Cheesy Jalapeno Biscuits

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I live with a character. She is nearly 6-feet-tall with the greatest legs in Washington state. She has red hair and would describe her own body as looking like a carrot.

Her family is Jewish, but this year they celebrated Hanukkah with a night on the town and ate barbecue pork.

She graduated with a degree in theater. She has more rings than fingers, and hoops dangle from her ears daily.

She is easily one of the most generous people I’ve ever met.

At a Mexican restaurant once, the waitress asked us if we would like our chips refilled and Halle responded, “Oh you temptressss.”

We eat popcorn together. She talks up my cooking abilities. I remind her she is one of the most hardworking people I know.

Naturally, when her 23rd birthday rolled around last month, I had to make something special. She has raved about the biscuits in Portland, ones with spicy jalapenos and the chew of cheddar. I made a take on this, which we happily gobbled up.

Makes 12 little biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives or scallions
  • 1/3 cup sharp provolone or cheddar, grated
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

To form and finish biscuits

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour distributed in rimmed baking sheet
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sharp provolone or cheddar, grated

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Spray 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Generously spray inside and outside of 1/4 cup dry measure with nonstick cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse all of the dry ingredients for the dough, until combined. Scatter butter cubes over dry ingredients; pulse until mixture becomes crumbly. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add grated cheese, jalapeno and chives. Pour buttermilk into dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated.

To form and bake biscuits: Using 1/4 cup dry measure and working quickly, scoop level amount of dough; drop dough from measuring cup into flour on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, forming 12 mounds. Dust tops of each piece of dough with flour and form into balls. Tap off excess flour and place into the prepared cake pan. Arrange nine balls around the outside of the pan and three in the center. Brush the tops with melted butter, being careful to not flatten them. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cheese. Bake five minutes, then reduce temperature to 450 degrees. Continue to bake until biscuits are a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Cool in pan two minutes, then remove and serve, preferably with more butter.

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Cowgirl Creamery

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When parents divorce, you are forced to create new traditions. In high school I began spending Christmas Eve with Mom and Christmas with Dad. The first year we did this, my mom successfully subdued my laments about Christmas as a family…with a cheese plate.

She went to the Delicatessen down the street in Missoula and picked up a few cheeses wrapped in butcher paper and a twine bow. She spread the cheeses out on a large, white plate, each with their own small knife. She sliced apple, like she used to, and set it next to the cheeses, offering a crisp, fruity bite to contrast with the fattier, creamier nibbles.

We plopped on her sandy-colored, Pottery Barn couch with simultaneous sighs. We dove into the plate, clutched the corresponding knives, and dug into our respective cheeses.

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Christmas Eve a few years ago, a round soft cheese found its way onto our plate. Someone behind the cheese counter recommended Cowgirl Creamery’s Mount Tam. I don’t generally like the rind on any cheese, but Cowgirl Creamery’s are mild and only enhance the center’s flavor.

This year, thanks to the Cowgirl’s themselves, three of Cowgirl Creamery’s cheeses dominated our plate: Mt. Tam, Devil’s Gulch and Red Hawk. We went back and forth but ultimately decided Mt. Tam remains our favorite.

Cheese Box Giveaway

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Perhaps by now that Turkey is dwindling and the pie is taking up less space on your countertop. So you need some cheese.

Even if the Thanksgiving leftovers were overflowing, you would probably still need cheese. Why not?

I’m doing a cheese box giveaway. BelGioioso Cheese Inc. generously filled my fridge drawers and they could do the same for you. Simply respond to this post with a haiku, rap or other poem about our favorite dairy friend.

Rap writing is a new thing of mine. When I was looking for a job I even sent one food company a rap about the sales position I was applying for. I didn’t hear a response, but I promise I will respond to you.

It’s only fair that I share one of my own, so here is what I sent Cater2.me a couple months ago when they wanted to know something interesting about me:

Please hire me ‘cuz all this cheese aint free

If you took this chance there’d be a selling spree

Workin’ well with people

Motivated on my own

I have a tenacious spirit

And a love for bahn mi, yo

I know we a share a passion

For makin’ food and partners

This career excites me

So much this rap is bonkers

There you go. Happy Monday. Comment below with a creative piece of your own for a chance to win a box of 7 different BelGioioso cheeses delivered to your door. Why a poem? Because it’s cheesy.

Thank you culture: the word on cheese and Belgioioso Cheese Inc. for making this possible. Contest winner must have a U.S. address for shipment.

Bucatini with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce, Prosciutto and Sage

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This week was nothing short of nuts. First, I got a kidney infection. Then 14 cheeses arrived at my door. Both made my cry. As something of a cheese-fanatic, receiving cheese in the mail is somewhat of a dream. BelGioioso Cheese Inc. sent me a dreamy package containing 7 of their popular cheeses. I used their American Grana to make this bucatini dish, which is now featured on culture: the word on cheese’s website.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ of a yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 8 slices prosciutto
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup half and half or heavy cream
  • ½ cup BelGioioso American Grana, grated, plus more for sprinkling
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ¾ pound dry bucatini
  • 8 sage leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With the skin still on, loosely wrap the garlic loosely with foil and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes until soft.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and ½ tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a sauté pan (I use a cast iron pan). Add sliced onions and sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until the onions begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and stir occasionally until they turn a deep golden color and are caramelized, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the cubes of butternut squash in a glass 9×13 pan. Drizzle with 1/8 cup olive oil and toss to combine. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Lay 8 slices of prosciutto on a foil-lined baking sheet. Crisp in the oven for about 15 minutes, flipping once. Set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.

For the sauce, squeeze the garlic out of their peels into a blender. Add half of the cooked squash and all of the caramelized onions. Then add chicken broth, cream, cheese and nutmeg. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add bucatini into the boiling water, cook until al dente. Drain. Return to pot and toss with sauce and reserved cubes of squash.

In the same pan you used to cook the onions, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot, lay the sage leaves into the oil. Cook for about 30 seconds, flipping once. Cool on a paper towel.

To assemble, use tongs to move noodles to individual plates, letting excess sauce drip off back into the pot. Crumble the prosciutto over the noodles. Top with two sage leaves each. Sprinkle with extra grated American Grana and pepper. Serve immediately.

Homemade Ricotta

 

Separated into curd and whey
Separated into curd and whey

In a single weekend I’ve eaten copious amounts of dill as well as brie rind–two things I previously disliked. The dill flecked the smoked salmon dip with bright green, so I knew what was coming. Shockingly, I didn’t mind the flavor. Normally I’m haunted with memories of my Grandmother Bunny’s peas sprinkled with dill and can’t even smell it without making a face.

Brie, on the other hand, is one of my favorite cheeses when it’s top quality; however, I’ve never cared for the rind, finding it offensive in flavor. Once while at a family beach house on Lake Erie, my aunt scolded me for eating the soft center and leaving the rind behind during a potluck. I was seven.

This week I bought a round of goat brie, which had the creamiest middle encased in a subtle outer shell. The co-op cashier told me she also loves this brie, and we shared a moment when I told her I liked it for its unoffensive rind. She agreed. So I ate the rind, with pleasure.

I feel like overcoming these food aversions is like a right of passage into the adult world, as if eating both the center and the rind is my coming of age symbol. This is fitting considering my 22nd birthday is tomorrow. Similarly, this will be the first year I don’t want birthday cake. Instead, I want cookies and ice cream, which is mildly horrifying because that’s my dad’s birthday dessert of choice.

In the spirit of new things, here is a recipe for homemade ricotta, a cooking task I’ve fallen in love with.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups/Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Set a large sieve or mesh strainer over a large bowl and line it with a damp cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel or enamel pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for a couple minutes, allowing the mixture to curdle. It will separate into the curds and the whey (the liquid).

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow the mixture to drain at room temperature for 15-25 minutes depending on how thick you like your ricotta. I like it a little less thick so it’s spreadable. Once drained, move the curds into a separate bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to four days.

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*Whey: When I make ricotta I end up with about a quart of leftover whey. I don’t like wasting it, so I marinate meat with it. The enzymes in the whey tenderize meat. You could also add it to a smoothie instead of milk. Whey is rich in protein.