It is wonderfully once again time for ramps, a benefit of Gourmandistan’s close proximity to Appalachia. (Other benefits are elk viewing tours, excellent attorneys/former judges and enormous amounts of dirty, dirty coal money to support Steve’s beloved UK Wildcats.) Michelle bought some ramps immediately upon spotting them at our first spring farmers’ market, and we happily enjoyed them in several dishes before inspiration struck twice and we ended up with what may be the best sandwich on earth.
It started when Michelle began to worry about some fast-fading ramps remaining in the refrigerator while simultaneously deciding we needed to re-up our supply of duck stock. While she pondered the fate of the ramps, Steve dutifully defrosted and roasted our lone duck. Michelle, meanwhile, determined that some surplus Fontina cheese and the soon-to-be-spoiled ramps might pair nicely in a fluffy biscuit. She set out to see if she was right as the duck slowly cooked in the oven. After the carcass cooled, Steve came back to the kitchen for dissection. Seeking to separate the breast meat as whole as possible, Steve carefully peeled back the roasted duck skin in large pieces. That’s when the second inspiration for one of the world’s best sandwiches came about.
Remembering a marvelous crispy chicken skin appetizer we enjoyed in Chicago at Yusho, Steve decided to try it at home. After stripping the carcass, separating duck fat and setting up the stock pot, Steve slowly rendered the skin in a skillet, turning up the heat on occasion until both sides were crackly and bubbly. At the same time Michelle made a sweet and sour slaw with sugar, mayo and cider vinegar, seeing the possibilities for a slow-roasted duck sandwich.
We stacked shreds of duck and a little slaw on top of a skin slab, slathered on a little sweet-hot mustard and HOLLA! Nutty from Fontina, gar-leeky with ramp, sweet, hot and tender with a stunning sparkle of crispy duck skin. They may have biscuits along with ramps back in the mountains—but they’ve damn sure never seen anything this good up in Rough & Tough Holler.
RAMP AND CHEESE BISCUITS
(adapted from the Savory Cream Biscuits in Lauren Groveman’s Kitchen)
- 2 TB butter, for sautéing the ramps
- 1/2 c. finely chopped ramps (or substitute scallions), white and green parts separated
- Black pepper
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 TB baking powder
- 1 TB sugar
- 1-1/4 t. salt
- 3 TB cold butter, cut into small dice
- 1-1/3 c. heavy cream (maybe more)
- 2 TB melted butter, for glaze
- 1/2 c. shredded Fontina or other melting cheese
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet. Cook white parts of ramps over low heat. Season liberally with pepper. Add green ramp leaves. Toss, then remove from heat.
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut cold butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter, a fork or your fingers.
Add ramps to cream. Add cream mixture to flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until moist and holding together. Add more cream if necessary. Turn the mixture out on to a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly a few times, then roll out to a thickness of about 1/3″. Cut out as many biscuits as you can, in the size you want. (Ours were 2-1/2″, but you can make smaller.)
Place half the biscuit rounds on the prepared baking sheet. Top each with shredded cheese. Then, top with the remaining biscuit rounds, pressing the tops down gently.
Brush biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with some grated Parmesan.
Bake in center of oven for 15-17 minutes, until nicely browned.
They are fine little things. And, best of all, it means that spring is finally here.
I have to pay a premium from my wild foods guy for the pleasure. But it’s a pleasure worth paying! (And if these are the worst of my vices and extravagances, my wife is a happy woman.)
There’s a hillside I drive by every day on the way to work that is just covered with them. Which of course might make one ask why I paid for them at the market? Well, there’s not a good place to pull off. 🙂
That’s almost enough to make me relocate.
This combination sounds phenomenal!
Thanks! It really was one of those happy accidents.
I envy you your ramps, Michelle. There will not be any available here until the farmers markets open and that won’t be for another month. Then it will be a mad dash to the few vendors that offer them. I can say, though, if I’m lucky again this year, I’ll be making these biscuits. The mix of cheeses make these sound irresistible. Who am I kidding? I’ll be making these biscuits with or without the ramps. Thanks for sharing.
Spring will come to Chicago soon! These are great biscuits. (Of course, how could they not be with all that cream?) The original recipe calls for scallions and red peppers and it’s really good that way too.
Sounds amazing, I love a good sandwich.
Thanks! Me, too. 🙂
That is a fine sandwich, although I would prefer it between good bread rather than, what appear to be, scones. The American biscuit is a mystery to insular folk such as myself. It sits with grits and John Wayne’s version of a Roman Centurion as being totally American. Love it:)
Wayne is much better as Temujin or Mike Kirby, especially if you watch him for the camp factor. Grits are like polenta, and seem to us much less baffling than other foods…Marmite, for example.
Marmite is disgusting – give me grits and biscuits any day 😉
I think biscuits are more or less the same as English scones.
I see that your time in the South served you well.
It is morning and I now have a craving for crispy duck skin and your delicious biscuit sandwich. That is a real problem with no ducks or ramps in one’s possession…my toast will be very disappointing. 🙂
Thanks, Karen. And, I must admit, I’ve been thinking about crispy duck skin all week.
The ultimate gourmet indeed. I love all three ingredients in general (but this combination) is so long weekend worthy. Truly tasty looking nosh!
Thanks so much! It was a rather happy accident.
That’s a delicious lunch 🙂
Wow wow wow. Sounds amazing. And I agree about the chicken skin at Yusho – quite the treat!
Thanks, Emma. Isn’t Yusho great? I can’t wait to go back there my next time in Chicago.
sweet picture. I will have to substitute the duck. Duck=yuck.
Thanks! And too bad for that. 😦
You have markets already.. ramps?? What the.. I’m living in the wrong province:P I love your spontaneous gourmet invention!!
Thanks, Smidge! We actually have had some markets all winter—though they mostly just had meat at those. And, don’t get too jealous. There hasn’t been much green stuff yet. The ramps are always among the first things to arrive … which is why everybody gets so excited about what is essentially just an onion.
have never tasted ramps 😦 😦 i desperately want to!
If they arrived at any other time of year, they’d probably ignored. It’s just that they’re the first real green things to come each spring and it makes everyone kinda crazy!
It looks delicious!
I adore ramps and these look divine. Love hearing what you did with the skin. It is finally spring here in the Mid-Atlantic and I can’t wait to got my hands on some of them!
How much do the little buggers go for at the Union Square farmers’ market?
$4 a bunch.
I know. I think Rampa-palooza is coming up in the Hudson River Valley soon…
wow this is a really nice combination, that roast duck sandwiched in that cheese biscuits looks amazing
Thanks! Usually I’m like “on to the next meal,” but I must admit that I keep thinking about this combo.
I’m from WV and we do love our ramps, that’s for sure. I live in Virginia now, and we have been trying to grow ramps on our property, but the dang squirrels eat the shoots before they can really grow. Would love some tips on how to handle this if anyone knows! That biscuit looks totally divine. Wow.
Thanks, Kendra! I don’t know the answer to that. We haven’t found any ramps on our land, though it otherwise seems perfect for them (and there are lots just down the road). Maybe it’s the squirrels!
Oh my, now that should be your signature sandwich!
I am literally drooling.
It was one of our better creations. Weeks ago and we’re still talking about it!
Hi there. The current Food on Friday on Carole’s Chatter is collecting links to dishes using duck or other game birds. I do hope you link this in. This is the link . It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there some good ones already. Cheers
What a delicious sounding sandwich! Can’t wait for ramps to attack the markets in these parts. Duck and ramps, mmm – you have me thinking…
I’m pretty sure they’re heading your way!