Gourmandistan

Bettering beaten biscuits with lard and a little “Derb-kee” sauce

Ham Biscuits

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.

Ham biscuits

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).

Julep

Thank goodness for this blogging thing. Otherwise, the julep cups would never get any use.

BEATEN BISCUITS

  • Servings: about 40 1-1/2-inch biscuits
  • Print

(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).

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71 comments

  1. Oh how I love using lard for dough. I’ve only used it for pie dough so far, but I love the sound of your little savory biscuits. No wonder Michelle wouldn’t leave Steve alone with them. The sauce and ham slices sound like a great way of eating them.

    • They were good! My preference is for the softer, scone-like biscuits. But these are definitely better for party food. Not so many crumbs on the party clothes. 🙂

  2. Now who’s gonna be showing up on who’s doorstep!! (Since my other reason to visit KY up and died on me…) Glad, BTW, to see you put that “Mock” in before the pie-that-shall-not-be-named, lest ye incur the wrath of the Dark Lords of Desserts.

  3. You know, I have an image of Michelle sighing and eye-rolling her way through this entire process. Until the very end, when the moment of revelation and redemption occurs. Thanks for the links. I never knew that beaten biscuits and New England hardtack were related (and I like hardtack, especially in soup). Just out of curiosity, what do locals drink with one of these little beaten biscuit sandwiches? Thanks. Ken

    • Yeah, there was a good bit of crabbing on my end. I’ve always hated those awful things, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s funny you say that about the soup, as we were talking about maybe using some in an oyster cracker sort of way. As for the drinking, I guess if one is not a bourbon fan (and I’m not), sweet iced tea would probably be the best, or at least most traditional, choice.

    • Oh, for sure! Here in the Southern U.S., they turn up on just about every party buffet. The sort of ham we have is very salty and the bland little biscuits are a nice foil.

  4. My mom always used lard and buttermilk in her biscuits and this day and age you just don’t hear of it! I have yet to have a biscuit half as good. Printing this to make for the weekend breakfast. Awww..looking forward to it!

    • Your mom was a wise woman. That’s the best choice for any biscuits in my book! These were good for what they were, but I’d rather have a soft baking powder biscuit any day.

    • Your biscuits look lovely, and much like the way I usually make (and truthfully prefer) them. These are different—much denser and more cracker-like at least at first. They do hold up well to ham slices and are easier to eat in a party setting, so I understand their appeal.

  5. Laura

    Thanks for the memories! My mother loved Durkee’s Famous Sauce – and she has been gone for many years. Don’t think I’ve seen it in the stores for eons! I usually just mix a little dijon mustard into mayo for some zing.

    • I’ve always loved Durkee’s sauce, too—though I haven’t bought it in years. From Googling around about it, I learned it is something of a cult favorite, though not necessarily in any particular region. There’s apparently even some legend about Mary Todd Lincoln serving it in the White House!

  6. Your biscuits look so good…no telling how many I could eat. I always like Durkee’s sauce but haven’t had it in years. I’m sure your creation was even better.

    • Same here, Karen. I used to always buy Durkee’s, but haven’t done so in ages. I thought it might have been a Southern thing (and apparently it’s now owned by some Memphis-based company), but that wasn’t always the case and it has a somewhat cult-like following in many different regions. I might have to buy some and see if it tastes like I remember it tasting.

  7. The beaten biscuits actually look like adorable macaroons 🙂 I wouldn’t rush to the store either incase they were gone. Its funny about your cups that get use thanks to blogging, because I have bought many more kitchen contraptions thanks to blogging and wanting to make things, do you have that “problem” too?

    • Thanks, Ann, and what high praise coming from the biscuit guru! I think of beaten biscuits as a central Kentucky thing. I don’t remember ever seeing them in western part of the state when I was growing up. Maybe that’s why it took me a while to develop a taste for them.

  8. What a cool idea to do a Kentucky derby-inspired post! I love it. These look like the perfect little treats and I love that you added a lovely little sauce and some meat. I kind of wish I were there!

    • It is a charming cookbook. I’m sure I bought it soon after it came out in the late 80s. I gather the author, while from Kentucky, became something of a New York muckety-muck.

        • Steve was born in Brooklyn and, though he was mostly raised here, visited his dad up there in the summers and school vacations and such. But none for me except for lots of friends and lots of visits and a great love of the city.

  9. I’ve never heard of the beaten biscuit, reading the Wikipedia entry they were not kidding about the beating!! Wouldn’t all that beating make the biscuit really hard? I’d like to try the food processor method though, with derby-kee sauce. 🙂
    And a special julep cup? The things I’m learning about from your post!

    • Isn’t it funny? I always thought they were a distinctly southern U.S. thing, but now I know from Wikipedia that they are not. And, yes, they are hard and almost cracker-like (at least on the first day). I can now sort of understand their appeal as a party food. Their blandness makes them a nice foil for very salty country ham and their sturdiness makes them an easier to eat party food than would a more typical scone-like crumbly biscuit.

      And, lord, yes, everybody like Steve who grew up and/or went to college near Louisville has an assortment of (usually engraved) sterling julep cups. Our somewhat southern but probably really more midwestern city becomes positively antebellum for one week a year. It is rather bizarre.

  10. I’m not at all familiar with beaten biscuits, Michelle, but I sure wish I was. They look so appetizing with that country ham peaking out. This is some coincidence. Just today, I received a delivery from a local CSA. I didn’t join for the fruits and vegetables — I can get all I want in 2 weeks — but because they have fresh, organic lard. All I’ve been able to find is the hydrogenated stuff. Now, I’ve got a couple tubs in my freezer and I cannot wait for berry season to start. Their are pies in my future. 🙂

  11. Happy Derby day! Those beaten biscuits and that delicious slice of ham, are an ultimate yes please moment! If only it wasn’t so late a night here, I’d be whipping off to the kitchen and getting down into some serious baking love. As for love, I need a mint julep too! So many #firstworldproblems 😉

  12. Hiya Michelle, I’ve just come across your site on wordpress. Your photos are beautiful. Making me very hungry right now. Keep up the great work. I’ve followed your page so I can keep up with all your great cooking 🙂

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