I have this problem. There was someone I once knew who made THE best biscuits and gravy I ever tasted in my life. I had them numerous times over a period of just over 20 years. The biscuits were made in the true southern style: Self-rising flour, preferably White Lily brand, some shortening cut into the flour, and some milk added before kneading, cutting and baking. Of course, none of this was measured. What mattered before baking was the consistency. Gravy was a simple roux of the flour and more shortening, with some milk added. Rice on the side rounded out whe meal. I’d break up a couple of those biscuits on a plate, lay some rice next to the biscuits, slather the whole of it with the milk gravy, add a little salt … and later on, go back for seconds.
This is the one thing I miss about my ex-mother-in-law.
The older women in that whole family knew how to do breakfast right. Just about every last one of them could make those biscuits, each with just a bit of a twist on the others. A couple of them would have an entire breakfast table ready-to-serve by the time most of the family members were even considering getting out of bed. One worked at a commercial cannery, so I’d get gallon jars of pickled vegetables on a regular basis. Another was president of the Kentucky state cafeteria association, and served the kids in her school district large southern-style meals for lunch instead of “normal” school lunches … Ham, black beans … the works.
Just the kinds of food I like.
When I’m in that part of the country, be it South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, etc., I’m always on the lookout for the kinds of meals I’ve come to enjoy from the folks in those states. This past week I asked for local flavor from people I was working with in Charleston, West Virginia.
Their answer led me Tuesday morning to Tudor’s Biscuit World in Dunbar on route 25, in the direct shadow of I-64 about 100 feet away on a 20-foot rise.
I’d seen signs for Tudor’s on my travels through the area, particular down in Marmet where we’d enjoyed West Virginia-style hot dogs almost 18 months ago at Sam’s Hot Dog Stand. At the time, I remember trying to choose between visiting Sam’s or Tudor’s. Sam’s won out and the time and I recall telling myself I’d get to Tudor’s later.
This past week, “later” finally came.
The Tudor’s Biscuit World locations are fairly small and, in the case of the one in Dunbar, West Virginia, shares a dining room with a pizza parlor. At 6:30 a.m. the pizza parlor isn’t open while Tudor’s opens at 5:30. The staff behind the counter is friendly as are fellow patrons, everyone trying to get going on a weekday. There were a couple other patrons in the dining room, one a Dunbar police officer. The restaurant also has a drive-thru which was quite busy. I ordered the Super Breakfast off the menu with some coffee. They gave me my coffee and a plastic number tag and I went to a table.
Other patrons came in and sat while I was waiting for my breakfast. Everyone seemed to know each other, especially when another Dunbar police officer came in to join the first.
There was an older woman working the dining room, cleaning and bussing tables. She was very quiet, maybe in her mid-70s, with hunched shoulders and a shuffling gait. But when that second cop came in she brightened up and, in a loud southern drawl demanded, “Wayl, how yew dewin’, sweetcheeks???”
When my breakfast came, it did not disappoint. Take a look at Tudor’s menu, then the above photo. I have no clue why I ended up with a third egg. I hadn’t mentioned taking photos or that I even had a blog. But the extra egg was there nonetheless.
The bacon was cooked perfectly, as were the eggs. The baked apples were just as I remembered from former family members those couple times I was able to enjoy the dish. The potatoes were certainly not as crisp as I’d have liked, but there was enough food so I didn’t miss not eating them.
More importantly, the biscuits were just right. The cookie cutter used to cut them from the dough was the right size. The biscuits were crisp on the outside, light and flaky on the inside, and crumbled correctly. And while the gravy was of the sausage variety, the sausage and ground pepper were toned down so much that it was as though my former mother-in-law had simply burnt the gravy a little, which my kids agree was still darned good.
Their grandma hasn’t made her biscuits and gravy for a few years now, and my kids were rather disappointed to tell me so. Maybe it’s time someone younger took up the torch and ran with it.
Adam’s 17 and is a rather darn-good cook. We picked up some White Lily flour at the store today. Where’d he go …
Please note: Using flours other than White Lily brand in the following recipe will likely result in biscuits that “just ain’t right”.
White Lily Light Biscuits
• Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
• 2 cups White Lily® Self-Rising Flour
OR 2 cups White Lily® Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
• 1/4 cup Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening, chilled
OR 1/4 stick Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening Sticks, chilled
• 2/3 to 3/4 cups buttermilk or milk
1. HEAT oven to 500°F. Coat baking sheet with no-stick cooking spray.
2. MEASURE flour into large bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or 2 knives until crumbs are the size of peas. Blend in just enough milk with fork until dough leaves sides of bowl.
3. KNEAD gently 2 to 3 times on lightly floured surface. Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut using floured 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter.
4. PLACE on prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart for crisp sides or almost touching for soft sides.
5. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
This recipe copyright White Lily and the J.M. Smucker Co.