It’s Kentucky Derby week again, and we were searching for seasonally appropriate (at least for the Louisville area) dishes to discuss. Michelle was disinclined to make beaten biscuits, though alternate Derby food ideas were not forthcoming. Even though Steve pointed out that Charles Patteson included a food processor version of the infamous long-kneaded dough in his cookbook (along with the pre-Emancipation slave labor and post-Civil War “biscuit brake” methods), Michelle resisted. She’d been subjected to far too many virtually tasteless, artificially white and sometimes rock-hard versions on Derby buffets through the years, usually surrounding a sad, overly salty piece of country ham. As Steve continued to insist there were no Derby foods left (having already run through Benedictine, Mock Derby Pie and butter buns), Michelle wavered, wondered if a grits dish would be a better option, then relented.
Steve set to work on what turned out to be little more trouble than making a pâte brisée, the food processor happily whacking the dry ingredients and lard into the “cracker crumb” stage, then busily beating in milk and cold water until the dough became soft and silky. Michelle skeptically cut small rounds, pricked them with a fork and helped Steve put them on cookie sheets. After a two-stage baking process, we split the biscuits, added country ham and a bit of butter (according to Patteson, the traditional Derby presentation). Michelle became a convert. Our biscuits were firm enough to hold a ham slice but not hardtack-hard, with the lard adding a wonderfully short texture and savory flavor.
Michelle thought the little biscuits deserved a better condiment. Steve suggested Durkee Famous Sauce, a commercial mayo-and-mustard combo. Michelle thought it sounded like a good idea, but didn’t want to go out to the store with so many biscuits still around (and Steve willing to eat them with butter). She quickly combined Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and a bit of mango chutney into a zesty-sweet slather Steve calls “Derb-kee Sauce.” It was so good we may never buy the store stuff again (though Michelle prefers its name to Steve’s awful pun).
(adapted, slightly, from Charles Patteson’s Kentucky Cooking)
- 2 c. all-purpose flour (preferably a soft wheat type like White Lily or Martha White)
- 1/4 t. salt
- Pinch of baking soda
- 1/4 t. sugar
- 6 TB cold lard
- 1/4 c. cold whole milk
- 1/4 c. cold water
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with metal blade. Pulse a couple of times to blend. Add lard and pulse until mixture is mealy. With machine running, add milk and water. Process for about 2 minutes “until the dough is shiny, elastic and rather sticky, not unlike pulled taffy.”
Place dough on a well-floured surface. Roll out to about 1/2″ thick. Cut out small round biscuits. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet at least 1/2″ apart. Use a fork to prick a row of holes on eat biscuit.
Bake in center of oven for 6-7 minutes at 350°. Increase oven temperature to 400° and bake for 7-8 minutes more, making certain that biscuits do not brown too much on the bottom.
Split the biscuits while still warm.
Fill biscuits with thin slices of country ham and a dab of sauce (2 parts mayonnaise, 1 part Dijon mustard and 1 part mango chutney).