Hi friends! How was your Valentine’s Day? I feel like these last few days have been quintessentially wintry in our parts — we had a serene and snowy Valentine’s Day in New York, followed by a couple of those sharp, frigidly brilliant days where everything seems pale, still, and muted by the cold. I went out on Sunday for a few forgotten errands (I always feel this compulsion to stock up on everything I think we’ll need whenever it looks like a stretch of unpleasant weather is headed our way — and then I always fail and forget something) and I thought it was surprisingly peaceful, being one of the few bundled-up folks on the quiet, frosted sidewalks, under a bright blue sky and distant but vibrant sunshine.
Rimmed plates and mug: the wonderful Speck & Stone; cupcake dish and pinch dishes: The Fortynine Studio; small plates: Akiko Graham via The-Commons; oblong dish: Crate & Barrel; striped tea towel: Fog Linen.
Outside of a few of those brief excursions, we were pretty much just cozy-seeking hermits this weekend. After a little dinner party with a few friends on Saturday, our companions were one giant pot of chili (sub cocoa powder and a crap ton of kale), a breakfast in bed tray, and Netflix. Lately most things have taken that shape — work, sleep, work, sleep, nights in, comfort food, Netflix, repeat. (With an occasional interlude of wedding planning, and bickering with parents about whether Great-Aunt-Possibly-Cousin-Thrice-Removed Carol’s son Cyrus is invited.)
Other than the bickering, I like it. Saturday mornings are usually quiet kitchen playtime, the hours where B2 is (hopefully) playing video games and (hopefully) not working, and where I’m rummaging through our refrigerator in the hopes that I won’t be venturing outdoors. And that’s where these biscuits came in! I feel like at any given time I have at least one or two bundles of scallions going slowly limp in a produce drawer (B2 likes them over his scrambled eggs and, well, in about everything else), and ever since this scallion pie crust I’ve been mildly obsessed with working them into more than our usual applications. So a few snowy Saturdays ago they made their way into twist on one of my most beloved Southern breakfast staples — biscuits and gravy.
The funny thing about growing up in the South but in a Chinese kitchen is that I’ve grown up eating and loving good Southern food but know woefully little about making so much of it. So I learned biscuits, not so much from a flour-dusted grandmother, but from Erika, and Beth, and Erin, and Laura — my friendly apron’ed neighbors of the blog world. I kind of view it as a New-Age-y, modern-day take on the Southern food-as-love-as-community ideal — maybe? Anyway. With their help, these scallion biscuits were born — light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth layers with a bright, occasional pop of thinly sliced scallion. Scallions, butter and flour are a magical trinity, and the mild tang of buttermilk (or yogurt, in my case) is a perfect complement to the bite from the green onions. It’s the same beauty at play in Erika’s smoked Gouda and chive biscuits, or these adorable babes that Steph made mini (as always, my idol!) or, of course, the standard cheddar-scallion biscuit.
And oh my gosh, this gravy! I can’t believe it’s taken almost two years for lap cheong to crop up on this blog (well, I can, it’s because I’m too lazy to make it to Chinatown), but I recently discovered that you can order those babies off Amazon, so their glory has finally made it into my kitchen. These sweet, dried pork sausages are flavored with sugar and soy sauce (also, who knows what else) — and they are ambrosial. I used to go on fishing expeditions for them in all my mother’s dishes as a kid and mourned the day she stopped cooking with them because she thought they were too unhealthy. (They probably are.) They’re my favorite things in fried rice, sticky rice stuffing, or even just steamed right in the rice cooker with the rice. I felt a little cavalier trying them out in gravy, but it was everything I hoped — the fat renders just fine, and though the gravy turns out quite a bit sweeter than a normal Southern one, you probably know by now that sweet and savory dishes are my dream come true. With a lot of black pepper and a few of these warm biscuits, this was my dream incarnation of a childhood breakfast.
P.S. In case you’re interested, you can find me in a little interview on SBS Food this week, talking about Lunar New Year and other things (a.k.a. even more about how much I love scallions). Happy LNY!
This recipe was a little much for our little household of two -- it's is more suited for four or even six -- but everything is easily scaled down. I've made a half-batch of the biscuits and I've also frozen the extras, both with good results. Gravy will keep up to a week in the fridge, but I have not tried freezing it, so it may be best to make smaller batches as needed.
- for the biscuits:
- 2 cups all-purpose or White Lily flour (or 1 cup cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose)
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup finely diced scallions, patted dry (plus extra if desired)
- 1/2 stick butter, frozen or nearly frozen (or up to 3/4 stick, see Notes below)
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup milk (see Notes below for substitutions)
- 1 tsp sesame oil, for brushing (optional)
- for the gravy:
- 4 links (6 oz) lap cheong sausage, diced
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (or about as much flour as fat rendered by the sausage)
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. To make the biscuits: Remove butter from freezer and let thaw briefly. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and scallions in a large bowl. Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture. Use your fingers to mix the butter into the flour until all pieces are coated and no lumps larger than peas remain.
- In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together Greek yogurt and milk. Pour into the flour-butter mixture and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir just until a dough comes together.
- Turn the dough gently out onto a well-floured surface. Use your fingers and palms to gently pat the dough into a rectangle about the size of a piece of paper (8x11”) and 1/2-inch thick. Fold into thirds, letter-style, then use the pads of your fingers and palms to gently pat the dough to about 1/2-inch flat. Fold again and pat again. Finally, fold one more time and pat gently to a 1-inch thickness. Optionally, you can scatter extra scallions across the dough every time you fold.
- Using a floured biscuit cutter, cut rounds from the biscuits (do not twist the cutter when you remove the rounds, which may inhibit rising). Gather the scraps and gently pile them into a 1-inch mass again, and cut again until you’ve used up all the dough.
- Place the rounds, sides gently touching, in a cast-iron skillet or on a baking sheet. Brush with sesame oil and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top.
- To make the gravy: Dice the lap cheong sausage and add it to a skillet (no oil necessary) over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until a generous amount of fat renders and the sausage develops crisp bits.
- Turn the heat down to low and sprinkle the flour over the sausage, stirring continuously, until flour dissolves into the fat and forms a roux. Aim to add about as much flour as there is rendered grease in the pan, and stop adding flour before the mixture becomes a paste -- it should be thick but not dry. Continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the roux turns slightly darker.
- Pour the milk in a slow stream over the sausage and roux, stirring as you go, until incorporated. Continue to cook, stirring often, until gravy thickens to your desired consistency. The gravy should ideally simmer for at least 5-6 minutes after you’ve added the milk before it thickens. If it becomes too thick before that point, add another 1/4 cup milk. Season with salt and a very generous amount of black pepper (I used at least 1/2 tsp).
- Once the biscuits are done, split them open (or crumble into large pieces) and serve with plenty of gravy!
I tried out a few variations on this biscuit recipe, all with good results. The one above is ultimately closest to Beth's gorgeous rendition. Substituting cake flour makes for a lighter, more tender biscuit, but I don't think it's truly necessary. For the "buttermilk," you can use 2/3 cup regular, unflavored yogurt and 1/3 cup milk if you don't have Greek yogurt on hand, or if you happen to have buttermilk, simply use 1 cup buttermilk. I just don't usually have buttermilk, so a yogurt and milk combination has always been my go-to.
For a really revelatory, life-changing biscuit, you can up the butter content to 3/4 stick (6 tbsp) as per Erika's recipe or even 1 stick (though in that case, decrease the "buttermilk" to 3/4 cup). For a biscuit I'd be serving with a very rich gravy anyhow, I thought it was fine conserving the butter for another use, so I kept it at 1/2 stick -- but boy, that double-butter batch blew my mind, it was so good.
Also, you're much better off consulting the biscuit goddesses linked above for tips on how to make your perfect fluffy, lofty, sky-high biscuits, but just a few observations from my my end -- I really, really like grating frozen butter to make biscuits (as per Laura's method) in the same way that I do for pie crust, but you can cut the butter in too. Also, you can use a rolling pin to roll the biscuit dough out if you like, but I thought patting with my fingers as per Erika's method worked just as well and gave me a tad more control. Be super, super gentle in handling the dough at all times, and they'll do just fine, even the scraps.
Finally, don't be shy with the black pepper in the gravy! It's hard to over-pepper a gravy -- black pepper makes it shine.