Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Trade secrets

Tips on dining out and dining in

Compiled by Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Baking homemade biscuits is a true folk art. By rolling out a batch on Sunday morning to have with scrambled eggs, or just with honey and lots of strawberry jam, I feel I'm contributing to the continuation of genuine American culture. The kind you whack on the counter are sad, sad, substitutes.

The thing is, biscuits are not hard to make from scratch You need no special ingredients or equipment, and they take all of 10 minutes to bake.

In Biscuit Bliss (Harvard Common Press; $14.95), James Villas covers every conceivable kind of biscuit, from "angel" biscuits to beaten biscuits, buttermilk, cathead and fried biscuits. Then he presents flavored biscuits, scones and recipes that use biscuits, such as pot pie and shortcake.

Three-Fat Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chilled lard (see note)

2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening

1 tablespoon chilled butter

1 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lard, shortening, and butter and cut them in with a pastry cutter or rub with your fingertips till the mixture is mealy. Make a well in the center, add the milk, and stir briskly with a fork just till the dough holds together.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead about 8 times, pat out 1/2 inch thick, and cut out rounds with a 2-inch biscuit cutter. Pat the scraps together and cut out more rounds.

Arrange the rounds on a baking sheet 1 inch apart for crusty-sided biscuits or almost touching for soft ones and bake in the upper third of the oven till golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Makes about 16 biscuits

Note: Lard yields a delightfully brittle texture, the shortening a delicate fluffiness, and the butter a rich flavor.

We tried it

Many bemoan the difficulty of finding "New York style" pizza in Greater Cincinnati - the thin-crusted pizza you can buy by the slice from storefront pizzerias all over the five boroughs.

What I've always wished someone would re-create is a New York-style calzone, which comes from the same unassuming storefronts.

Well, I just had one - at Fratelli's New York Style Pizzeria in West Chester Township. A good thin crust, folded over and enclosing nothing but mozzarella, lots of ricotta and slices of ham.

Red sauce optional on the side. The cheese oozes out like white lava: it's kind of bland, but so creamy and lovely, with just the salty ham for contrast.

Fratelli's 6890 Tylersville Road, West Chester Township, (513) 777-5061.

Low-carb watch

Jersey Mike's Subs offers its low-carb choice in the easiest way possible: They're just throwing out the bread.

Sub in a Tub is what they're calling it. It's everything that would be in a sandwich - meat, cheese, vegetables - but there's no bun.

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