Biscuits and the Big Deal about Baking with Buttermilk

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Heidi makes her Next Day Grilled Blue Cheese Biscuits on the kitchen set of WCNC-TV’s Charlotte Today

I come to you today on the heels of three days in Knoxville, Tennessee. First at the Southern Food Writing Conference and then at the International Biscuit Festival.

I have biscuits on the brain.

I am a bread baker from way back, I love the smell of yeast,  the therapeutic pleasures that come from kneading and the magic of watching a mass of dough rise to the occasion.

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Heidi Makes her Next Day grilled Blue Cheese Biscuits in a demo at the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. The table was taller than most – haha! – and necessity became the mother of invention. Nothing like cooking while you are standing on an apple crate!!

So when my friends at Southern Biscuit Flour, owned by Renwood Mills in Newton, North Carolina, asked me to represent them in a demo and at the judges table at the festivals biscuit baking competition I was delighted to accept the offer.

But it wasn’t as easy as all that – you see biscuits are a very different animal. As John Craig, the “Biscuit Boss” and the coordinator of Knoxville’s annual BiscuitFest was quoted as saying, “Biscuits are the easiest bread to make and the hardest.”

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After doing my research, I was ready to roll ( subtle pun, intended).  I headed to Knoxville and enjoyed a wonderful three day adventure: two days rubbing elbows, sharing stories and hobnobbing with a fabulous group of Southern food writers it was my pleasure to meet; followed by a day at the annual BiscuitFest celebration.  Here Knoxville’s Market Street becomes Biscuit Boulevard – the road is blocked off to allow for the foot traffic of thousands of visitors and booths offering biscuits of all shapes and sizes line the curbs and sidewalks.

I spent a good part of the day talking biscuits and handing out samples of Southern Biscuit Flour’s Formula L, a wonderful all-inclusive biscuit mix that only requires the addition of buttermilk. The Southern Biscuit Flour booth was located just outside the festival’s Biscuit Baking tent,  and when I wasn’t in the booth with the Renwood Mills team, I was in the tent to judge one round of the competition and then to do a demo on behalf of Southern Biscuit Flour.

As it was all such fun, I decided to recreate the recipe, using a host of ingredients from the Carolina’s for my recent appearance on WCNC’s midday shown, Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson.

IMG_2778As always, I try practice the mantra I preach of using local products and with this recipe it was easy. Start with any variety of Southern Biscuit Flour from Newton, NC – all purpose, self rising or their biscuit blend, Formula L will all work well – more on the nuances of working with each in just a few.

No matter which one you choose, all of the Southern Biscuit Flours are still milled with North Carolina’s own soft winter wheat all harvested from within 50 miles of the town of Newton.  If you select the all purpose flour, then proceed with the recipe exactly as it is written. If you go with the self-rising flour, you may omit any additional leavening, in this case the baking powder. If you want to really make it easy, buy Southern Biscuits Formula L. This is a delicious complete biscuit mix and only requires the addition of buttermilk ( and the cheese, of course!)

In addition to local North Carolina flour, I used local butter from Charlotte NC’s  Uno Alla Volta or Grassfed Productions Rootdown Foods, local baking powder from Caly’s Kitchen in Waxhaw, NC; salt from OuterBanks SeaSalt from the North Carolina coast, and then from our friends and farms in South Carolina I featured Hickory Hill Milk whole milk Buttermilk and Clemson Blue Cheese.

Here is a look at the video from my May 31, 2017 appearance at Charlotte Today – the details of the recipe with photos and where-to-buy info on each of the products follows.

 

Heidi’s Next Day Grilled Blue Cheese Biscuits

2 1/2 cups all purpose Southern Biscuit Flour ( see notes that follow the recipe for using the self-rising flour or the easy-as-pie Formula L)

1/2 tsp. OuterBanks SeaSalt

1 Tbsp. Caly’s Kitchen Baking Powder

1 Tbsp, organic sugar

6 Tbsp. COLD Uno Alla Volta or Grassfed Productions/RootDown Foods butter – keep the butter in one piece for easier grating

1 cup COLD crumbled Clemson Blue Cheese

1 cup Hickory Hill Milk Whole Milk Buttermilk

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Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then use a whisk to blend them well and remove any lumps or clumps of flour. In the biscuit baking world, lumps and clumps of flour are not your friend.

IMG_2761Next, (and with thanks to my friend Chef Matthew Krenz for this biscuit baking tip) use a box grater to grate the cold butter in the bowl with the flour. Lots of biscuit recipes just say to cut the butter into small pieces and then work it into the flour until the mix resembles coarse cornmeal, but in doing this you run the risk of warming up the butter too much. One of  the reasons the biscuits rise so beautifully is from the steam released from the cold butter in the batter. In the biscuit baking world, warm butter or fat is not your friend.

Heidi's Tips and TricksImportant to note here that you may use any type of high quality fat in your biscuits – local leaf lard from your favorite pork producer or  local beef tallow from your favorite cattle rancher work equally well.  As does your favorite high quality olive oil.  I like using the rich, golden Kores Estate ultra premium extra virgin olive oil from the Olive Crate or any of the ultra Premium extra virgin olive oils at Pour Olive. Pour the olive oil into a shallow plastic container and chill until it is firm – really firm – in a solid mass. Grate into the biscuit dough as you would the butter.

Next, add the Clemson Blue Cheese. You may buy this already in crumbles or you can crumble it yourself. The key is to chill it down before you add it to the batter. In the biscuit baking world, cheese is always your friend.

Use a large fork to blend the cheese and butter into the flour slightly breaking up the little pieces. A fork is better than your hands, as a fork won’t heat the batter up and your hands – especially if you have hot hands- will. In the biscuit baking world, keep your cool – until the biscuits are baking, warmth is not your friend.

Finally add the buttermilk.  For us in Charlotte,  a lot of 268226_10151166855156134_1028399043_n South Carolina is as local as much of North Carolina; and so I thought it would be fun to incorporate Clemson Blue Cheese into this recipe. Clemson Blue cheese is made with whole milk from Hickory Hill Milk, a three-generation family-run dairy in Edgerfield, SC. owned by Clemson alum Watson Dorn and his wife Lisa.

To keep with our theme,  as I was using the Clemson Blue cheese, I thought it would be fun to use  Hickory Hill Milk’s Buttermilk in my biscuit recipe as well. This whole milk buttermilk is not homogenized, so you will want to shake it up before you pour.  measure and stir  the milk into the flour mix. Use  the fork to blend, just until the milk is combined with all the flour. The mix should be sticky.

In the biscuit baking world, too much flour is not your friend. 

Rolling out biscuits and cutting them with a cutter offers up all sorts of opportunities to over process your dough. You don’t want to add too much flour as you roll or pat out the dough – this will bake into biscuits that may resemble a hockey puck. Likewise, take care if and when you use a biscuit cutter. Don’t twist the cutter back and forth to cut a round out of the dough, just dip the cutter first into a bit of flour – just enough to coat and then cut the biscuit with one quick down and then up motion.

IMG_2764To all together avoid the problem of kneading in too much flour, I prefer making drop biscuits. and I like to bake then in a cast iron pan, although they work equally well on a baking sheet.  No real reason, to use cast iron, at first I did it because it offered good presentation value; but truth is, it does add a nice golden crust to the outside of the biscuits and I personally like that crispy crunch the crust offers. Spray the pan with a bit of cooking spray to lightly coat the pan. Remember, this isn’t cornbread, its biscuits where cold is king – so, no need to heat the pan first.

IMG_2762For perfect drop biscuits, use an ice cream scoop to scoop up balls of the batter and place them side by side in the pan. The fact that you use the scoop keeps the size uniform and the fact that you place them side by side helps them to support each other during the baking time, rising to their full potential.

Before baking, gently dab the top of the biscuits with a bit of melted butter. Bake the biscuits in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Eat them hot with or without butter.  For “Next Day Biscuits” slice them in half and ‘refresh’ them by placing them on a griddle in a bit of melted butter to grill the cut side to a toasty finish.

Serve them as they are, or top with your favorite local honey. I simply adore the robust sweet mountain sourwood honey from Dancing Bees Honey in Monroe, NC with these slightly salty cheese biscuits. or serve them as a blue cheesey base for a summer BLT.

In the biscuit baking world, Buttermilk is your friend and here is why…

PrintWay back in the day,  “butter milk”  was simply the whey left  after churning the cream into butter. In days before great refrigeration, this original buttermilk had a longer shelf life because the perishable fat solids had been taken out.   The natural acid left  in the rich sweet milk after the butterfats where removed helped leavening agents to work in baking and the milk was also good to drink

Today no one makes buttermilk like that anymore. In a quick conversation with Watson Dorn of Hickory Hill Milk in South Carolina, I learned the specifics of what I already knew –  all buttermilk is not equal.

Most large commercial dairy’s today use low fat or skim milk to make buttermilk; but, as Dorn says, ” the fat is where the flavor is.” Some DYI advice on the internet and home how-to’s in cookbooks suggest simply adding lemon juice or vinegar to whole or skim milk, to make your own buttermilk, but I am telling you, don’t do it! While it will still works for baking, adding the acid this way  only serves to sour the sweet milk and gives it an off or acidic taste.

True buttermilk takes time.  The milk at Dorn’s family-owned dairy is pasteurized as is required by law; but its not homogenized, so cream rises to the top, believe me, this milk is full of flavor.

To make the Hickory Hill Milk buttermilk, Dorn starts with his dairy’s cream top whole milk and adds a specific culture. The enzymes in the culture begin to slowly add acidity to the whole milk but do not compromise the rich creamy flavor.  Dorn allows the process a full 18 hours to make the buttermilk magic happen – most other dairy’s hurry it up only allowing 6-10 hours. The time and effort Dorn and his team put into the Hickory Hill MIlk buttermilk pays off in texture and in taste –  this non-homogenized whole milk buttermilk has the flavor of buttermilk from years gone by.

In fact, to digress from biscuits for a moment,  Dorn shared with me the fact that  in South Carolina, Hickory Hill Milk sells a lot of buttermilk to retirement communities. The elderly dealing with memory loss and sometimes dementia often are no longer interested in eating. Its a sad problem and it is hard for the staff to get them the proper nutrition they need.

Recently nutritionists were pleased to report to Dorn that in serving Hickory Hill Milk buttermilk to residents, the taste seemed to spark a food memory of  the biscuits, the cornbread and buttermilk from their childhoods. These patients found a comfort in the flavor they somehow where able to remember from many years gone by. Testimony to the fact that eating (and drinking) local brings with it good memories and is the healthiest and happiest way to go!

Where to Find it#TellThemHeidiSentYou (1)Like all of the products mentioned in this article, Hickory Hill Milk whole milk, buttermilk and chocolate milk are  available in Charlotte. You will find Hickory Hill Milk at Earthfare and at Whole Foods. For more info visit  them on Facebook

In Charlotte. Southern Biscuit Flours are most readily available at Harris Teeter, and often at Food Lion and Walmart.    For more info visit them at the Renwood Mills website and be sure to Save the Date on Wednesday June 7 for Newton Nc Biscuit Day! Come and join in the fun from 8 am till noon, when Southern Biscuit Flour teams up with two other iconic North Carolina brands and will be out on the square in Newton,  serving up with Neese’s Country Sausage Biscuits and pouring rounds of Cheerwine! Entertainment by the Sigmon Stringers – stop by, celebrate biscuits and enjoy!

Caly’s Kitchen baking powder and other delicious gluten free products are available on Saturday mornings at the Waxhaw Farmers’ Market,  and at Caly’s Kitchen website,

The Olive Crate’s Kores Estate Ultra Premium Extra Virgin olive oil and all of their fine organic Greek balsamic vinegars are available online ( use the code HeidiB20 and get 20% off your purchase) or on Saturday’s in the Charlotte area at the Waxhaw Farmers’ Market, the Cotswold Farmers’ Market and the farm store at Grace Roots Farm in Waxhaw on Saturdays,  and at the Selwyn Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons.

Pour Olive ultra premium extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars are available at Pour Olive, 1528 East Blvd. Charlotte 28203

OuterBanks SeaSalt is available in Charlotte at Fresh Market  and online at obxSeaSalt.com

Uno Alla Volta butter is available along with all of their wonderful fresh made cheeses at the Matthews Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road on Saturday mornings. During the week there are limited supplies available at both locations of Pasta & Provisions.

Grassfed Productions/RootDown Foods butters and ghee are available on Saturdays at the Noda Farmers’ Market and the Atherton Farmers’ Market and on Wednesday afternoons at the @Selwyn Farmers’ Market. They are also available during the week at the new Carolina Craft Butchery in Davidson, NC.

Clemson Blue Cheese is available in most all of the area Ingles Stores or online at the Clemson Blue Cheese  website.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

For more local and loving it recipes, why not join in the fun at one of Heidi Billotto’s much loved cooking classes. A list of her popular On the Farm and At Home with Heidi cooking classes is posted on these blog pages. Follow the links to make a reservation!

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Seasonally Speaking: It’s Time for Local Organic Baby Ginger

img_4511To every time (and to every fruit, flower, herb and vegetable) there is a season.

Back in 2011, it was my pleasure to join a small but excited group at  Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC for the first harvest of a new crop of  organic baby ginger! Mary  and Ray Roberts-Tarlton, owners and farmers at Windcrest, a certified organic farm, grow all kinds of cool and unusual herbs and veggies, but this first crop of baby ginger was something special. Fast forward these past five years and the annual every growing ginger crop at Windcrest has become an occasion to celebrate!

Roberts and her team start the ginger from organic seed from brought in from Hawaii early in the year and then transferred the tender young plants to their home in the ground in one of Windcrest’s many greenhouses. As the tubers grow beneath the ground, the stalks and leaves shoot up to heights from 4-6 feet tall. The joy here is that the whole plant can be used from stem to stern. The leaves can be dried and crumbled for tea, to add to various dried spice, salt or pepper mixes and the roots can be candied, pickled, stewed, sautéed, simmered – the list goes on and on.

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Heidi Billotto on the cooking set of Charlotte Today with show hosts Coleen Odegaard & Eugene Robinson

 

Each year around this time, I feature the Windcrest organic baby ginger in one of my television cooking segments. This week I was on WCNC’s Charlotte Today and ginger was the star of the show as I used it to prepare one of my favorite recipes for quick and easy local BBQ baby back ribs.

The glaze on these ribs was inspired by one of my favorite cocktails made with bourbon, a ginger-honey simple syrup, orange and ginger ale, and believe me, its a keeper! What I love about it is that its not too thick, so while the gingery glaze adds a fabulous sticky sweet and spice flavor, it doesn’t overwhelm and one can still taste the meat.

img_5026I recommend using local pork – lots of choices at any one of Charlotte’s several Farmers’ Markets, and if you can’t find pork ribs, use chops instead. The key to make the recipe move along faster cut the rack of ribs into double chops. The recipe also works well on chicken, seafood and tempeh ( although cooking times will vary slightly) – see my variation notes at the end of the recipe.

Several recipes to share hereCandied Ginger and as a result a Ginger Simple Syrup to use in cocktails  or to make your own ginger ale. The recipe for the ribs I cooking on television this week and a fun recipe for the Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing we all love each time we eat at a Japanese steakhouse.  You’ll find the video from the Charlotte Today segment at the end of this post  – just look for the pink television screen with my logo!

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgOctober’s On The Farm Cooking Class For more ginger how-tos and to see it for yourself, I’d love to have you join me and Mary Roberts for a ginger-centric On The Farm cooking class at Windcrest on Sunday Oct 16, from 1-4 pm. The class includes a farm tour where we see the farm up close and personal and will hear from Mary about sustainability, why it is important to her to grow organically and all about raising crops year round in a greenhouse environment. Plus we’ll cook and enjoy 4-5 new recipes for 4-5 delicious courses of local fare all with a ginger-centric theme. In addition to the tour and the food, the class also includes wine pairings from Assorted Table Wine Shop with each course, a recipe packet for each participant, and gift bag with sample sized local goodies and coupons. Cost is $85 per person. To make your reservations, simply email me directly at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com. 

The lovely thing about cooking with baby ginger  is that when it is harvested it comes without the hard, heavy skin grocery store ginger always has – the ginger develops that skin as it ages – and has a light and delicate flavor plus tons of health benefits as well.

Hope you’ll  attend our On the Farm cooking class later this month – reservations are a must, please, and visit Mary at the market this week and next to get a taste of the 2016 local ginger harvest and enjoy  the pleasures of cooking with the baby ginger while it is here and available, fresh and in season – its really something special!

Classic Japanese Steak House Ginger Salad Dressing

3 Tbsp. minced onion

3 Tbsp. canola oil

2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar

3 Tbsp. finely minced baby ginger

2 Tbsp. organic ketchup

1 Tbsp. Mushroom-flavored soy sauce

1/2 clove minced garlic

Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Combine onion, oil, vinegar, ginger, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender and process until combined.Spoon over a plate of your favorite mixed greens.

Homemade Candied Baby Ginger

1 pound fresh baby ginger, thin sliced

4 cups organic granulated sugar

4 cups water, plus more for the initial cooking

pinch of salt

Put the thin baby ginger slices in a large stainless steel pot, add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for ten minutes. If you are making this recipe with older store-bought ginger you will want to repeat this precooking process one more time.

Mix the sugar and 4 cups of water in the pot, along with a pinch of salt and the ginger slices, and cook until the temperature reaches 225F measured on a candy thermometer

Remove from heat and let the ginger stand in the syrup for at least an hour while the mixture cools.

Remove the ginger from the syrup, reserving the syrup, and place the sliced ginger on a cake rack fitted over a baking sheet with sides. Drain the ginger and then sprinkle with additional sugar to coat both sides of the ginger. As the ginger cools more sprinkling sugar may be necessary.

For your own Ginger Ale

Combine:

1 to 2 Tbsp. of ginger syrup left over from making the candied ginger

sparkling water

Juice of one lime

Fill a tall glass filled with ice, add ginger syrup and the juice of a half of a lime and top with soda water. Adjust flavor adding more ginger syrup or lime as needed. Stir to blend and garnish with lime wedge or a sprig of fresh mint

And finally for the Ginger and Honey glazed baby back rib recipe that Charlotte Today co-hosts Eugene Robinson and Coleen Odegaard raved about on air –

Heidi’s Local Honey and Organic Baby Ginger Baby Back Ribs

img_5032One of my favorite honey-centric cocktails is with bourbon or aged rum, honey, orange and ginger ale – take the same flavors mix them with the baby ginger and apply then to a glaze or marinade and viola…

For a fuller orange flavor in this recipe, I used the Blood Orange infused EVOO from Pour Olive, my go-to artisan olive oil shop on East Blvd. in Charlotte

What make the ribs tender enough to saute is parboiling them first. Bit be sure that the Parboiling Liquid has plenty of flavor – for the parboil, combine

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Make your parboiling liquid flavorful!

2 Tbsp. Pour Olive Blood Orange EVOO

4 thick  slices of Windcrest Farms Organic baby ginger, minced

1 cup toasted  baby ginger leaves – simply crisp them up in a 200 degree over for 10-15 minutes to concentrate their delicate flavor

¼ cup fresh Italian leaf parsley

1 bottle of pale amber beer

2 cups mushroom broth

1 rack local Baby Back Ribs, cut into double ribs

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Glazing the ribs with the basting liquid sears the flavor on the meat

 

Basting sauce:

2/3 cup teriyaki, ponzu or hoisin sauce

¼ cup dark sesame oil

¼ cup minced fresh Windcrest Farms Organic Baby Ginger

1 cup aged whiskey or aged Rum ( I love to use NC’s own  organic TOPO aged whiskey here)

Juice and zest of two oranges or 2 Tbsp. Blood Orange EVOO from Pour Olive

Dash or two of  Crude Bitters orange & Fig bitters ( available at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte

1 cup Spicy Hot Blenheims Ginger Ale – made in Blenheims, SC!

½ cup Dancing Bees Farm Honey – your favorite variety ( I love the sourwood honey here and its available on Saturdays at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Market on Yorkmont Road.

 Condiments to serve – Texas Pete (if you’d like to spice it up a bit!)

img_5038Combine parboiling ingredients in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, add the whole racks of ribs. Allow to come back to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer of 30-40 mins or so.

While ribs are simmering, prepare basting sauce by combining all of the ingredients, except the honey and ginger in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by one third. Remove from heat and stir in honey and ginger.

Remove ribs from the simmering liquid. Bathe the ribs in the glaze and place the ribs on a saute pan or grill pan, basting with the glaze until it just starts to brown on the meat, or  place in a roasting pan under the boiler for 2-3 mins on each side.

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Use chicken, seafood or your favorite vegan or vegetarian tempeh with the same delicious ginger glaze

 

To make a vegetarian version of the same – use tempeh or tempeh style “chicken” patties ( available at Earthfare in Charlotte) No parboiling needed – just saute the patties in the Blood Orange oil until nicely browned, then bathe in the glaze and cook down until the glaze has thickened slightly. Same method will work well for your favorite seafood.

For chicken –  no parboiling needed – simply season  bone-in ( this adds more flavor) pieces with salt and pepper and bake  in a preheated 400 degree oven in a covered roasting pan for 30-40 minutes. Remove the lid of the pan and add the basting  liquid. continue to bake for another 5 minutes  or broil the chicken for 2-3 minutes until the glaze starts to brown.

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Watch the video from my October 2016 cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today here.

 Then, be sure to register to attend my October Ginger-centric cooking class at Windcrest Farm on October 16, 1-4 pm. Cost is $85 per person. To make your reservations, simply email me directly at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com and I’ll send you all the info you need to complete your reservation. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Summertime and the Grilling is Easy

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODWith Fourth of July weekend on the horizon, I know many of you will be grilling for the holiday celebration. Wanted to take this post to share one of my favorite grilled recipes: Bistecca Fiorentina.  Also called Bistecca alla Fiorentina or Bistecca Florentine, it is the signature charcoal-grilled steak of Italy’s Tuscan region. I consider myself fortunate to have tasted “the real thing” in perhaps the most perfect of settings in a small Tuscan walled city while on a tour of Tuscany with my friend Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy several years ago.

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The view of the moon rising over the horizon in Tuscany as we enjoyed our 2011 true Italian “steak night” and my first taste of Bistecca Fiorentina

As food memories go, this one is a favorite – we dined at sunset, on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, a roof of tiny white lights the only thing separating us from the soon-to-be starlit sky. The view was perfect, the company divine and the food, oh the food. The precursor to the steak was a pasta course of blue cheese, pear and walnut ravioli and I can still taste it melting in my mouth, but that recipe I will save for another day – on to the grilling.

For authentic Bistecca one must grill over hot charcoals and must use a cut of beef from Italian cattle called Chianina, perhaps one of the oldest breeds of cattle originally raised in the  Chiana region of Tuscany.  In addition to being one of the oldest breeds in the world, it is also one of the largest, so it follows that steaks cut from the Chanina cows are also quite large. The cut used for authentic bistecca is  the porterhouse , a large, thick cut of a t-bone that separates a full tenderloin round from the top sirloin steak we call a New York Strip. In Italy these large porterhouses are massive and will feed a crowd.

IMG_2194Short of being in Italy with access to the breed of Chianina beef, this recipe is worth seeking out a porterhouse of high quality, trimmed beef – the steak I have pictured here came from The Peach Stand in Ft Mill SC, where they have a specialty butcher shop full of a wonderful selection of Certified Angus Beef Brand and local grass fed beef. In determining how much steak you will need for your Get-Your -Grill-On Crowd, know that, generally speaking, a porterhouse is plenty for 2 ,maybe 3, to share.

As with most cooking in Italy, this classic recipe is written as it should be, to simply bring the flavor to the beef to the forefront. To that end, ingredients here are few and of very high quality. Excellent olive oil, high quality salt and pepper and fresh cut rosemary are all it takes. If you have a charcoal grill ( set to burn with real chemical-free charcoal – no lighter fluid, please) you’ll get the addition of the fabulous flavor the charcoal adds to your crusty sear, as they do in Italy; but if you are without charcoal, don’t dismay,  this recipe is also delicious done over a gas flame or in a pinch in a grill pan on your cooktop.

IMG_2196Prepare the steak ahead of time, giving the flavors of the olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary enough time to blend and penetrate the beef. I like to rub the steaks with a salt and pepper blend of coarse pink Himalayan salt and a pepper blend I grind myself and aptly have dubbed Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend. I purchase the pink Himalayan salt and a trio or peppercorns: Lampong, Tellicherry and Reunion Pink Peppercorns from my go-to spice source, the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd Charlotte. If you can’t remember the names of the peppercorns I  use for my blend, no worries, Just go in and ask for the pepper Heidi uses and Amy, Scott or any of their very knowledgeable staff will get you just what you need. I grind the peppercorns ( equal parts of each variety) until they are a course mix in my coffee grinder with no worries about spicy coffee the next day.

To clean the grinder, simply follow the peppercorns with a tablespoon of coffee beans.  Here is all you have to do: once you have ground the pepper, take it out of the grinder,  and set it aside for your recipe or future use – I usually grind about a third of a cup at a time. Once all of the ground pepper is out of the grinder, add in a tablespoon of any whole bean or ground coffee. Let the grinder run for a minute or so and then discard that batch of ground coffee. Here is how it works, the coffee acts like a filter and will clean the taste and aroma of the peppercorns – or any other whole spice – from the grinder. No need for a separate spice grinder at all!

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As for the olive oil, select a fruity flavorful variety. I frequently pull my favorites from the current harvest selection at Pour Olive on East Blvd, but have also recently discovered another great Greek variety of oil locally bottled by a family in Waxhaw, NC.   Olive Crate’s wonderful organic  late harvest extra virgin, eco-sustainable Kores Olive oil comes from Greek Manaki olives grown by their family in Greece. The oil as well as a selection of vinegars can be found at the Saturday morning Waxhaw Farmers’ Market as well as at the charming little farm store at Grace Roots Farm on Providence Road, less than a mile from the Waxhaw market location. The flavor of this Greek oil is superb – do check them out!

Time to Get your Grill On…

IMG_2202Now that you’ve got everything you need, lets get back to the prep and the grilling. Its easy-peasy from here and you’ll never grill a steak any other way. For those who don’t eat beef, I’ve also had excellent results using the same technique with salmon. In fact in anticipation of writing this post and my coordinating segment on Charlotte Today, my husband Tom and I enjoyed my version of Salmon Fiorentina just last night with a side of local Tom Thumb potatoes from New Town Farms, beens from Tega Hill Farm and first of the summer tomatoes from A Way of Life Farm all tossed with a bit of the Kores Olive oil and my homemade pesto.

IMG_2198Marinate the salmon, the same way as the beef – chop the rosemary together with the salt and pepper to make a rub and rub it into the top side of the fish fillet, or onto both sides of the porterhouse.  Add the olive oil  and rub over the fish or beef as well. Allow to sit for at least an hour for the fish – best overnight in the fridge for the beef, or if you forget to do it the night before, at least of couple of  hours unrefrigerated;  and then simply put the steak or fish on the grill. Cooking times and temperatures follow.

Heidi’s Bistecca or Salmon Fiorentina

4 long sprigs of fresh rosemary, stripped and minced

5-6 sprigs of fresh Thyme leaves, stripped and minced ( optional, not a part of the traditional recipe, but a flavorful addition)

1 ( 2 1/2 lb.) porterhouse steak or wild salmon filet

1/4 ( or less) cup your favorite extra virgin olive oil

coarse pink sea salt and Heidi’s pepper blend to taste

2 lemons cut into wedges

Rub the steak or salmon with a mix of the fresh herbs and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Allow to marinate a room temperature for at least 1 hour. Season steak ofr salmon to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill -preferable over charcoal 5-10 mins per side for the steak depending on your desired degree of doneness, or use the “10-minute” rule for the fish – 10 minutes over a hot flame for each inch of thickness.

Dress both steak and fish with a quick squirt of lemon and serve garnished with fresh rosemary…enjoy! It really is that easy!

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To go along with this post you can watch the television version of the recipe in my monthly cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today, originally filmed the morning of June 30, 2016 at 11:29 am. In case you missed the original air time, here is the link to the video of the Bistecca Fiorentina Cooking segment, enjoy!

Planning The Best SuperBowl Party Ever

You Better Believe It!… The Carolina Panthers are Superbowl bound!

Now that we’ve all had a day to let reality sink in  that our Carolina Panthers are going to  Superbowl 50; those of us here at home will want to cheer on our home team  by celebrating in a big way!

superbowl party cooking class (2)
Despite my ” All Pro” looks of the photo here (the pink shoes make the uniform, don’t you think?), I really don’t know much about the game of football; but I do know how to throw one heck of a Superbowl Party, and I’ll be sharing all my tips and tricks and lots  recipes featuring all local produce, proteins and product at my January 31 On The Farm Cooking Class at Windcrest Farms in Monroe NC.

I started offering On The Farm cooking classes several years ago – teaching occasional classes at a half dozen plus Charlotte area farms. These classes are great fun and will really make you stop and think about the food you eat and where it comes from, and how it is grown. One talk with a local farmer and you’ll look at the phase, “You are what you eat, in a whole new way.”

windcrest LogoFor this class our hosts are organic farmers, Mary Roberts and her husband Ray. Mary  will kick off the class with a farm tour of her organic greenhouses, sharing her philosophy of organic farming and telling the story of how she went from corporate American back to the land.  

After the tour,  we’ll settle in to a cute makeshift kitchen and we will cook (eat and enjoy) 4-5 different all local Superbowl specialties using Mary’s fresh picked produce as well as proteins, produce and product from several other local farmers and producers –  all of which  will set your party apart. 

The class fee includes beverage pairings, recipe packets, farm tour and class as well as coupons to the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd and Pour Olive on East Blvd and special Superbowl surprises for all class participants.

I do hope you’ll join in all the fun! The “Plan Your Superbowl Party” Cooking Class is Sunday Jan 31,2016 from 1-4 pm. Cost is $85 per person.

Just email me – Heidi Billotto – at HLNC@Carolina.rr.com  to make your reservation and to get on my email newsletter list where you will recieve anemail every other week or so with updates on my cooking classes and culinary appearances. I’ll respond to your email immediately and we’ll get you signed up for class and the email newsletter list – your payment by cash or check will confirm your cooking class reservation.

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODLooking forward to seeing you soon – if not on Sunday then at one of my upcoming February or March cooking classes – this list will be out in an email  and up in a blog post this week. 

Cheers!

Heidi 

Time To Get Cooking – Heidi’s January Schedule of Hands-On Cooking Classes

Jan 2016 cooking classesIt’s time to get cooking with Heidi Billotto’s all new At Home With Heidi and On The Farm January Cooking Classes

While life has been busy over the past few months catering for many of you and teaching private cooking classes for many others, I’m ready to get back to my regular schedule of classes.

Its important to me to use the best and freshest product in these classes, so I cook with all local produce, proteins and products in each and every class and on the rare occasion that I can’t find what I need from farmers or producers locally, I buy organic from local supermarkets.
I invite you to join in on the fun and register for any one of these hands-on classes listed below simply by emailing me at HLNC@Carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservation. Unless otherwise noted all of these classes at At Home WIth Heidi and take place in my home kitchen. Once you have confirmed your reservation, I will send you directions and any other details you may need to know.
Remember, there are never any hard and fast rules at my classes – if you would rather just watch, sit back, eat and drink and enjoy instead of trying your hand, that’s fine too – just come and have fun!   Looking forward to cooking up a storm with you real soon!
beer class

If my regularly scheduled class times don’t suit; but a topic is of interest or you have a special occasion coming up or a group of friends you’d like to entertain,  then perhaps you’d like to plan a private cooking class or team building event all your own!

 I have several groups doing just that I am happy to accommodate you all – just give me a shout and we’ll get a date and topic for YOUR class on the calendar.
wine glassesA private class at your home kitchen or in mine is a fabulous way to entertain friends, family, celebrate birthdays or get to know your co-workers better – plus we have a blast – so you’ll be the host or hostess with the mostess for putting it all together!
Check out this  list of  upcoming classes  and make your reservation today… I can’t wait to get cooking!

Sat. Jan 16 – 12:30-3pm – Gluten Free Gourmet – Cost $75 per person

With so many really great gluten-free ingredients in the marketplace now (many of the ones I feature are locally produced), there is no reason you can’t put together a really tasty glutenfree meal with all the things you love. Say yes to pizza, baked goods, stuffing for braised meats and more. In this class, a complete gourmet gluten-free meal for all – cheers! To register, email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com
spices

Wed. Jan 20 – 6:30-9 pm – Cooking With Winter Herbs and Spices – Cost $75 per person

Let the herb garden rest and winter over, for this class I’ll shop the spice tins at Savory Spice Shop in Southend and bring back all my favorite blends of herbs, spices and seasoned powders. Together well prepare an entire meal from appetizer to dessert. To register email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com

Sat. Jan 23 – 1-4 pm – Fresh from the Winter Market – Cost $75 per person

Who says you can’t shop local in the Winter months, local farms produce all year round and this day I’ll shop 3 or 4 favorite markets in the morning – Matthews, Waxhaw, Atherton and Yorkmont and come back to cook with you that afternoon. we’ll put together a great seasonal meal with all of our farmers’ market finds. To register email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com
Heidi cooking with Pour olive oil

Tues. Jan 26 – 6:30-9 pm – The Art of Cooking with Oil – Cost $75 per person

I simply loves all the flavors you find in all of the current harvest selections from Pour Olive, an artisan olive oil boutique on East Blvd. and excited that we in Charlotte can now get the same lovely olive oil we enjoyed so much on our Italian vacation with Nada Vergili from Nada’s Italy ( offices on East Blvd as well). For this class, I’l pick up a selection of nut, seed, and olive oils as well as some fabulous artisan Balsamic vinegars and we’ll cook 4-5 dishes (apps, entrees and sides) using them all.  To register email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com

Heidi's football shot

Sun, Jan 31 – 1-4 pm – On the Farm at Windcrest Certified Organic Farms for a Superbowl Feast – Cost  $85 per person

Who doesn’t love all the great game date eats Superbowl Sunday brings? In this class we’ll start with a farm tour of the Windcrest Certified Organic Greenhouses to see how its done; and then cook with lots of fresh from the farm to make a championship spread of all local fare your superbowl viewing guests are going to love. What Mary Roberts doesn’t grow on the farm, I’ll supplement with Saturday morning farmers’ market buys the day before. Score! To register, email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com  

August and September On the Farm and At Home with Heidi Cooking Classes

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgAugust 1, 2014 – Anyone can cook, Let Heidi Billotto show you how to make it fun! Two terrific On the Farm cooking class offerings and several seasonal At Home with Heidi events coming up and  I know you are going to love every one!.

For each of my cooking classes, I team up with my friend, wine guru, Josh Villapando from the Assorted Table Wine Shop to offer wine pairings with every course in each class; and the opportunity to purchase the wines we taste in class directly from Josh – take a bottle home and enjoy it all over again.

My cooking class participants will also receive coupons good toward purchases at the Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd  on South Blvd. and Pour Olive Artisan Olive Oil Shoppe on East Blvd.

I invite you to register for any one of these hands-on classes simply by emailing me  to make your advance reservation.

Remember, never any hard and fast rules at my classes – if you would rather just watch, sit back ,eat and drink and enjoy instead of trying your hand, that’s fine too – just come and have fun!

Looking forward to cooking up a storm with you real soon!

On the Farm at New Town Farms | Saturday August 2 | 11 am – 3:30 pm | Farm Tour and Cooking Class

sammy at the marketCome and meet farmers Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms in Waxhaw, NC. Join us as we visit with the heritage breed chickens and pigs, collect eggs and see the seasonal produce in and out of greenhouses. You’ll hear all about Sammy’s farming philosophy and, we’ll cook with all the farm has in season. I guarantee, it’ll change the way you think about the food you buy and the way you eat.   The day includes a cooking class, wine parings, generous samples, recipe packets and a fabulous farm tour.

Cost $75 per person         Email Heidi to make your reservation

 

COOKING WITH SUMMER HERBS | At Home with Heidi | Saturday August 9 | 11am – 2 pm

herbs Fresh herbs have been planted and are growing and now its time to cook.

This class offers a host of fun new ideas for using you herb garden  harvest to season and spice. Four courses, wine pairings, growing and  preserving tips too.

 Cost is $65             Email Heidi  to make your reservations.

 

 

On The Farm at Windcrest Organic Farms & Greenhouses | Its Tomato Time! | Sun August 10 | 1-4 pm

mary tomatoes from Windcrest Its tomato time and this class is all about what to do when  there are    too many tomatoes and you can’t eat them fast  enough.

We’ll use them to make ketchup, salsa and a host of  sauces as well as  my famous summertime tomato pie and  the best fried green tomato    and goat cheese stack you’ve  ever had. Wine pairings as always, plus a tour and Mary  Roberts take on growing organic – don’t miss it!

Cost is $75 per person      Email Heidi to make your reservations

 

 

Its For The Birds | Cooking with Chicken, Duck & Quail | At Home with Heidi| Sat Aug 16 |  11am – 2 pm

chickenThe name says it all – great recipes for family  friendly dishes featuring chicken, quail, duck  and maybe local turkey too.

We’ll pan sear, roast, braise and cook on the grill – you’re gonna love it!

Cost $65 per person             Email Heidi to make your reservation

 

 

Gluten Free Gourmet |At Home with Heidi | Saturday July 26 | 11 am – 2 pm

gluten free chestnut flour breadAll new recipes for those who want to eat well and make it gluten free -for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and the best Gluten free bread and rolls you’ve ever had! Wine pairings always included.

Cost is $65 per person       Email Heidi to make your advance reservations  

 

 

Heidi Billotto’s Nibbles and Sips – March 2014

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODLots of worthwhile Nibbles and Sips in the Queen City for early March.  Pick and choose or  enjoy them all!

Artisan Olive oils and vinegars, Italian eats, oysters on the half shell,  green beer, crawfish, handmade matzah and goat cheese – this week its quite an eclectic mix!

Thursday March 13  – For the Love of Oil and Other Good Things, don’t miss this tasty event

Pour olive LOGOPour Olive Presents an Evening Tasting Artisanal Italian Foods by Zia Pia  

Thursday ,March 13      6-8pm
Join my good friends at Pour Olive with Victoria and Riccardo of Zia Pia Imports as they sample a choice selection of Zia Pia’s specialty artisanal Italian foods. Experience the unforgettable, inimitable, authentic flavors of Italy’s regional food traditions — pates, pestos and preserves from Sicily, organic tomatoes from Puglia, organic chocolates made in the Modica tradition and gianduja chocolate from Piedmont — while learning about Italy’s regional food traditions. Discover the pleasures of artisanal Italy with Zia Pia imports and Pour Olive at this first time, joint-sponsored event! Word is they have wonderful wines to sip along with these artisanal foods, and as always plenty of Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamics to sample and buy. Call for more information – 980.207.1510   Pour Olive is located at 1528 East Blvd. , Charlotte, NC, 28203  – additional parking lot in back of the building.

On the Half Shell

I ate my weight n fresh caught oysters while Tom and I were  in the Florida panhandle last year - This year all we have to do is go to Upstream!

I ate my weight n fresh caught oysters while Tom and I were in the Florida panhandle last year – This year all we have to do is go to Upstream!

Upstream is located in Charlotte’s Southpark area at 6902 Phillips Pl., at the Phillips Place shopping area.

Upstream is located in Charlotte’s Southpark area at 6902 Phillips Pl., at the Phillips Place shopping area.

Yum! If you are a mollusk lover like me then run, don’t walk  to Upstream Seafood restaurant this month! From now till the end of the month of March , the popular SouthPark restaurant located in Phillips Place is cracking open a remarkable deal on oysters!

Get this – Monday through Thursday, 4pm-6:30pm in the Upstream Bar, you can eat all the East Coast oysters on the half-shell you want for just $1 each PLUS all the West Coast oysters you want for just $1.50 each.   In addition to the oyster special, Upstream’s bar will also feature daily drink specials and have their Bar Bites menu available.

Upstream is located in Charlotte’s Southpark area at 6902 Phillips Place, at the Phillips Place shopping area. Hours of operations: Mon-Thurs 11:30am -10:00pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm; Sunday 10:30am-10pm; Sunday Brunch 10:30am-2:30pm. Reservations are accepted at 704.556.7730.

Visit online at http://www.upstreamseafood.com. Upstream on Urbanspoon

Seeing Green –

green river eventJoin in on the St. Patty’s day fun for the 4th annual Green River Revival,  Saturday, March 15 at the US White Water Center. The celebration will kick off with the Color Me Green 5K, a trail race similar to the Color Run, but of course, the color of the day is green. Following the race, watch as the whitewater rapids turn bright green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, followed by live music, and lots of food and drink. The river, dyed for the day in emerald green,  will remain open to those eager to raft or kayak the green waters.

For info visit http://usnwc.org/green-river-revival-2/

 

For Mardis Gras stop by and Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler at e2 Emeril’s Eatery in Uptown Charlotte

CHef Brian Mottola, executive chef at e2 Emeril's Eatery in Charlote NC

Chef Brian Mottola, executive chef at e2 Emeril’s Eatery in Charlote NC

My friends at e2 emeril’s eatery always offers a taste of New Orleans in uptown Charlotte. But the vibe is never more authentic than in the spring when e2 hosts a New Orleans Crawfish Boil on the patio each Friday. The popular tradition that began last spring returns this Friday, March 14 from 4:30-7 p.m. and, the best part it that because Charlotteans love to celebrate,   we can do it all over again  each Friday this month, weather permitting, until May 30.

e2 Eerils Eatery Pastry chef, Stephanie Nikolic

e2 Emerils Eatery Pastry chef, Stephanie Nikolic

A peel-your-own crawfish boil is truly a food experience that brings people together. Louisiana crawfish are served fresh out of the pot, with corn, mushrooms and Andouille sausage as co-stars. Abita beer is available on draft for $5 and Budweiser and Bud Lite bottles are $4. The cost is $15 per person for an all-you-care-to-eat al fresco feast.

Its all happening at e2 emeril’s eatery 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, Suite 100 Charlotte, NC 28202 Complimentary Valet Parking for Dinner.    e2 emeril’s eatery, conveniently located at 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts in Uptown Charlotte, offers complimentary valet parking for dinner Monday-Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. Dinner is served Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 

For more information on e2 emeril’s eatery, please visit www.emerilsrestaurants.com/e2-emerils-eatery  E2 Emeril's Eatery on Urbanspoon

Planning for Passover –

Every piece of the wood-fired Vermatzah is made by hand in small batches.

Every piece of the wood-fired Vermatzah is made by hand in small batches.

I discovered this artisan-made from ancient grains, organic Matzah last year, right before the Passover holiday – when I wrote to order, they had already sold out – so  I signed up for the company’s email list and sure enough, last week got an email reminding me that is was time to place my order for this year’s holiday.

This is handmade, wood-fired Artisan Matzah for Passover baked with a blend of organic Vermont wheat and Emmer, an ancient grain used in the original matzah baked thousands of years ago.
vermatzha 2Naga Bakehouse is a small, family run wood-fired bakery in Middletown Springs, Vermont.  They’ve been baking Vermatzah since 2009.  Every piece of wood-fired matzah is still made by hand in small batches. Like so many locavores, these bakers strive to re-connect the food we eat with the story of where it comes from by growing many of our own ingredients and sourcing the rest from local farms. What’s not to love?
My Matzah order should be here soon and I can’t wait to taste it –  I was going to wait  to write about the product, but I don’t want you to miss out on a chance to order – so check it out now – you may read all about it  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vermatzah or for more info and to place a Vermatzah order visit, http://www.vermatzah.com  
On your Bucket List
You're gonna love Heidi's On the Farm class at Bosky Acres Dairy

You’re gonna love Heidi’s On the Farm class at Bosky Acres Dairy

For those of you who have always wanted to know how,  I invite you to join in on the fun at my upcoming  On the Farm cooking class at Bosky Acres Dairy and Learn to Milk a Dairy Goat!

The next class in my unique On the Farm series will take place at Bosky Acres Farm in Waxhaw NC.  Dairy owner and artisan goat cheesemaker Michelle lamb will not only introduce us to the goats, the kids and her way of  locl farm life, but she’ll share the secrets to making her wonderful Bosky Acres goat cheese and each class participant will have the opportunity to learn to milk a dairy goat as well – talk about photo opts!
bosky acres baby goatsDuring the down and rest time during  the  cheesemaking process, I’ll be there using Michelle’s wonderful cheese is four different dishes,  sharing hearty samples and recipes too…and did I mention that Josh Villapando from the Assorted Table Wine Shop will join in on the fun with wine pairings for each dish –  its going to be great fun – Make your reservations now by simply emailing me at HLNC@carolina.rr.com . Cost is $75 per person. Attendees must be at least 16 years  of age.