Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What would Jesse Do?

These are Southern breakfast biscuits, and they are the real thing.

And Jesse Willis Lewis, a legendary cook of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, showed me his way to make them. Jesse was the family cook for Marshall Ballard, editor of the" New Orleans Item". Edith Ballard Watts, Mr Ballard's daughter, wrote a book about Jesse and his recipes and dinners, which she says dazzled opera tenors, Catholic bishops, Henry Luce, and H.L. Mencken, (the last no fan of the South, which he called "The Sahara of the Bozart"). The book is"Jesse's Book of Creole and Deep South Recipes".

Anyone who hates lard should click away now, for lard these biscuits have in abundance. On the other hand ,you might want to take a chance on something delicious that arguably might take ten minutes off your life in the distant future. The chances are that your doctor and Big Pharma may get you first when they prescribe you the Next Big Drug that just happens to have leukemia as an "adverse reaction". I would rather take my chances with the biscuits.

Jesse's recipe is very forgiving. I know this because it forgave me. I have the bad habit of looking at the ingredients and ignoring the directions. Regular cooking may overlook this but baking will smote you down every time. Just not with this recipe. I added the milk before I cut the lard into the flour. This created a doughy mess I had to cure by adding more flour. What was the worst that could happen I wondered? I can always give the biscuits, or whatever comes out of the oven in their place, to the beagle and the possums. And then I did something worse- I worked the lard into the dough with my fingers. For an eternity. I knew this would be fatal. Rigor mortis would set in after 5 minutes at 500 degrees. A Yankee kills another batch of biscuits-

But I didn't. Butter. Strawberry jam made from Portland, Tennessee strawberries. Lard heaven! I ate four biscuits, 2 Jimmy Dean sausages, and a fried egg. Then I drank a glass of pomegranate juice, which is supposed to be some kind of life preservative. Maybe breakfast would only shorten my life by five minutes, if the juice kicked in.

Jesse's Old Fashioned Hot Biscuits

2 cups of non-self -rising flour.

1 tsp salt.

1 teaspoon of sugar.

2 teaspoons of baking powder.

6 level tablespoons of lard.

1 cup sweet milk.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.Then add the lard and cut it into the dough with the edge of a spoon until it is the size of peas. Then stir in the milk. Put flour on a board, put the dough on it, then roll the dough out till it is 1/2 inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a glass or a biscuit cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake 10 t0 15 minutes at 500 degrees.

Makes 12 to 15 biscuits.

And remember- I did this backwards. And it still worked.

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