Bacon Fat, Cheddar, and Chive Biscuits

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Remember how I made candied bacon earlier this week?  Well, not only do I love cooked bacon strips, I also love the leftover bacon grease!  While discussing the versatility of cooking with bacon grease, my friend Ray mentioned how his father cooked up a couple of pounds of bacon during the holidays, but threw the bacon grease away (ouch!)  I made him promise to save them for me in the future, so now we’re back on friendly terms.  Bacon fat is actually wonderful to have around.  It infuses whatever you’re cooking with a subtle smokiness and elevates the dish with some richness, whether it is roasted potatoes, sautéed vegetables, or how about… biscuits?

I have a biscuit recipe that produces consistent results every time: flaky on the outside, light and tender on the inside.  But, as you well know, I can’t leave well enough alone.  I decided to substitute the butter with cold, hardened bacon fat, and mixed in some cheddar cheese and chives to up the tasty quotient.  They came out of the oven so beautifully!  Bacon makes just about everything taste better, as far as I’m concerned.

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If dieting is one of your new year’s resolutions, go ahead and make these immediately before the diet starts (next week, right?)  In the meantime, devour with unapologetic greed.  And enter the giveaway to win a free box of bacon from Des Moines Bacon Company if you haven’t already done so!  (deadline is January 19 at 11:59PM EST)

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Bacon Fat, Cheddar, and Chive Biscuits
(makes 14 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp sugar
½ cup bacon fat, cold, cut into small cubes
1½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
2/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar.  Work bacon fat into the dry ingredients with your fingers until mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Stir in 1 ¼ cup of cheese and chives.  Add milk, and stir with a fork just until dough comes together.  Do not overmix.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently for 10 to 12 times.

Pat dough into a circle about ½ inch thick.  Cut out biscuits using a floured 2-inch round cutter.  Press down on the dough and do not twist with the cutter.  Transfer biscuits to the prepared baking sheets, top biscuits with reserved cheese, and bake until brown, 15 to 18 minutes.  Serve hot.

* I like to save the drippings in a microwaveable container or glass jar for future uses.  I let the fat cool to room temperature, pour it through a sieve (lined with a coffee filter to get rid of the brown bits), and then store the fat in the freezer.  Whenever I need to use it, I just heat it in the microwave for a bit and melt it until it becomes liquid.

*If you don’t have enough bacon fat, just use butter until you have a total of half cup of fat.

*By the way, the bacon fat I used in this recipe is rendered from Des Moines Bacon Company’s hardwood smoked uncured bacon


Creamed Summer Corn

As some of you may know, I have a major obsession with corn.  I can eat it every day for the rest of my life.  True story.  So, to further your (or my) corn addiction, try this: Ad Hoc creamed corn!

Even though this is a side dish, it’s definitely not an afterthought.  The lime gives the dish a very interesting layer of flavor, but I think the amount called for in the cookbook is a bit too much.  To prevent the lime from overpowering the freshness that comes from the chives, I ended up using the zest of half of a lime.  As much as I am crrraaazy about corn on the cob, creamed corn is admittedly so delicious and comforting.  I actually polished off a big bowl of it as a main course.  Balanced diet?  Hmmm…not really.

Cutting the kernels off the cobs is probably the most cumbersome step.  Don’t you hate it when the kernels fly all over the place?  Aside from that, the rest is a breeze.

Sometimes I make changes to the recipes for health-conscious reasons.  If you want, you can substitute a portion of the cream with whole or low fat milk, but don’t replace the cream entirely.  It won’t thicken up properly.

Creamed Summer Corn
Adapted from the Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook
(Serves 6)

6 ears sweet corn, shucked
1 large lime
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Sea salt, to taste
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

With a sharp knife, cut vertically down each ear of corn to slice off the kernels.  Put the kernels in a large bowl, then hold each cup over the bowl and use a spoon or the back of a knife to scrape any remaining corn and the milk from the cob.

Grate the zest of half of a lime, preferably with a microplane grater; set aside.  Cut the lime in half.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the corn, squeeze about 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, or to taste, over the corn.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, concentrating the flavor, and the corn is beginning to sizzle, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Stir in cream, cayenne pepper, and lime zest.  Continue to cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cream is absorbed by the corn.  Add salt to taste and stir in the chives.

*Yellow and white corn both work.  If you want to use frozen corn, just add it directly to the pan without defrosting.

*If you prefer a subtle chive flavor, add it along with the cream, cayenne pepper, and lime zest to allow it to cook a bit.  If you don’t like chives at all, you can use flat-leaf parsley.


Grilled Corn with Parmesan Garlic Butter

I hope you had a happy July 4th filled with good food, good friends, fireworks and much more!

Have you noticed a plethora of corn in the markets lately?  Eating corn on the cobs is pretty much an essential rite of summer.  I like them lightly steamed with no condiment; they are inherently perfect and require absolutely no adornment.  No matter how you eat it, the end result is always the same: sweet, crunchy, succulent.  However, for a more decadent treat, I like to make grilled corn with parmesan garlic butter.

Since I don’t have a grill, I roast the corn in the oven and then blacken it under the broiler.  I then baste it with the butter mixture while it’s still hot, so that it is distributed evenly in between the kernels.  The butter really ups the deliciousness factor.  Trust me on this one!

Grilled Corn with Parmesan Garlic Butter
(serves 4)

4 ears of fresh corn, shucked
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat, turn off the heat, and add the garlic cloves. Let the garlic infuse in the melted butter for about 5 minutes, discard the garlic, and stir in parsley.

Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the corn on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the kernels are tender, about 15 minutes. Place the corn under the broiler, turning occasionally, until lightly charred. Brush the reserved butter mixture on the corn and sprinkle with cheese.