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Maker's Mark Strawberry Julep

Kick off the unofficial start to summer with a Mint Julep and southern bites.  Fox News's Lilian Huang Woo speaks chef and authors Virginia Willis, Elizabeth Heiskell and Rob Samuels of Maker's Mark about drinks and Southern eats as enjoyable in your back yard as trackside.

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Cathead Biscuit
Virginia Willis
Photo Credit: Angie Mosier 

Makes about 9
My friend and colleague Dr. Marcie Cohen Ferris is a professor in the Department of American
Studies at the University of North Carolina. Her research and teaching interests include Southern
history and culture--particularly the foodways and material culture of the American South and the history of the Jewish South. In her excellent book The Edible South she writes, "In contemporary
worlds of popular and consumer culture, Southern food has become untethered from the complex
historical narrative responsible for this cuisine. Think of buckets of Southern fried chicken and cathead
biscuits like culinary spacecraft set adrift from the mother ship of southern history, culture,
and experience." I wholeheartedly agree. Many people outside the South think all Southern food is
unhealthy and/or fried. The term cathead biscuit is an authentic one, indicating that it's a biscuit as large as a cat's head, and a phrase my grandfather once used. This extra-large biscuit would not have been the norm on the everyday table, but it has become the standard size for fast-food biscuits. Ferris continues, "Fried
chicken, biscuits, and sweet tea--the icons of Southern food--have become so 'super-sized,' enriched,
sweetened, and filled with butter that they are almost unrecognizable to native Southerners."
This cathead biscuit is the real deal.
There are a few secrets to a tender biscuit: First, flours vary in their protein levels. Reach for a
low-protein flour for light-as-air biscuits. After that, you want cold butter--when the cold butter is
transferred to the hot oven it melts and produces steam, which helps produce flaky biscuits. Lastly,
avoid overworking the dough, which activates the gluten and will produce a tough, heavy biscuit. The
perfect biscuit should be golden brown and slightly crisp on
the outside, with a light, airy interior.
4 cups White Lily or other Southern all-purpose flour, or cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for rolling out
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (½ cup) cold unsalted butter,
cut into cubes and chilled
2 cups buttermilk
1. Heat the oven to 500°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. (You can also bake the biscuits on
an ungreased baking sheet.)
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry
blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until just barely combined. It will be a shaggy mass. (Alternatively, you can mix the dough in a food processor: Pulse to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles coarse meal. Pour in the buttermilk through the feed tube and
pulse until just barely combined. It will be a shaggy mass.)
4. Turn the shaggy mass out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly, using the heel of your hand to
compress and push the dough away from you, then fold it back over itself. Give the dough a small turn
and repeat four or five times. (It's not yeast bread; you want to just barely activate the gluten, not overwork it.)
5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out 1 inch thick. Cut out rounds of dough with a 3½-
inch round cutter dipped in flour; press the cutter straight down without twisting so the biscuits will rise
evenly when baked.
6. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. If the biscuits are baked close together, the sides will be
tender. If the biscuits are baked farther apart, the sides will be crisp. (I always say biscuits are like people:
If you are close to your neighbor, you will be tender, and if you aren't close to your neighbor, you will be
crisp!)
7. Once you've punched out the first round from the dough, you can reroll the scraps. However, do not
simply roll them into a ball; this will create a knot of gluten strands. Instead, plac
e the pieces one on top of the other in layers. Then roll out and repeat punching out the biscuits.
8. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool just slightly. Serve warm.
Wheat flour contains two proteins, glutenin and gliadin. Gluten is a strong and elastic sheet produced by these proteins by the combination of moisture and motion. When you combine flour with liquid, the proteins produce gluten. Gluten gives structure and chewiness to yeast breads, but you don't want to develop gluten in tender biscuits.
 1. Using a pastry blender, cut the chilled cubed butter into the flour mixture. The butter coats the flour and
will prevent the absorption of moisture, therefore lessening the activation of the gluten.
2. Stop cutting when the butter bits are about the size of small peas. The butter will melt during baking,
creating pockets of steam that give biscuits their flakiness.
3. Add the buttermilk and stir to combine, but do not stir until it is a smooth dough. You don't want to
overwork the dough and activate the gluten.
4. Turn the shaggy mass out onto a floured work surface. Flour is your friend!
5. Using a bench scraper, turn the dough a few times until it starts to come together.
6. Shape the dough into a rectangle. Try not to touch the dough with your warm hands so the butter stays
cold.
7. Using a floured rolling pin, start at the middle of the dough and roll backward without coming off the
edge. Then start in the middle of the dough and roll forward without coming off the edge. This wi
ll help keep the dough even.
8. Using your bench scraper, rotate the dough so it does not stick to the work surface. Add more flour, if
needed.
9. Using a floured circular cutter, punch out the biscuits. Do not twist as you punch, as that would seal the
edges and possibly inhibit the biscuit's rise.
10. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet. If the biscuits touch, the sides will be soft and tender. If they do not touch, the sides will be crispier.
11. Do not ball the scraps of dough in a knot. Instead, layer the scraps
and pat them together. Reroll following the same procedure and punch out the remaining biscuits.
12. The biscuits are ready for the oven! A very hot oven is essential to create the biscuits' ideal texture inside
and out.
Excerpted from SECRETS OF THE SOUTHERN TABLE © 2018 by Virginia Willis.
Photography © 2018 by Angie Mosier. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All

Asian Cajun BBQ Shrimp Virginia Willis photo: Angie Mosier  

 Asian Cajun BBQ Shrimp with Grilled Baguette

Barbecue shrimp in New Orleans has nothing to do with a grill, a pit, or even barbecue sauce. Barbecue shrimp in New Orleans is a dish of butter-poached shrimp flavored with dried spices and herbs. It's what happened to shrimp scampi as it traversed the Atlantic and crossed the levies of the mighty Mississippi. In the nineteenth century, trade routes opened between Sicily and New Orleans and thousands of Italians migrated to New Orleans. By 1870, New Orleans claimed the largest Italian-born population in the United States--even greater than the New York City area! A more recent immigration trend in the region has been the Vietnamese, leading to the introduction of new flavors into this Southern dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, cut into thirds and halved lengthwise
  • 1½ pounds extra-large (16/20-count) shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon homemade or store-bought Creole seasoning, or to taste
  • 8 tablespoons (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ jalapeño, or to taste, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Working with a few pieces at a time, cook the bread until browned and toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternatively, heat the oven to broil and broil the bread until toasted, about 2 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler.) Set aside and keep warm.

Place the shrimp in a bowl. Add the Creole seasoning and toss to coat. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, jalapeño, ginger, and lemongrass. Cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the shrimp and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the lemon juice, hot sauce, and fish sauce. Cook, turning once or twice, until the shrimp are firm and pink, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the shrimp and juices atop the grilled bread. Serve immediately, with lots of napkins. Excerpted from SECRETS OF THE SOUTHERN TABLE © 2018 by Virginia Willis. Photography © 2018 by Angie Mosier. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Bacon Bites
Elizabeth Heiskell
Photo Editor: Paden Reich

Bacon Bites

So here it is in all its glory . . . our most talked about, sought after, and begged for recipe.  We love these served in mint julep cups or silver goblets. Although this recipe calls for just  three simple ingredients, there are a few tips that will make you a pro. Always line your  rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Watch the bacon bites, and, if they are cooking too fast on the bottom, roll them over so they can caramelize evenly. As soon as  they are done take them off the pan, otherwise they will superglue themselves to the foil.  Once they are cool you can stack them in an airtight container and they will keep for two days. Serves 22 Hands-on 15 minutes Total 1 hour

2 cups packed light brown sugar

22 bacon slices

22 very thin breadsticks (from a 3.5-ounce package)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the brown sugar in a large pan or baking sheet. Wrap 1 bacon slice around each breadstick, starting at 1 end of the breadstick and barely overlapping the bacon. Roll the breadsticks in the brown sugar, pressing to adhere. (At this point, you can  cover and refrigerate overnight, if desired.) Place breadsticks on an aluminum foil-lined  12- x 7-inch baking sheet.
  2. Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is cooked through and almost crisp, 35 to 40 minutes. Immediately remove the warm sticks from baking sheet, and place on wax paper. (They will stick like glue if not moved immediately.) Cool to room temperature. Excerpted from What Can I Bring? by Elizabeth Heiskell. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Meredith Corporation. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Bourbon Slush Elizabeth Heiskell
Photo credit: Brie Passano

Bourbon Slush

All I have to do is take one sniff of a glass of bourbon and I'm transported to a cool, fall day in Starkville at Davis Wade Stadium. I can hear the crowds and feel the excitement. Daddy never missed a game and neither did I. This drink is subtle and absolutely drinkable, and it will quickly become your most favorite game day or party go-to. It couldn't be any easier either, plus it freezes beautifully. You can  make it months ahead so it's ready when you are.

Serves 10 Hands-on 10 minutes  Total 10 hours, 10 minutes, including 8 hours chilling

6 cups hot brewed tea

1 cup granulated sugar

1 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate

6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate (from 1 [12-ounce] can)

2 cups bourbon

Combine the hot tea and sugar in a heatproof bowl; stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemonade concentrate and orange juice concentrate; stir until blended. Let stand until cool, about 1 hour. Stir in the bourbon. Pour the bourbon mixture into a large freezer-safe container, and freeze until almost firm, about 8 hours or overnight. Let stand at room temperature until partially thawed, about 1 hour. Spoon into glasses, and serve immediately.

Excerpted from What Can I Bring? by Elizabeth Heiskell. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Meredith Corporation. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

"The Perfect Mint Julep"

1 - ½ parts Maker's Mark® Bourbon

Fresh mint

2 tablespoons simple syrup* muddled with mint

Splash of distilled water

Powdered sugar

Mint sprig for garnish

1 cup granulated sugar*

1 cup distilled water*

Mix together simple syrup muddled with mint, Maker's Mark® Bourbon and distilled water. Fill glass with crushed ice and pour mixture over top. Sprinkle top of ice with powdered sugar. Garnish with a mint sprig. *Simple Syrup: Heat to dissolve sugar, stirring constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

"The Perfect Mint Julep"

(Serves 14-16)

Ingredients:

1 liter Maker's Mark® Bourbon

Lots of fresh spearmint

Distilled water

Granulated sugar

Powdered sugar

  1. To prepare the mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves - wash and place in a small mixing bowl.  Cover with 3 ounces of Maker's Mark.  Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes.  Then, gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whisky.  Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.  Then set aside.
  1. To prepare the simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and one cup of water in a cooking pot.  Heat to dissolve the sugar.  Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn.  Set aside to cool.
  1. To prepare the mint julep mixture, pour 3 ½ cups of Maker's Mark into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher.  (Pour the remaining whisky from the liter bottle into another container and save it for another purpose).  Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Maker's Mark.
  1. Now, begin adding the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture.  Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added.  You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose.  The tendency is to use too much mint.  You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste - generally about 3 tablespoons.
  1. When you think it's right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to "marry" the flavors.
  1. To serve the mint julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) half full with shaved ice.  Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup.  Then, insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.
  1. When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice and serve.