Monday, July 16, 2007

On the shores of Cheddar Bay...

Yes, yes, I KNOW! I know I haven't been posting much. That's because I am not cooking much, other than the same old same old for the farmers' market that I've already blogged about. But I do have a tide over snack for you today that I've been meaning to share for sometime now.

Let me preface this entry by saying that I live in a very small city (actually, I live 20 miles north of a very small city, but that's neither here nor there), and we are not blessed with great eating establishments, Michigan joints notwithstanding (please refer to your October 2006 issue of Gourmet for all the details of Plattsburgh's only culinary claim to fame). What's worse, sometimes we get decent places and then they go away. Just this week, in fact, I was dismayed to learn that our one little gourmet shop/caterer in town, The Grand Onion, is going out of business...BOO HISS! And it's not just small, privately-owned operations, either. Years ago--even before I moved here--Plattsburgh had a Red Lobster that that closed down. I mean...what in the world? How could a big box chain like that fail? When Applebee's came a few years ago, people stood in line for hours to get in, for crying out loud! Anyway, there are still folks around that remember Red Lobster being here and some of them even used to work there.

In the first summer session, I had a nice fellow named Larry in my class, and he used to be a cook at the now-defunct Red Lobster. He even went through the intensive training in Orlando or wherever it is that they send them, and he earned the highly-desired Red Lobster chef's coat! Whoo-hoo! And for his informative speech my class (have I ever mentioned that I teach public speaking? well, I do), he decided to teach us how to make a excellent knock-off of the famed Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits. (Where is Cheddar Bay, do you suppose? Wisconsin, perhaps?) Now because Larry would like to work for them again one day if he has the opportunity, he kept some parts of the recipe as trade secrets, but he did share some great tips. The most important of which is to start with good old Bisquick as your base. In fact, they are told at Red Lobster if they ever run out of their own secret biscuit mix (which has to be shipped in unmarked cartons or it frequently gets stolen off of the trucks!), that they should run to the store and buy some Bisquick and use that in a pinch. Also, Larry insists that, despite all of the copycat recipes on the web advising the use of milk to keep the biscuits tender, that it's all about the ice water in the mix. And lastly, to simulate Red Lobster's buttery topping, Larry recommends using a liquid butter-type product such as I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray. That skeeved me out a bit, so I just used regular melted butter, but you do what you need to do. I also chose to make mine in a muffin tin, to get crispier sides. But that made for less surface area on top to spread the buttery goodness over. So I think I will make them as Larry does, with a muffin scoop right onto a cookie sheet, for next time. Still, these were darn good and a very reasonable facsimile of the legendary Cheddar Bay Biscuits of Red Lobster fame. And until that restaurant returns to us in poor old Plattsburgh (though in truth, I'd much rather have an Olive Garden and/or a Chili's!), these might just have to do. Enjoy!

Larry's Almost Cheddar Bay Biscuits

2 1/4 cups Bisquick
3/4 cup cold water
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (preferably, sharp)

4 oz. liquid butter (such as I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the Bisquick, cheese and ice water (water temperature must be between 34 and 36 degrees). Stir ingredients just until soft dough forms. Dough must be portioned and placed in the oven within 10 minutes (use a muffin scoop for equal-sized biscuits). Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate biscuits about halfway through so that they bake evenly.

Mix together the liquid butter (open the spray bottle and pour), garlic powder, garlic salt (I don't have garlic salt, so I used 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic plus a good pinch of salt), Old Bay, and parsley. Once biscuits are golden brown, remove from the oven, and immediately brush garlic topping over hot biscuits and serve.


Randi said...

That is so funny!! When you say Michigan joints, what do you mean by that? When I want a taste of small town American, I head to Port Huron( another border town). They have a Chili's, Olive Garden ( gag) applebees, red lobster and a few other fast food chains. I am so sick of every single one of those. You can also buy a garlic cheddar instant biscuit mix( made by bisquick). One of my friends bought a few when I took her to MI and her kids beg for those. When I was in Community College, I did a speach on how to make a 7 layer dip. I made the dip in class too. Once a foodie, always a foodie.

JoyBugaloo said...

People around here will get quite irate if you say this, but a Michigan is basically a chili dog with a slightly different kind of hot dog (a garlic weiner in a crisp casing that is an unnatural pink color but very tasty) and a sauce with different spices than a traditional chili dog and ground meat that is so fine as to almost be pulverized in the sauce. And of course, it's served in a New England-style bun (split down the middle on top).

I confess that I sometimes miss some of the big chain restaurants, because the closest ones are an hour and half away from me in Burlington, VT. Well, I suppose there are some closer in and around Montreal, but why in the world would I eat at a chain restaurant there?? There are too many wonderful restaurants to choose from, more than I will get to in my lifetime.

I have tried that biscuit mix, and it's very good, especially when you don't have the time or will to make proper biscuits.

One of my first speeches, in fifth grade, was how to make a proper sandwich! Once a foodie, always a foodie. :-)