At Christmas, I like to make salt-and-pepper butter crackers with pimento cheese for my family, so it’s only natural that I might play with the same idea when New Year’s Eve rolls around just a week later. Sometimes making very simple substitutions to a recipe can really change the flavor to something new and different, and it’s all about having a well-stocked pantry.
I’ve taken a slightly different approach to my usual biscuit and pimento cheese recipes here, making tiny bite-sized biscuits that are amped up with cracked black pepper, then I’ve changed my traditional pimento cheese recipe to include a very sharp white cheddar (I used Plymouth Artisan Cheese’s Hunter Cheddar from my Mouth.com picks) and substituted a generous amount of ground Piment d’Espelette — a mildly hot French red pepper — for the roasted red pepper that I normally use. I”ve also included Empire Mayonnaise Company’s Sriracha Mayonnaise (also from Mouth.com) to add a little more heat. You can pipe the cheese mixture onto the split biscuits, or let your guests slather it on themselves.
When it comes to a party drink, I naturally gravitate toward something that will help cleanse the palate — I’ve mixed one part Pok Pok Pineapple Drinking Vinegar (also from my Mouth.com list) with four parts sparkling water, dropping a single Amarena cherry (another great pantry item from Eataly) with a little bit of the syrup into each glass, creating a sweet and tart mocktail that helps cut the richness of the biscuit and cheese. If you prefer to have sparkling wine for your New Year’s Eve celebration, then add just a splash of the Pineapple Drinking Vinegar to the sparkling wine just before dropping in the cherry to create a special champagne cocktail.
Serveware provided by Le Creuset.
One-Bite Black Pepper Biscuits
Makes about 20 1-inch biscuits
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping the dough
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices (plus 1 tablespoon, melted)
3/4 cup cold low-fat buttermilk
Non-stick cooking spray
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, pepper, and baking soda. Add the shortening and use your fingertips to pinch it into the flour to form small, pea-sized pieces.
Drop the cold butter slices into the flour mixture and toss until they are coated. Press the cubes into the flour and chill the mixture in the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Reserving one teaspoon, mix the buttermillk with the flour mixture until there are no bits of dry flour left; the dough will be slightly sticky.
Coat the work surface with the cooking spray and then flour (the spray helps keep the flour in place). Transfer the dough to the work surface and dust lightly with flour, then press the dough lightly with the heels of your hands to form a smooth ball. Roll with a rolling pin to 1/2-inch thickness, then cut out the biscuits with a 1-inch round cutter. Flip the rounds over so that the smooth sides that were flat against the work surface are now face up, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spaced one inch apart. Refrigerate for 15 minutes while the oven preheats to 450°.
Just before baking, mix the melted butter with the reserved buttermilk and brush onto the tops fo the chilled biscuits. Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes, checking on them occasionally to make sure they don’t overbake.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
French Pimento Cheese
Makes about 1 cup.
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup crumbled or grated very sharp white cheddar cheese
2 ounces softened cream cheese (room temperature)
1/4 cup sriracha mayonnaise (or 1/4 cup mayonnaise with 1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce)
1/2 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette (you can also try this with smoked or traditional paprika)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until well blended and mostly smooth. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe directly onto the slightly warm split biscuits. Garnish each dollop with a parsley leaf, or chop the parsley finely and sprinkle over the cheese mixture if you are serving it in a bowl to be spread individually by your guests.
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