Remember going to restaurants? My great aunt and uncle took me to this one place with cheese popovers so good that I blacked out and took down at least eight between one blink and the next. I don’t even remember what else they served there, and I don’t care. People always tell you not to “ruin your appetite”, but Red Lobster knows no one’s going there for the fish-fry free-for-all. It’s the biscuits. It’s always been the biscuits.
This week I present to you The Biscuits, and you don’t have to save room for anything if you don’t want to. No one cares if you ruin your appetite this year.
The holidays suck this year. Yes, I said it. #brave. The two comforts we have are 1. Everyone’s having a rough time and 2. We get to do whatever we want.
You don’t have to take another slice of Aunt Jan’s Diet Lemon Fantasy Salad because she’s staring bullets at you from across the room. You don’t have to eat any overcooked Brussels sprouts or listen to your friend’s husband get louder and louder as he argues with no one about something no one cares about, like Joe Rogan.
Instead, you can swan around the house in your fluffiest robe and a tinsel boa, singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and stuffing your face with these exceptional biscuits that you made from things you already have around the house.
My favorite thing about these, other than the ecstatic cheese-fugue they induce, is the fact that they’re drop biscuits, which are essentially dumplings that you bake. As someone with preternaturally hot hands, making normal biscuits or pie crust or anything with flaky layers is my nightmare. The one summer I worked at a bakery I got sent home early because my stress-heat was melting the croissants as I rolled them.
These biscuits are the best because the butter is already melted. They are too easy to mess up. No kneading, no rolling, no cutting out, no worrying about your hot hands. Just tender-crisp mounds of cheesy pastry covered in garlic butter. Have I sold you on them yet?
I based these biscuits off the legendary Red Lobster cheddar bay ones, but there’s no Old Bay seasoning (because I can’t get any here). If you wanted to throw in some celery salt or smoked paprika I’m sure it wouldn’t go amiss, but I just doubled the cayenne from ¼ tsp to ½, to dial up the warmth and add color. I promise they’re not too spicy, it’s just a gentle kick, like from a sleeping kitten.
Cheese-wise, I don’t care what you do as long as you do a lot of it. Variety is the spice of life, and also of these biscuits, but you can go out and buy a bag (let’s be real, two bags) of pre-shredded orange cheddar and it will still work great. Grate up all the leftover cheese in your fridge, and it will work even better. I’ve used parmesan, pecorino, goat’s cheese, and feta in various batches of these and they were perfect each time.
What matters is that you wodge as much cheese as you possibly can into them. You cannot over-cheese these. The worst thing that happens is the unincorporated cheese forms little melty cheese caverns, which is not at all bad.
Finally, I know you just want to eat the biscuits right out of the oven, but it’s the garlic butter that brings everything together. You must make the garlic butter. You can use garlic powder instead of mincing a clove if you want, or grate the clove right into the butter, but the last step is not optional.
(You don’t have to care about the parsley. I hereby absolve you of caring about the parsley. It’s just there to make them look nice.)
It’s not in me to say no to simple comforts this year, and I’ve decided to refuse to feel bad about it. I can’t go hug my family, and I can’t at this moment stop whatever fresh political batshittery is afoot. I think it’s a psychological necessity to indulge this year, if only to relax and stop attempting to hold it together in at least ONE area of life.
The warm, cheesy gusts of air that bloom out of the kitchen when I’m making these biscuits have blown whatever slim shreds of willpower I had left entirely away, and that’s a gift. This year, we’re doing Christmas like no one’s watching. This year, I’m eating the entire bread basket, and no one can stop me.
Cheesy Biscuits with Garlic Butter
I want to be clear: we have made these biscuits 3 times in the last 2 weeks (for serious recipe-testing purposes, obviously), and they have never made it longer than 24 hours. Plus, they’re best fresh, and who are you really saving them for, anyway?
Makes: 12-15 biscuits. Time: half an hour
For the biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar (this is not gross, this is crucial)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup buttermilk (you do not have to run out and get buttermilk, you can make your own and I will show you how at the bottom)
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cups finely shredded cheese, packed
For the garlic butter:
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced, or ½ tsp garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 425F/220C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
- If you’re making it, make your buttermilk now.
- Melt your butter and set it aside to cool slightly.
- If you’re grating your own cheese, grate it into measuring cups and pack it down. If you’re using a gooey cheese like goat’s, just wing it. It’ll be fine. Put all measured cheese into a large bowl and set aside. The cheese doesn’t have to stay packed, the packing is just to make sure you get maximum cheese impact. Okay.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cayenne.
- In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together buttermilk and melted butter.
- Pour wet ingredients over flour mixture and stir using a rubber spatula until just moist. The rubber spatula is key because it helps bring everything together in what is quite a sticky dough.
- Violently fold in your cheese until just incorporated – it’s a thick dough, but try not to over-mix, as it will make the biscuits less tender. If the cheese is still a little lumpy, all that means is more future cheese-caverns for you.
- Use a spoon to pack dough into a ¼ c measuring cup, and gently pry it out onto the prepared baking sheet. Doing this makes a nice biscuitty shape, but they bake up into blobs, so. Whatever, I like doing it.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch these the first time you make them – the original recipe calls for just 10 minutes’ baking, but my oven took longer. Because they’re baking at a high heat, things can change quickly, so keep an eye out.
- Once they’re out of the oven, heat your butter on low while you mince your garlic clove, then add garlic to hot butter and swirl for about a minute, just until you can smell the garlic. You don’t need any color, you just want the flavor to infuse the butter and the garlic to get a smidge less raw.
- Chop parsley and add to garlic butter, then brush onto hot biscuits.
- When all biscuits are brushed, remove to a rack to cool completely, if you are a psychopath. Otherwise, eat immediately. Best eaten fresh, so don’t wait.
HOW TO MAKE BUTTERMILK:
Buttermilk: why even bother. You buy it for one thing, forget about it, it goes bad, and then you have to go buy it again. I’m sure there’s some reason why real buttermilk is best, but I always just do this instead:
Measure 1 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar into 1-cup measuring cup. Pour 1 cup of milk over it and let sit at least 10 minutes, better 15. Voilà.