recipe: Sweet potato biscuits for National Southern Food Day
Mary Bilyeu | Contributor
The noted food enthusiast published numerous cookbooks, including Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking, in which he declares:
"It is not a question of chauvinism, but I have always averred that Southern cooking is by far the vastest and most varied of all traditional regional cooking in this country. I do not wish to demean the other regional cooking of the nation, but it is far more limited in scope...
Southern cooking, on the other hand, embraces... soul food," Creole (with Spanish and French influence), Cajun, Tex-Mex, and barbecue which is "to be found in one aspect or another in all Southern states." Thus, he believes that the cooking of the South is far more diverse than the traditional offerings of other regions.
This cuisine encompasses everything from "down home" simple comfort foods like hush puppies, Po' Boys, grits, and Mississippi Mud Pie to sophisticated and elegant items such as Oysters Rockefeller and Lady Baltimore Cake. From Maryland's crab cakes and Georgia's pecan pie to Kentucky's burgoo and fajitas from Texas, there is tremendous variety.
And no Southern meal is really complete without biscuits, lowly as they may seem. They are an ideal complement to an array of other classic dishes — fried chicken, collard greens, okra, catfish, and more. These light, tender biscuits are exceptional, and a great easy way to celebrate today's food holiday.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
(slightly adapted from Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking)
"One of the principal cooks in my mother's boardinghouse over the years was named Pearl Hutchins. He not only cooked but acted as my personal part-time nurse... One of his many fine Southern specialties was his sweet potato biscuits."
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
generous pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
12 tablespoons shortening
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (fresh or canned)
up to 1/3 cup half-and-half
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the shortening and cut it in with a fork until it has the texture of coarse cornmeal. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes.
Add the cream, a little at a time, stirring. Add only enough to make a soft dough.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough into rounds using a 2-1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Arrange the biscuits just touching each other on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Place in the oven and bake 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Makes 12 biscuits.
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