are Legion. Sausage patties tucked into split biscuits are a bit more substantial as breakfast sandwiches nationwide, but these are smaller — just a bit smaller than a table tennis ball — and have nuggets of of crumbled, cooked country sausage throughout. Unlike the little deep-fried bitterballen I like to make at the last minute and serve with mustard, these biscuits can be made days ahead of time and are good just as-is.

John Martin Taylor gives a version in Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking with a rich cheese-and-flour dough a lot like what Southern cooks might use for cheese straws, another party staple. It’s his recipe I use. The sausage you want is pork, the kind with sage, black pepper, and almost too much crushed red chiles. I don't bother with the pecan halves, but you do what you like.

These go well with beer, whiskey, Champagne, more biscuits, and French 75 cocktails. And maybe more beer. And just one more biscuit.

After all, it’s back and shoulders day. Gotta load up on protein.
Sausage Biscuits  
1 pound country sausage
6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1½ cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1½ cups plus about 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Perfect pecan halves (optional) 
Fry the sausage over medium-high heat until it is cooked through, drain, and allow to cool. Cream the butter and cheeses together. Sift the salt and flour together over the cheese mixture and blend together with a wooden spoon or spatula. Crumble the sausage and mix it in with your hands. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes. 
Heat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Pinch off small pieces of the dough and roll them into 1-inch balls. Place the balls about an inch apart on baking sheets [use baking parchment or a silicone baking sheet if you like, but they're not strictly necessary]. If desired, top some or all of the balls with perfect pecan halves, pushing the pecan into the dough and flattening the balls. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they begin to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. 
Store in airtight containers for no more than 1 week.

~ From Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking: 
Recipes and Ruminations from Charleston and the Carolina Coastal Plain (2012).

While baking, the biscuits will throw off crispy, melty cheesy bits in a sort of crunchy brown halo surrounding each. Throw them out if you want, but canny eaters will toss them into a gratin crust, a sweet potato mash, or a bacon-and-spinach salad. 

Goes well with:
  • What else is Hoppin' John up to? Check out his blog or order some of his stone-ground grits.
  • A simple pork sausage. If you use this recipe rather than buying pre-made sausage, omit the fennel and Worcestershire sauce, add rubbed sage, and up the quantities of black pepper and red chiles. Grind finely.
  • And if you are into making your own sausages, check out Elise Hannemann's Liverwurst, a 1904  German recipe that uses ground bacon in the mix, resulting in what Americans would recognize as homemade Braunschweiger. 
  • If pork and homemade charcuterie's not your bag, how about bread? My dad makes a pretty righteous loaf of dense onion rye bread
  • Lastly, you may still be seeing peaches in the stores. The season's mostly gone for us, but those left will still make good jam, perfect for slathering on non-sausage, plain ol' buttermilk biscuits. 


Lucindaville said...

I haven't thought of these in years. Headed to the oven this weekend.

Matthew Rowley said...

How did they turn out?