Elena Rosemond-Hoerr of Biscuits and Such is so obsessed with North Carolina that she’s creating recipes inspired by its 100 counties.
Here, the blogs you should be reading right now with recipes and tips from their creators.
The blog: Elena Rosemon-Hoerr explores her love of Southern food on her blog, Biscuits and Such.
You’re working on a series, Tasting North Carolina, featuring recipes inspired by the 100 different counties. How are you settling on the recipes?
I’m so glad you asked about this series because I am so excited about it and I’m so happy with the direction it has taken. I started Tasting North Carolina after we moved back to the Old North State, following eight (wonderful) years in Baltimore, as a way to reconnect with the state that I grew up in. Through the process of mapping out the project I realized that my experience with North Carolina covers just a small fraction of this incredible state. That was such a great motivator to dig in and learn about the various food cultures, past and present, of each county.
When I’m choosing the recipes for each county I do a lot of research on the history of that county, the population and how it has evolved, agricultural trends and ingredients that the county is known for, cultural influences: I try to get a feel for the food culture of the area. I talk to people in the county, I reach out to cornerstone restaurants, if possible I visit and eat with people. The recipe that comes from that process depends on the experience, the region, the people I talk to. Sometimes I’ll write a recipe based on an ingredient that is signature to the county—such as the Nash County Sweet Potato Chess Pie. North Carolina is the No. 1 sweet potato–producing state in the country, and Nash is the county that produces the most sweet potatoes in North Carolina. So, it made sense that I choose a recipe that featured this most beloved and crucial ingredient.
Other counties have proved more than a bit challenging. For instance, my family has a house in Morehead City, which is in Carteret County, and I grew up spending as much time there as we possibly could. My parents live there now, and choosing a recipe that represented this town that is such an important part of my life was incredibly difficult. I noodled on it for more than a year, and only this past weekend did we decide what to make. We were up in Morehead City for the Big Rock Tournament and did some sport fishing of our own during the visit. During our day offshore we caught 10 dolphin fish (mahimahi) from the boat and a half dozen crabs off the pier. So, when we were home and showered and the fish were cleaned, we stuffed the dolphin with crab meat and ate like kings. That will be the recipe for Carteret County—a fish dish featuring very fresh and hyperlocal seafood paired with a personal story, which sums up what I’m trying to do with the series pretty nicely.
My friend and former co-worker, Justin Chapple, is bragging about his biscuit making method (which entails grating the butter). What do you think of it?
First of all, Justin looks eerily like my grandfather circa 1954. Are you sure he’s not a Rosemond? As for the biscuits, I love that idea! I personally find great satisfaction in cutting the butter in by hand. There’s something about using your fingers to spread the butter to paper-thin layers that is meditative, and it makes for impressively flaky biscuits. But I’m not Luddite so I’ll be busting out my box grater the next time I’m baking up biscuits.
Congratulations on your recent book, The American Cookbook. What inspired you to do an American food cookbook and not a Southern food one?
Thank you! You know, I was very, very fortunate in that The American Cookbook just sort of fell into my lap. DK contacted me after my coauthor, Caroline Bretherton, pitched the idea. They loved the concept but wanted an American author to add American-ness to the project (Caroline is English, but lives in North Carolina), so they reached out to me with the idea. It was the ideal circumstance for a first-time cookbook writer, because I was working within the seasoned DK network with a coauthor who has written many cookbooks helping me navigate each step of the process. It was a lot of work but I can’t think of a better way to learn the ropes. I’m actually working on a cookbook proposal now for a book that would have a much more Southern lilt, which I’m really excited about. It’s been fun and interesting and terrifying to start from the very beginning, to work with an agent on a proposal that will be pitched to publishers. Every moment is a learning experience.
Your book focuses on updated American classics. What are some from your blog that didn’t make it into the book?
There aren’t actually that many crossover recipes between The American Cookbook and Biscuits and Such, oddly enough. With the exception of one or two classics (Roasted Tomato Shrimp and Grits, for one), readers of the blog will find a wealth of new recipes and content in the book that I haven’t put out there before, which is very cool. The writing of the book definitely pushed me into new territory, giving me the liberty and motivation to try foods that I otherwise may never have cooked. That was really great for me as a cook, particularly as a cook of a niche Southern food, to have the chance to write recipes that featured cooking styles and ingredients from other parts of the country. It also gave me the opportunity to write and publish some of my favorite recipes that don’t fit into the category of Southern food, such as huevos rancheros. Dan (my husband) and I have spent years perfecting our huevos rancheros technique, and it felt great to finally find the right medium for sharing it.
What food blogs are you most excited about right now?
It’s incredible to me what a huge variety of artfully made and beautifully written food blogs there are these days. What an inspiration! Some of my favorites now and forever are Not Without Salt, Honey and Jam, Shutterbean, Nothing in the House and Happy Yolks. I also of course gobble up everything Food52 has to offer, but don’t we all?
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.