Perfect for a weekend breakfast, this fluffy biscuit sandwich is great with a slice of salty ham and doused with gravy.
By Taylor Mathis and Sally James
Taylor’s great grandmother, Elizabeth Hancock James could flat cook. She was a little girl in upstate South Carolina when her mother passed away. Raised thereafter by the family cook, Mama J’s collard greens were the best I have ever eaten. Salty country ham and sweet potlikker that tasted like candy! Coconut cake, Impossible Pie and Franklin Nut cake were always on the sideboard when I visited. As a child, I loved to watch her work her magic in the kitchen. I smile as I remember Mama J barking at my father, Carl, to get outside as he tried to sample whatever she was cooking.
Mama J. would make buttermilk biscuits without measuring. She was an intuitive cook and had made biscuits so many times that she just had a feel for it. I would watch her pop the dough in the oven and walk away while telling me, ” not to worry, the biscuits will tell us when they were done.” I loved the idea of talking biscuits!
- 4 cups self rising flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 Stick unsalted butter, cold
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 2 cups Buttermilk
- 1 pound Country Ham (we used center cut slices)
- 1 Tablespoon bacon drippings
- ¾ cup strong coffee
- ½ cup water
- 2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon unsulphured Molasses, plus extra for serving with biscuits
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. To make the biscuits, put the flour into a large bowl. Cut 5 Tablespoons of butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Add the vegetable shortening. Using two forks or a pastry blender, work quickly to cut the butter and shortening into the flour until they are the size of small peas.
- Make a well in the center of the flour/butter/shortening mixture. Add 1¾ cups of the buttermilk to the center of the well. Working quickly, use a fork to draw the flour mixture into the center of the bowl. As the dough comes together, add buttermilk by the Tablespoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. The dough should not be so dry that it does not stay together. Empty the biscuit dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust your hands with flour and lightly knead the dough 3 or 4 times to form a round disk. Sprinkle the biscuits dough with flour if it begins to stick to the work surface. Flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough in a single direction using light even strokes until the biscuit dough is 1½ inches thick.
- Press a three inch floured biscuit cutter straight down into the dough. Avoid twisting the cutter as you press down. Twisting will cause the biscuits to rise unevenly and become lopsided during baking. Put the biscuits on a baking sheet. Reduce the heat of the oven to 400 degrees. Bake biscuits on the middle rack of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven.
- Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter. Using a pastry brush, cover the top of each warm biscuit with melted butter. Let the biscuits cool.
- While the biscuits are baking, cook the ham. Set a large skillet over medium heat. Cut the ham slices into 10 pieces. When the pan is warm, add the bacon drippings. When the drippings have melted, add the ham pieces to the pan and cook according to the ham package instructions. Remove the ham from the pan. Reserve.
- While the biscuits are cooling, make the Red Eye Gravy. Set the same pan the ham was cooked in over medium heat. Add the coffee. Stir with a wooden spoon until the browned bits from the bottom of the pan are incorporated into the coffee. Add the water and molasses. Cook the gravy, stirring frequently, until it is reduced by ⅓. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the 2 Tablespoons of cold butter and swirl the bottom of the pan until the butter melts and mixes with the gravy.
- To serve, cut the biscuits in half and stuff with the cooked country ham. Portion some Red Eye gravy onto a serving plate. Add the biscuit and drizzle with additional molasses as desired.