Monday, 4 February 2013

Oh My Yum: Super Biscuit Bowls

As you may already know, I've been working for Snowville Creamery for the past month or so, handing out samples of Snowville's crème fraîche, plain yogurt and chocolate milk. A few weeks ago, someone suggested that I try making one of the easiest biscuit recipes out there: equal parts (about 1.5 c each) crème fraîche and self-rising flour. That was it. Crème fraîche and self-rising flour. To be fair, a copy of what I can only assume to be the original recipe lists salt as one of the few ingredients; though, the shopper thought about just taking out salt since there's already some sodium in the crème fraîche. Well, as you may also know, I care about the Super Bowl not for the sport of American football (if nothing else, I'll watch the last two minutes which really equates to at least 10 or 15... at least I know the 49ers almost pulled out a win over the Ravens) or even the commercials. For me, this year's Super Bowl became just another reason (as if I needed one?) to spend time in the kitchen and cook (e.g., XLV and XLVI), and to try out the biscuit recipe as a bread bowl for a 5-layer nacho dip. And while I was at it, I made some homemade tortilla chips from scratch.

Despite the biscuit recipe's simplicity, it did hinge on me having self-rising flour in stock. Since that wasn't the case, however, I went with this simple substitute, after first preheating my oven to 400°F. Cognisant I was aiming for four biscuits, I first sifted together 1 c all-purpose flour, 1 & 1/3 T baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.

With the flour now ready to use, I added to my mixing bowl 1 c crème fraîche and a small pinch of salt, and gave that a mix until it began to clump together. The dough becomes rather sticky, and so I worked the dough until it became a smooth mass and the dough no longer stuck to the sides of the bowl.

I then divided and shaped the dough into four separate discs and, after placing them on a lightly floured baking sheet, got them into the preheated oven to bake for 20 minutes until beautifully golden brown and flaky and delicious.

While the biscuits were in the oven, I heated and whisked together on medium heat 1/2 T unsalted butter and 1/2 T all-purpose flour to make a roux. 1/2 c whole milk was added next to turn the roux into a béchamel sauce, followed by 1/2 c shredded Mexican cheese blend to change it to a Mornay sauce.

I aimed for this to be a spicy Mornay sauce and so I added 24 drops of hot sauce (though in the end the sauce didn't seem all that spicy on its own) and about 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.

After opening up my 16 oz can of refried beans and garlic, draining my 8 oz can of diced tomato and green chilies, and finishing my spicy Mornay sauce, the biscuits had also finished baking. I took them out of oven, and then carefully cut off the top and scooped out the insides of each. Truth be told, I ate the rescued biscuit pieces (the bread on the small plate in the background).

To accompany the layered nacho dip I had in mind, I then set off to work on homemade tortilla chips, starting first with homemade tortillas. Re-adapting this recipe and its ratios for a half-batch (and so that I can use my previously reserved, rendered bacon grease), I used a fork to mix together 1 c all-purpose flour, 2 T fat (you could also use butter or vegetable shortening) and a pinch of salt until it more or less represented damp sand.

As I mixed the above ingredients, I microwaved for 20 seconds 1/4 c water and then carefully added this to my mixed dough base. Once again, I used my fork to mix everything together until the dough started to clump together, after which point I used my hands to form the dough to a smooth consistency.

Heating up a fry pan to med-hi heat, I separated the tortilla dough into 8 uniform pieces and then rolled each one to the point in which I could see an opaque version of the colour of my rolling board. With each tortilla rolled out, I cooked it on the fry pan until it began to bubble, and then carefully flipped it over to cook the other side for about 20-30 seconds longer.

With the tortillas now done, I reduced the heat to med/med-lo and heated up about 1/2" vegetable oil in the same fry pan in which I had cooked the tortillas. After cutting three diagonals into the tortillas, I carefully dropped in small batches of 6-8 tortilla slices each into the hot oil (you know the oil is hot enough when the chips almost immediately start to bubble at the edges).

The tortilla pieces are ready to flip as soon as the outer edge browns. Once flipped, the pieces need only another 30 seconds or so to brown the other side. Using a pair of tongs, I carefully lifted each (now) tortilla chip and allowed any excess oil to drip back into the pan; these were then transferred to a paper-towel-lined plate and then immediately sprinkled with a touch of salt on both sides to finish them off. It only takes a minute or two to drain and cool down the chips, at which point they can be served or transferred to a bowl/bag.

As I neared the end of this process, I returned to each of my biscuit bowls and layered in the nacho dip. (Note: any extra dip ingredients made their way into a loaf pan to be sent to the oven later.) First up was the canned refried beans and garlic, followed by the canned diced tomato and green chilies which were more or less pushed into the refried beans. About a tablespoon or so of the spicy Mornay sauce was then topped off, followed by a tablespoon or so of pre-crumbled crisped bacon (which I had earlier saved from a different program) that was similarly pushed into the sauce. Finally, all of this was topped off with about a tablespooned mound of shredded Mexican cheese blend.

I got this into the oven to warm up the biscuits and nacho ingredients, as well as to melt the tops of the biscuit bowls, a process that only took about 5 minutes still at 400°F. As is custom when I typically make anything with a cheesy layer, I switched the oven to the broiler on high, and left the bowls under that for about 3 or so minutes. The result was a crisped layer of cheese (similar to a Parmesan bowl), rather than a slightly browned cheesy layer.

In the end, and topped with a dollop of crème fraîche as pictured at the top of this post, the crisped layer of cheese turned out to be a great addition. With the biscuit and nacho ingredients piled onto the tortilla chips, the crisped layer added a top crunch to pair with the bottom crunch from the tortilla chip. Sandwiched between them, then, was a mouth-watering and satisfying concoction of subtle spice and game day food fare. I suppose all that's left to say then is "oh. my. yum." Well, that, and click here for the complete album of this cooking venture.

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