Chat Leftovers: Biscuit Troubleshooting; Valentine Ideas on the Cheap

Baltimore, Md.: I'm hoping you can help me out with a biscuit problem: I love them, but they don't love me. I'm adept at making scones, but my biscuits are coming out like them too. They are short but not flaky. What am I doing wrong? The butter is cold, and I cut it quickly by knife, then by hand until it resembles cornmeal.

Baltimore, if there’s anybody who knows biscuits, it’s my pal Scott Peacock, celebrity chef of the south and co-author of “The Gift of Southern Cooking.”

After reading your question, I consulted Peacock, who’s based in Decatur, Ga., home to his restaurant, Watershed. Here’s what he had to say, via e-mail: “I think the problem is cutting in the fat too much. You need to leave some large pieces that will flatten out and create those flakes the reader is looking for.”

Coincidentally, Peacock has just put together a biscuit how-to photo slide show for Better Homes and Gardens. For Baltimore, he recommends paying particular attention to “slide number 6, which gives a description and visual of the all important ‘working the fat’ step in biscuit making.”

Scott Peacock's recipe for Classic Buttermilk Biscuits.

(Kim O'Donnel)

Cauliflower: I have two heads of cauliflower in my fridge. I'm thinking a soup or puree, but I'm open to pretty much anything, just looking for low fat. What's your favorite way to prepare cauliflower?

Until I discovered the magic of roasted cauli, I was a card-carrying member of Cauliflower Haters’ Anonymous. The dry heat transforms those raw curds into sweet, tender morsels that play well with a variety of flavors. A few of my all-time favorites include:
Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce, with an Indian-inspired spice rub and Sicilian style, with raisins, pine nuts, garlic and bread crumbs.

Vday idea: Happy Valentine’s in advance! In trying to keep expenses down, I’ve decided I want to cook something for Valentine’s Day. My husband requested something meaty, either steak or lamb. Since cuts of meat are pricey, do you have any suggestions and any sides? For dessert, planning on just making heart-shaped brownies or maybe an apple crisp. Thanks and hope you enjoy yours!

In the lamb department, I’d consider braising a few lamb shanks, a relatively thrifty (and muscle-y) cut of meat that transforms into tender sweet nothings after just two hours stewing in a pot of aromatics.

For steak, my money’s on the flat iron (aka top blade), located right by the shoulder. Marinate this baby, and either grill or broil. Unlike a tender cut like filet or New York strip, the flat iron has a piece of connective tissue that you’ll want to remove just before serving. It’s got a toothier bite but I adore the flavor and the way it responds to marinades.

Valentine's Day Ribs: Making ribs in the crock pot with the BF this weekend and the recipe calls for pork baby back ribs -- are spare ribs okay? And the recipe does not say bone in or out (a sale on ribs has them either way). Finally, if I buy them today, should I freeze them?

Yes spare ribs are okay. Baby backs come from the loin; they tend to be smaller boned and meatier (and less fatty) than spare ribs which come from the side and the belly. Do buy them with the bone; you’ll get much more flavor. One more thing: because baby backs tend to be leaner, they often take less time to cook, so keep this mind as you make the adjustment.

What's Cooking transcript in entirety.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 11, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Chat Leftovers
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Thanks for posting my question Kim in regards to Vday Ideas! I was looking into convenient stores and cant find lamb shanks, but I like the idea of flat iron steak. Any ideas for marinade? I know there has to be some kind of acid to help breakdown the meat -- so maybe soy sauce, a bit of ginger, garlic, and lemon or lime? What say you or anyone else? Any ideas for marinades? Thanks again Kim for helping us in the kitchen!

Posted by: msmurtle | February 11, 2009 9:39 AM

Cauliflower suggestions:
Search for "impossible cauliflower quiche". I originally found the recipe in my "Campus Survival Cookbook" and it's a family favorite.

Roast cauliflower soup for two
(about 4 servings)

Preheat oven to 425

Half head cauliflower (about a cup) chopped
3 cloves garlic
1-2 T olive oil

Garlic is done in about 15 minutes; fish out and turn cauliflower. Test cauliflower for doneness at 20 minutes.

2 cups chicken broth
1 t thyme
freshly ground pepper

Put all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until cauliflower is size of couscous (or smooth). Put in saucepan and warm.

Add 4 oz (half cup) of low fat sour cream. (Recipe called for 1 cup milk in addition, but I didn’t use it).

Serve topped with Canadian bacon (fried to a crisp), shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese and French bread. subs: add 1 T sherry or white wine, another recipe calls for dark beer
To make dairy-free, use mashed potatoes to thicken
Use half broccoli, half cauliflower
Another possibility is curried cauliflower soup; one commenter added baby shrimp and peas, which sounds good!

Posted by: MichelleinMD1 | February 11, 2009 9:54 AM

A few weeks ago someone mentioned roasting kale. That sounded like a good idea, so I bought some--but now I can't remember the directions--what should do

Posted by: janedoe5 | February 11, 2009 10:30 AM

Thank you for the biscuit tips! I tried making biscuits a few weeks ago with no success. I'll have to check out that link! :)

Posted by: Merdi | February 11, 2009 11:53 AM

One trick to get biscuits to rise is to make sure that when you cut them with the biscuit cutter, you go straight down, then up and DO NOT TWIST the cutter. Twisting makes the sides stick together and you get flat biscuits.

Posted by: RockyMountainHigh | February 11, 2009 9:27 PM

A box of biscuit mix is found in more than half of America's kitchens. Look in your kitchen cupboard and chances are you will find a box of biscuit mix. The ultimate pantry staple, biscuit mix is a convenient and delicious shortcut to a host of delicious, baked recipe ideas.




Posted by: yamtech3 | February 11, 2009 11:25 PM

Hi, Kim. It's been a nutty week, so I just now read the transcript from Tuesday's chat. I love the idea of the Oscars party. I may be showing my age here, but my immediate answer to the Frost/Nixon problem was Watergate Salad! I'm sure there's a recipe for it online somewhere . . .

Posted by: hun-e-b | February 12, 2009 9:36 AM

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