Josephine’s – Biscuits on my Mind

It has been a while since I posted, but that does not mean I am not testing out biscuits. Check this one out. I met a gaggle of girlfriends for brunch at Josephine’s a couple of weeks ago. I did not choose the location and had no expectations that I would find biscuits. But I did!

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Josephine’s is a relatively new restaurant, nestled in the middle of the 12 South neighborhood. This was my first time there. The interior was warm and elegant, and even bright for a rainy Sunday morning in February. The company was, of course, excellent. It has been a busy winter and I had not seen many of the attendees for weeks, if not months. I missed my friends!

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This was listed as a starter on their menu – one biscuit with gravy. Isn’t the presentation wonderful? I decided that would be plenty for my meal and it was. I realized recently that I am becoming a connoisseur of sausage gravy, so my expectations were high. This version did not disappoint. The sausage was clearly homemade and liberally distributed throughout the gravy. It was smoky and spicy – right up there with the best of the best. The biscuit itself was perfect – big, fluffy, and buttery. It was also sturdy enough to carry the gravy, a little-known requirement. Every bite was the perfect proportion of gravy to biscuit. I nearly licked the plate, truth be told.

So, if you are in Nashville and looking for biscuits and gravy, Josephine’s is well worth the stop. Even if you are not looking for biscuits, it is still worth the stop. Everything that our table ordered was admired, savored, discussed, and eventually devoured.

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No Fail Buttermilk Biscuits

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Are you looking for the most light, melt-in-your-mouth, savory, buttery biscuits for your holiday table? Or just for breakfast. Or for no reason at all. Look no further. These biscuits are made using a unique process that transforms the lowly biscuit into a new category of fluffy goodness. They are so easy that I decided to call them “no fail” biscuits. There is no guesswork, no kneading, and simple clean-up.

I stumbled on this recipe when looking for something to make for a friend’s pot luck “Biscuit Brunch.” Blogging about biscuits is fun, but it puts the pressure on when I’m asked to take biscuits somewhere. They can’t just be biscuits. They can’t just be good. They have to elevate the whole idea of a biscuit. So I pulled out the biscuit bible, aka Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. This cookbook is a treasure trove of recipes, history, folklore, and a variety of biscuit techniques.

Southern Biscuits

Why did you choose this biscuit recipe?

The recipe I chose to make is Shirley Corriher’s Country Buttermilk Biscuits, aka “Touch of Grace Biscuits” (link to great video of Shirley). What attracted me to it was the unique “wet dough” method. I had read about shaping the dough while wet, and this seemed like a great time to try it out. I added black pepper and chives to enhance the flavor.

What is persnickety about this recipe?

This recipe is all about technique. You mix up a super wet dough, like this:

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Then you scoop it out and put it into a pile of flour – having an actual scoop really does make a difference here. One of the bonuses of this recipe is the easy cleanup. Instead of getting flour all over your counters, it is contained in the pan you choose. You gently roll the dough in the flour, shape it into a ball in your hands, and put it into your pan, snuggling them all together. You’ll notice that the balls of dough actually feel light and rather delicate. This is a good thing.

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

After baking, you brush them with plenty of butter, which makes them look lovely and taste even better.

No Fail Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

So how were the biscuits?

They were fabulous – the texture was light and delicate and the chives gave a burst of flavor. By themselves, they were amazing.  They also turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the sausage gravy that I made. I think I’ll have to do a whole post on gravy some time. Meanwhile, just know that these biscuits and gravy go together like, well, biscuits and gravy.

No Fail Biscuits with Gravy | Persnickety Biscuit
>>> Click here to download printable recipe.

No Fail Buttermilk Biscuits with Chives and Pepper

Adapted from Shirley Corriher, via Southern Biscuits

Makes 12 large or 20 small biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups self-rising flour (White Lily is my favorite for biscuits)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 cup shortening, frozen, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh chives (optional)
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup good buttermilk (I used Cruze Dairy farms)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, for shaping
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line either 9-inch round or 8 X 10 inch rectangular pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and pepper. Using fingertips, work in the cold shortening until crumbly. It is ok if there are different size lumps, but none should be larger than a pea. Add chives and mix. Then stir in the buttermilk and cream until just incorporated. The dough will be very sticky.
  3. Spread the all-purpose flour onto a cookie sheet. Use a scoop to take about 1/4-1/2 cup of dough and put it onto the flour. An ice cream scoop is great for this. Using your hands, toss the pieces of dough with the flour, coating all sides. Shape into a ball. Place in pan on parchment. The biscuits can be placed close together. Continue until all dough is formed and pan is full.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Biscuits are done when light brown and have a slight “give” when pressed. Brush with melted butter.
  5. Share with someone you love!

Husk Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy

“Have you been to Husk yet?”
“We just went to Husk.”
“We just made reservations for Husk.”
“You just have to go to Husk.”

This is what They said. But did we listen to Them? No. The demands of engagement, moving, and wedding plans sadly derailed much of our adventurous eating out. Months passed.

Then my hip Atlanta cousins came through town for a family wedding. “Have you been to Husk?” They asked. Chastened, we answered that we had not but that we must go for brunch that very weekend.

Hip cousins wisely made reservations. We did not and did not stand much chance of getting a table. So we followed our old dating routine and went straight to the bar, which, although tucked away in a corner of the lower level, was bright and cheerful and, for the moment empty.

Hip cousins hung with us for a Bloody Mary and a fun visit until their table was ready. Then we had to focus on the menu.

It did not take long to decide, once we caved and agreed to order all of the things we really wanted. To start, we went with the biscuits and gravy.

Biscuits and Gravy

I don’t know what I expected, but I can tell you that my expectations were far surpassed. Photos will never do this dish justice. Words cannot adequately describe. This was the most basic of comfort foods accompanied by sophistication and complexity of flavor and texture.

The biscuits were perfect. Fist sized with a slightly salty crust on the outside. Moist and somewhat peppery on the inside. Melt in your mouth. Glorious. Still, it was the gravy that took this dish over the top. I don’t know what kind of sausage they use, but it has an incredibly rich and deep flavor that infused all of the gravy.

The rest of the meal was wonderful, too. M got the Benedict and I had the french toast that seemed to contain everything except the kitchen sink: maple syrup, peaches, blueberries, and whipped cream; bread filled with peanut butter. Somehow, all of these ingredients were balanced so well that they worked together perfectly. Best french toast ever.

French Toast

Now when someone asks, “Have you been to Husk?” We can enthusiastically respond, “Yes! And it was fabulous!”

Charlie Bob’s Biscuits and Gravy

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

There are some places you just really want to like, whether it actually makes sense or not. Charlie Bob’s is like that for me. And I do like it. I’m just not sure how much of that is deserved and how much is folklore.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

Let me explain. First, I found out about this place from the East Nashville “listserve”. Restaurants in the ‘hood often get a lot of discussion on the listserve and it is fun to be in on what people are talking about.

East Nashville Mural

East Nashville is all about the dogs – even on the murals.

Second, it has this blend of old diner style and new kitsch. Old sign, checkered tablecloths, old photos on the walls. But there is also a bar in the back and a tiny stage area for songwriter nights. All of the ingredients of a hidden gem.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

Third, it is on Dickerson Pike. When I was growing up here, Dickerson Pike was known as one of the seediest parts of Nashville. Drugs. Prostitution. Violence. But as East Nashville has gotten cleaned up, so has Dickerson Pike. At least to some extent. M. and I recently did a photo safari down Dickerson Pike, attempting to capture some of the character, before it all disappears.

Dickerson Pike

So we have been to Charlie Bob’s twice now, for breakfast. The first time we were practically the only ones there and could wander around, looking at the interesting stuff on the walls. This last time they were busy so we stayed put in our booth. Our breakfast was good, but I told M. I would have liked it a LOT better if it had arrived about 20 minutes earlier. The service was incredibly slow on this visit. I was really hungry and got pretty grumpy, especially when the people at the neighboring table (who arrived 15 minutes after us) got their food first.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

So how were the biscuits?
Pretty good. They did not have the crisp “just baked” exterior that I like to find. I expect they were pulled from a warming drawer or something.

But the sausage gravy was really good! I think I hit on the distinction between good and better sausage gravy while at the Nashville Biscuit House. The better gravy is cooked with the sausage so that the flavors meld. I believe that was the case here.

The rest of the meal was good, too. Solid breakfast standards like super crispy bacon. It did not last long, though. We were too hungry. At one point, M. asked me a question about something and I did not even bother to answer. I just kept on eating. . . .

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

International Biscuit Festival 2013 (part 2)

My second favorite biscuit was a little different. Think of it this way. The Green-Eyed Monster was like a fiery redhead, exuberantly gathering all of the attention in the room. The Country Apple Cinnamon Biscuit was like her quiet, intellectual sidekick. No less interesting, but easier to miss.

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See? It was a little flat and plain. I almost passed it by and my expectations were low. Trust me though. It was wonderful. Light and fluffy, slightly sweet, with just enough cinnamon and a hint of apple. Such a pleasant surprise. This one was made by Latitude 35, a restaurant right on Market Square.

Third place, in my opinion, was somewhere between these two characters, if we’re going to continue my metaphor. Perhaps not the life of the party but everyone’s best friend.

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Oh my word. Shrimp Andouille Sausage Biscuit. The biscuit was fine but that gravy was amazing. I’ve never really tried to make gravy before but this both inspired and intimidated me in almost equal parts. If you happen to have a killer gravy recipe, please share it with me! This one was made by Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant.

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That’s it for now. More later . . .