It’s Tuesday, and here we are at week 10 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. Tonight, I am presenting Virginia, who joined the union on June 25th, 1788, just 4 days after New Hampshire.
Researching Virginia was not only easy, but really interesting. It has earned the nickname ‘Mother of Presidents’ because it produced eight of America’s early leaders. And one of those presidents is also unofficially America’s First Gourmet: Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson had extensive gardens at his home, Monticello, where he brought all kinds of ‘exotic’ food from his travels, including eggplant, broccoli, mustard seed and rice. He was also a large grower of peanuts.
Virginia owes a lot of its culinary heritage to those who were brought to these shores against their will. Slaves brought foods such as okra, peanuts and black-eyed peas from Africa, paving the way for dishes such as fried black-eyed peas and one of our dishes for tonight, Cream of Peanut Soup.
Ham has also been a staple in Virginia since the 1600s, when colonists learned to smoke meats from the native Americans. And where there is ham, there is often a Southern Buttermilk Biscuit, which is my second dish for this evening.
The story of Cream of Peanut soup really comes from Colonial Williamsburg, where it is believed it was served almost daily to George Washington. The recipe I used was a traditional one that has been served at The King’s Arms Tavern since the 1700s. It is really easy to make, and I can say that I liked it. It is really rich, so a good starter, but I wouldn’t want a huge bowl full. A cup is more than enough. I think that kids would really like it, because the flavor is simple and sort of just tastes like liquid peanut butter. Here is the recipe for it.
Cream of Peanut Soup
(Recipe courtesy of King’s Arms Tavern, Colonial Williamsburg, VA)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
3 tbsp flour
8 cups Chicken Stock
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 3/4 cups light cream or half-and-half
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional)
Finely chopped salted peanuts, for garnish
In a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened, three-five minutes. Stir in flour and cook two minutes longer.
Pour in the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Pour into a sieve set over a large bowl and strain, pushing hard on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Return the liquid to the sauce pan or pot.
Whisk the peanut butter and the cream into the liquid. Warm over low heat, whisking often, for about five minutes. Do not boil. Serve warm, garnished with the chopped peanuts.
Now, when you are in the south, it does seem to be all about the biscuit, and I thought that a good Southern Buttermilk Biscuit would pair nicely with some Virginia Ham. The recipe that I found was from Southern Living Magazine, and was fairly straightforward in ingredients. What I found interesting was the technique of flouring and folding the dough, which was supposed to make it fluffy and layered, sort of like puffed pastry. I have to say, I was not impressed. Don’t get me wrong, the biscuit flavor was delicious; all buttery and golden, but they were not airy, fluffy or otherwise puffed pastry like. They were just biscuits. I’m thinking this technique requires some practice, so I am not going to give up on. If I make biscuits again, I would definitely use this recipe and maybe try this folding thing again. I will let you know.
Here is the biscuit recipe:
Southern Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe
(From Southern Living Magazine)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, plus more for the pan if needed
2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, or 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons homemade self-rising flour* (you may need up to 1 cup more flour if the dough is sticky), plus more for the work surface
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
Cut the cold butter into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Dump the flour into a large bowl and toss in the butter slices. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and resembles small peas. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Lightly butter a baking sheet or jelly-roll pan or line it with parchment paper.
Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture, stirring just until the flour is moistened. The dough will be very sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed. Using floured hands, press or pat the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle (it should measure about 9 by 5 inches). Sprinkle the top of the dough with additional flour. Starting with a short end, fold the dough over onto itself in 3 sections. Then fold the dough rectangle as if folding a letter-size piece of paper. Press the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle (yes, again) and repeat the entire process 2 more times, adding additional flour as needed.
Press or pat the dough to a 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough with a floured 2-inch cutter. Place the biscuits side by side on the prepared baking sheet or jelly-roll pan. The biscuits should touch. Quickly and gently press together the dough scraps while the dough is still cold and cut out as many more biscuits as you can.
Bake the biscuits for 13 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Brush the tops with the melted butter and let them cool ever so slightly. The biscuits are best warm from the oven, so don’t dally.
*Self-Rising Flour Note
Self-rising flour isn’t necessarily a staple in everyone’s pantry, so here is how to make it yourself: 1 cup of self-rising flour = 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 cup all-purpose flour
So, all in all, we had some pretty tasty stuff this week, and I am generally happy with the results. Next week is New York. My home state. This one may take more than one week to conquer. See you next time.