Wednesday, October 20


SFA is sending you a little taste of biscuits and gravy in advance of this weekend's upcoming symposium. Click here to preview the latest edition of the Gravy foodletter online; the hard copy is on its way to your mailbox this week. Read about symposium guests Chingo Bling, the "Masa Messiah," and Valerie Erwin, who operates Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in Philadelphia. Learn about Calvin Head and the West Holmes Community Development Organization, recipients of the 2010 John Egerton Prize. And before you commence to reading, try your hand at the 2010 White Lily True Yam Biscuit recipe, created by symposium guest chef Yewande Komolafe and shared with SFA here.

White Lily 2010 SFA Symposium Recipe

Sweet Potato / True Yam Biscuits

Confusion abounds in Southern grocery stores. White-fleshed sweet potatoes are often called yams. Orange-fleshed ones, too, for that matter. True African yams are bigger, harrier, more fibrous tubers. They are not generally interchangeable with sweet potatoes.

Yewande Komolafe, a talented pastry chef of Nigerian origin, raised in Atlanta, and now living in New York City – where she works in the test kitchen at Saveur magazine – has conceived a couple of recipes that show how the tubers are different and how an enterprising cook can adapt true African yams for Southern kitchens.

At the 2010 Southern Foodways Symposium, we’re serving Yewande’s sweet potato biscuits with her own pepper jelly. Tucked inside will be sock sausage, smoked by Tyler Brown of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. When you try this at home, we’ve found that country ham suits just as well as sock sausage. Enjoy.

Southern Sweet Potato Biscuits

Heat oven to 400°. Using a fork, poke holes all over 2 medium sweet potatoes and wrap in foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour until a toothpick or a fork goes right through. Remove from the oven and let cool. Peel the skin off and mash the sweet potatoes. Leave slightly chunky.

2 medium white-fleshed sweet potatoes (yielding 1½ cups mashed sweet potatoes)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 stick butter, cold
2 ½ cups White Lily all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cold buttermilk
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and brown sugar, and use a whisk to fully incorporate. Add the cold butter, and, using your fingers, break apart the butter pieces and incorporate into the rest of the ingredients until pea size pieces form. Add the mashed yams and the cold buttermilk. Use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface, pat into a single mass, and roll out 1 inch thick. Using a 2¼ inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds from the dough and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more biscuits until all the dough is used. Add a little water to the beaten egg and brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg wash. Place in the oven and bake till golden brown, 15 – 20 minutes. Serve while still warm with a hot pepper jelly and slices of country ham or smoked sock sausage.

Makes 6 Biscuits

True African Yam Biscuits: A Variation

In addition to the ingredients above you’ll need:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste
Instead of the sweet potatoes, source 1 small (8-to 10-inch long) African yam

Preheat oven to 425°. Cut the yam into 1½ inch slices, discarding both end pieces. Using a paring knife, peel off the thick layer of outside skin, and immediately drop the slices into a bowl of water to rinse and prevent oxidization. Cut each slice into ½ inch cubes and keep completely covered with water.