Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Parmesan & Black Pepper BiscuitsMy sister, Eliot, arrived at my apartment Wednesday morning, fresh off a flight from India. She was super jet-lagged (hey there, 11.5 hour time difference!), but stayed mostly-awake while I baked these Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits. Once I was done photographing them, I gave her one to try, and all she could say was “mmmm.” It could have been because all she’d eaten for the previous two weeks was Indian food or that all biscuits are wonderful or that she was half-asleep at the time…

Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

…but probably not, because I was doing the exact same thing. These cheese biscuits, y’all. They’re my favorite soup side.

Parmesan & Black Pepper BiscuitsParmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

They first came to be a couple of Oscar Nights ago when I made them to go with a batch of Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup. Those biscuits (and Leo’s win!) were thebest things to happen that night, and I’ve been toying with their formula ever since. The resulting biscuits are flaky and buttery with a warm, salty, spicy, slightly-funky flavor that is everything you could want on a cold winter’s night.

Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Oh, and they’re super easy to make. I mean, if you turn on the oven now, you can have a batch of warm biscuits in about 40 minutes. Just combine some flour, cornstarch, a touch of sugar, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in a bowl…

Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

…and add some freshly grated parmesan. If you don’t want to shell out for Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano is less expensive and works just as well.

Parmesan & Black Pepper BiscuitsParmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Cut in some cold butter and fold in buttermilk until a dough forms. Pat it out and fold it a few times to build some layers.

Parmesan & Black Pepper BiscuitsParmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Use a round biscuit cutter or a sharp chef’s knife to cut biscuits. Place them close together on a parchment-lined pan and brush a little more buttermilk on the tops.

Parmesan & Black Pepper BiscuitsParmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Then bake ‘em until they’re golden on top, light and tender in the centers, and singing you their cheesy siren song.

Parmesan & Black Pepper BiscuitsParmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Trust me, you won’t be able to resist.

Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits
makes 12-14 biscuits

1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly-cracked black pepper
1 cup freshly-grated parmesan cheese
3/4-1 cup buttermilk, very cold

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

Cut your stick of butter into two 4 tablespoon pieces. Cut one piece into four batons, and cut the other into very thin pats. Refrigerate until needed.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, salt, and black pepper. Whisk in grated parmesan. Add chilled butter. Using your fingertips (not your palms!) or a pastry blender, cut cold butter into flour mixture until it is roughly the size of peas.

Pour in 3/4 cup cold buttermilk. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. If it seems dry, add more buttermilk by the tablespoon.

Turn dough (and any unincorporated flour bits) out onto a floured surface. Flour your fingertips and pat the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Fold dough in half, and turn one quarter turn. Pat out until it is 1/2-inch thick again. Repeat folding/quarter-turning/patting out until you have done it four times total. Re-flour your surface as necessary. For more tips on folding, see here.

Cut dough with a biscuit cutter or sharp knife (not serrated). Cut directly down—do not twist. Place biscuits close together in your prepared pan. Pat biscuit dough scraps into a cohesive piece, and cut until you have used all your dough.

Brush biscuits with extra buttermilk.

Bake biscuits for 14-15 minutes, until they have risen and are starting to brown. Let cool 5-10 minutes. Serve.

Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits are best the day they are made, but can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Parmesan & Black Pepper Biscuits

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaIt’s Election Day! For many of us, it’s the most stressful day since…Election Day 2012??? One great thing is that this part will be over soon. But we still have to get through the day.

When things are stressful, we often find solace in comfort food. My go-to is Baked Macaroni & Cheese, but maybe not for long.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaY’all, today’s recipe is a doozy: Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta. Oh my lord, is this good. The ragù itself is rich and deeply meaty, made with a very inexpensive cut of lamb that is simmered in tomato sauce until it’s extra tender. And the polenta! Ohhhh, the polenta. It’s quick, easy, and super cheesy.*

*Hey, that rhymes! In other news, I’m also cheesy.

This Lamb Ragù comes together in about two hours, but there is some real technique behind it. It all starts with preparing the lamb. Lay the chops in an even layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt. Massage it in a bit before flipping the chops and repeating the sprinkling and massaging. Then let it sit for 15-20 minutes. This step allows the lamb to get a good base flavor before it ever hits the pan. It also negates the need for additional salt. Once time is up, rinse the lamb in cold water and blot it dry with paper towels.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaAnd now, for the real action: the ragù. The basic rule of ragù is brown everything. Brown the crud out of it. This step is where all the flavor develops! When you go to sear the lamb, make sure it really gets seared–you want deep brown color. Sauté the vegetables for a good 20 minutes, scraping up all the fond (stuff in the bottom of the pan) and caramelizing the bits of onion. When you stir the tomato paste into the vegetables, let it cook until it begins to darken. Trust me, all of this will be worth it. You don’t want to burn anything, of course, but you want it brown.

Once the browning is done, toss in some thyme, crushed red pepper flake, and bay leaves. Add a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that you have crushed by hand before stirring in a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and three cups of beef stock. Bring all of that to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for an hour. Prepare for your kitchen to smell amazing.

Once the lamb is nice and tender, remove it from the pot. It won’t fall apart with the slightest nudge of a fork, but the bones should be loose. Shred the meat with two forks or pull it apart with your fingers. Add it back to the pot and then simmer for a few more minutes.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaWhile the ragù is simmering, make the Parmesan Polenta. I know polenta sounds fancy, but it is super easy and really inexpensive to make. If you have cornmeal and water, you can make polenta. All you need to do is bring the water to a boil and then slowly add the polenta (or cornmeal) while whisking constantly. Don’t add the polenta to the water all in one go–this will make everything lumpy and unappetizing. Add it slowly and just keep whisking until everything is nice and smooth. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in a little butter and a lot of grated Parmesan. Divide it among bowls, and top it with that gorgeous ragù.

One more thing about the polenta. This recipe makes enough for eight people. Unless you are having a dinner party (or you have a huge family), you likely don’t need that much. Feel free to cut the recipe in half for four servings. Heck, I cut it down to a single serving all the time (see note below). The polenta is best when it’s made just before serving.

Y’all, Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta is comfort food at its finest. This meal is a treat on any fall or winter night. It’s great for any old dinner, but also fancy enough for a dinner party. And it’s the perfect meal with which to distract yourself while you watch the returns come in tonight.Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta

Now, enough about food. GO VOTE!

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta
makes 6-8 servings

For the Lamb:
1 1/2-2 lbs bone-in lamb shoulder chops
1 tablespoon Kosher or sea salt
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Ragù:
3 medium carrots, cut into chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1 medium white onion, cut into chunks
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
2 bay leaves
1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in purée, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 cups low-sodium beef broth (I like Better than Bouillon)

For the Polenta:*
8 cups water
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 cups cornmeal or polenta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

For Serving:
chopped fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese

Use a paper towel to blot lamb dry. Lay chops in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with half the salt and briefly massage. Flip chops and sprinkle with the rest of the salt. Allow to sit for 15-30 minutes. Rinse chops in cold water and blot dry with paper towels.

Heat olive oil in a large non-reactive pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear lamb on all sides. Set aside on a plate and tent with foil. Turn heat down to medium.

Place carrots, celery, onion, and minced garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse or process until all vegetables are in pieces smaller than 1/2 inch, but not puréed. Add vegetables to the pot and let cook, stirring frequently, until starting to caramelize–about 20 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and continue cooking 3-5 minutes, until it begins to darken.

Return lamb and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add thyme, red pepper flake, and bay leaves. Stir in tomatoes and purée, balsamic vinegar, and beef broth. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to low. Cover pot and allow to simmer one hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove lamb from pot. Allow to cool a few minutes before shredding with two forks or clean hands. Discard bones.

Remove bay leaves from the pot. Stir in shredded lamb. Turn heat up to medium-low and allow ragù to cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Make polenta. Bring water to a boil. Add salt. Whisking constantly, add cornmeal or polenta in a thin stream. Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter and cheese. Divide polenta into bowls. Top with ragù. Sprinkle with fresh parsley or more cheese, if desired.

Note: Cut polenta recipe in half for four servings. To make polenta for one, use 1 cup of water, a pinch of salt, 1/4 cup polenta (or cornmeal), 1/2 tablespoon butter, and 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. The times and method are the same as written in the recipe.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta

Parmesan & Prosciutto Scones

Parmesan & Prosciutto SconesLet me start off by saying thank you for the enthusiastic reaction to On Weight Loss & Eating Habits. It was far beyond my wildest expectations! Thanks to all who liked, shared, commented, and gave feedback. That post is now far-and-away the most popular on this site.

And now, let’s talk about scones. I love a good scone. Soft, buttery centers and crunchy, nubbly edges? Sign me up.

Parmesan & Prosciutto SconesThere are already three scone recipes on this site: a Blackberry Lime recipe that would be a great way to use all those delicious summer berries, a Salted Grapefruit variety that’s perfect for fall and winter, and a Gingerbread version that you should definitely plan to make over the holidays. But today, I’m delving into the savory side of things with these fantastic Parmesan & Prosciutto Scones.

This recipe is inspired by some scones I had at Darwin’s, a small chain of coffee shops in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Two weeks ago, when my parents and I were helping my little sister move into her new apartment, one of my jobs was to keep everyone caffeinated. I popped into Darwin’s many times for large iced coffees and sustenance. Aside from trying many of their breakfast sandwiches (all fantastic, by the way), on the morning that we went insane and decided to paint my sister’s room, I picked up three Parmesan & Prosciutto scones. Cheesy and full of salty prosciutto, they were just what we needed to keep us from collapsing.

Parmesan & Prosciutto SconesParmesan & Prosciutto SconesBut, being a baker, I had to nitpick. The scones were certainly good, but far too salty. They needed a little sweetness to balance out all of the cheese and ham. I decided right then and there that I would make them myself with a few adjustments, and two weeks later, here they are.

Parmesan & Prosciutto SconesParmesan & Prosciutto SconesAnd oh, are they ever good. They’re super buttery, full of Parmesan and bits of salty prosciutto, and have a little bite from freshly ground black pepper. A couple of tablespoons of honey round out the flavor, keeping everything savory, but not too salty. These scones are just right.

My Parmesan & Prosciutto Scones are better than those that inspired them, if I do say so myself. They’re perfect for a weekend breakfast, or topping with thick slices of tomato for the best tomato sandwich of your life.Parmesan & Prosciutto SconesParmesan & Prosciutto SconesParmesan & Prosciutto Scones
makes 8 scones

2/3 cup whole milk + more for brushing, very cold
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
4-ounces prosciutto, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces

For Topping:
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for after baking (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

Make the scones. Pour whole milk into a measuring cup. Whisk in honey and mustard. Chill while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper. Stir in Parmesan cheese and prosciutto, using your fingers to separate any pieces that are stuck together. Use a pastry blender to cut in cold butter until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Stir in milk mixture with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Use your fingertips to shape dough into a 1-inch thick circle. Slice into eight wedges with a large chef’s knife. Remove cut scones to prepared baking sheet.

Top the scones. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and honey. Brush the mixture over the tops of the cut scones. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake scones for 13-15 minutes, moving the pan from the top to the bottom rack at the 7 minute mark. Sprinkle scones with more cheese after baking, if desired. Let scones cool on the pan for ten minutes before serving.

Scones are best the day they are made, but will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.