Monday, November 14, 2011

Rocket City Redneck's Cat-head Biscuits

Cat-heads Biscuits straight out of the oven, 2011.
The Rocket City Rednecks are going to be on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno this evening and in their honor I'm publishing a biscuit recipe from the matriarch of the "Redneck" family-- Mary Ann Taylor.

I met Mary Ann when she came to LA to do press for the show and we had a great conversation about Southern food.  Turns out, Mary Ann cooks the way I like to eat.  Her food is simple, satisfying, and straight from the South... with a few twists of her own invention.  Mary Ann, like many Southern women, has a mind of her own and her biscuit recipe is a testament to her strength of character.  (I was going to write "stubbornness", but feared the word would not be read with the complimentary tone I intended.)  As strong-minded Southern woman myself, I love Mary Ann's story of how she came up with her recipe for Cat-head Biscuits.
Shortly after Charles and I married, I cooked a pan of biscuits that crumbled when one was picked up. Charles said it wasn’t fit to drag across a plate of Yellow Label Syrup. The next biscuits that I baked were hard, but stayed together when dragged in the syrup.

We got up from the table and Charles said, “come on.”

We went to his Aunt Peggy’s house. The minute we got in the door, Charles said, “Aunt Peggy, teach Mary Ann how to make biscuits.”

Needless to say, I was furious. But I taught myself how to make biscuits. Now everyone loves my biscuits.
When Mary Ann sent me her first batch of recipes, they included this biscuit recipe and one for banana bread.  I started with the banana bread because I had a hard time finding the White Lily Flour that Mary Ann suggested using in her biscuit recipe.  When Mary Ann found out about my problem, she generously offered to ship me a bag of the famous Southern self-rising pastry flour.  I told her it was too much trouble and said I'd keep looking here in Los Angeles.  The next time my husband went to Alabama on a shoot with the Rocket City Rednecks, he returned home with a bag of White Lily Flour in his suitcase, courtesy of Mary Ann.

Cat-head Biscuits
by Mary Ann Taylor

Recipe makes 6 – 8 biscuits

Cutting out Cat-head Biscuits, Los Angeles, 2011.
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wax paper [counter-top or butcher block may be used] to roll out the dough
  • Fork for mixing
  • Bowl [I like to use a quart glass measuring cup]
  • Biscuit cutter [Any size can be used, but I use a large donut size cutter for cat-head biscuits
  • 11inch x 7 ½ inch baking tin
  • 4 cups self-rising flour [I use only White Lily flour]
  • 1 tablespoon oil [I use Canola Cooking Oil]
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick of BUTTER, melted
  • Non-stick Spray Oil
  • Preheat oven to 500º lightly spray baking tin, set aside.
  • Spread wax paper on the counter. Wax paper makes clean up a breeze. Sprinkle 1 cup of flour on paper, saving 1 cup for kneading dough.
  • Pour 1 tablespoon oil into bottom of bowl, add 2 cups flour, and add buttermilk a little at a time-stirring mixture with a fork. It may or may not take all the buttermilk. The thickness of buttermilk differs with brands. The mixture should be moist and a little lumpy.
  • Dump flour dough onto floured wax paper, sprinkle a little flour over top of dough and knead; adding flour as needed. When mixture is soft but manageable, pat with hands or roll out the dough to desired thickness.
  • Cut out biscuits; knead, roll, and cut biscuits from leftover dough. Place biscuits into pan; spoon drizzle melted butter over top of biscuits.
  • Bake at 500º for 12-15minutes [biscuits cook really fast; check often while baking]
Note from Mary Ann: It has been so long since I measured ingredients for making biscuits…but this will get you started. My mother put a lot of flour in a very large bowl and made a hole in the middle of the dry flour with her hand. She added milk and grease and kneaded until she had a ball of dough; then she pinched off the biscuits with her hands.

Note from Susan:  I'm a little afraid of biscuit-making because I've eaten so many wonderful biscuits in my day.  My own biscuits are usually a little bit disappointing, but Mary Ann's biscuit recipe really delivers.  I baked mine in my grandmother's 12 inch cast iron skillet and it worked great.  My family devoured the biscuits before they even had time to cool.

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