Well I was south of Detroit City
I pulled in this country kitchen
To try their brand of barbecue
The sign said finger-lickin'
Well I paid the tab and the lady asked me
How'd I like my biscuit
I'll be honest with you ma'am
It ain't like mama fixed it.
-Alan Jackson, "Where I Come From"
The Irish have a saying. It goes, "Boxty in the griddle, boxty in the pan, if you can't make boxty, you'll never get your man."
We here in Oklahoma are fine and good with boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake, but if we had a poem about how to win a man through his stomach, I'm pretty sure buttermilk biscuits would be a central theme.
There are probably as many variations of the recipe for buttermilk biscuits as there are Oklahomans baking them for breakfast every Sunday morning before church. Some folks like bread-like, lofty biscuits. Others like 'em as flaky as Britney Spears, post-K Fed. Still more like biscuits that are low-to-the-ground, the perfect canvas for homemade sausage gravy.
Like most Okie wives who cook, I keep several biscuit recipes in my kitchen. But only two are from fellow sooner state chicks.
Ree Drummond, a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman, is now who instantly comes to mind when any Web-roaming person worth his or her salt thinks of Oklahoma. The Pawhuska-based uber-blogger published a cookbook last year full of tried-and-true, home cookin' classics, with hundreds of self-shot how-to photos to illustrate. Ree threw in a collection of stories about her transition from living beneath the city lights to life as a ranch wife, as well as her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she, as Ree puts it, "plows through life in the country, one calf nut at a time."
Trisha Yearwood has a cookbook, too (two, actually), and like Ree's, Trisha's Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen is a celebration of traditional southern dishes, the know-how for which has been passed down through families for generations. Trisha is a Georgia native, but when her hubby Garth Brooks brought her home to meet the folks (read: every single last Oklahoman, because we all like to count our connections to our Tulsa-born superstar), we gladly accepted her into the family.
There's a recipe for buttermilk biscuits in The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Trisha has a recipe for buttermilk biscuits, too.
This can mean only one thing.
A match. A duel. A battle fought in the heart of our homes, in the place where the routines of family life are forged.
I'm talking about an Oklahoma biscuit bake-off.
This here is Ree's cookbook. If you don't already have it, buy it, because it's sure to become one of the most useful set of recipes and tips in your arsenal. Her buttermilk biscuits recipe starts on page 44. Start flippin' - if you run into Egg-In-The-Hole or Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes, you've gone too far.
Well, would you look at that. It seems I have an autographed copy of Ree's cookbook. I wonder how in the world that got there?
Ree's recipe calls for all of the basic tenets of buttermilk biscuits: Flour, fat, a rising agent and salt.
True to form, Ree uses to two varieties of fat in her recipe.
I really just need to know why she doesn't weigh 347 pounds. Wait - scratch that. Maybe I'm more interested in knowing how she manages to sustain her trademark, enthusiastic use of butter and dairy and red meat and stay tiny at the same time.
Because I want to try it, whatever it is.
I like that Ree's recipe calls for butter in addition to shortening, though. It's like adding butter to what before was a shortening-only pie crust - butter just can't be beat when it comes to flavor.
Wanna see my biscuit cutter? I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
Because the trappings of toddlerhood are inescapable when one shares a house with a two-year-old. Also, because I don't have a proper biscuit cutter.
Mmm. Someone had better go ring the dinner bell.
See how flaky Ree's biscuits are? I'm a big fan of flakiness.
But only when it comes to baked goods. In people, not so much. Unless it's me being flaky. Then, of course, it's totally acceptable.
Anyone else singing "She's in Love With a Boy" under her breath right now?
If I ever write a cookbook, I want it to look like this. If someone could put a late spring, backyard picnic in cookbook form, it'd be Trisha's Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen.
Trisha's biscuit recipe requires less than half of the ingredients called for in Ree's recipe, but part of that is because Trisha uses self-rising flour in her biscuits and Ree uses all-purpose, baking soda and baking powder. Plus, Trisha doesn't add butter. For her, it's shortening all the way.
See how Trisha's biscuits are taller, more bread-like?
And more homicidal-looking?
There's one of Ree's biscuits again. It's flakier, crispier than Trisha's pillow-like biscuit.
Ree's biscuit is on the left. Trisha's is on the right.
Here at my in-home taste-test of the two recipes, my husband and I couldn't come to an agreement on which biscuit beats out the other.
He's a devoted fan of the lofty, bready biscuits. He has no use for crispy biscuits. He could care less if they fell off the face of the planet, never to be torn and tossed with gravy again.
I, on the other hand, see the benefits of both. When there's gravy that needs soppin', I want to reach for crispy biscuits. When I have honey from the farmers' market in the pantry and good butter in the fridge, I want a biscuit as tall and lofty as the Sears Tower.
Know what I mean?
This was no Okie recipe throw-down. Instead it felt like proof that when I make biscuits, I should make both types, and enough of both to freeze for breakfast and snacking purposes later on.
I know. I'm suffering some disappointment, too. I always get excited about a bit of homestyle bedlam. I can't help it, I'm an Oklahoman. It's in my blood.
But you know what? With two killer biscuit recipes in my cookbook archives, I think I'll recover soon enough.