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When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: Comforting biscuits made for lazy summer desserts -- or breakfasts -- for the rest of the season and beyond.
I’ve been so immersed in developing my own recipes that, for a minute, I fell out of touch with the joy of making someone else's. Here’s the kick-ass thing I had forgotten: A cookbook writer tells you what to do. Sure you can riff on any recipe. But if you want -- if you need -- you can follow the directions word for word, step by step, pinch by pinch, drizzle by drizzle. So, during the next five weeks, while I pound out the final words for my book, I’m going to let other people tell me how to cook.
Now if only a surrogate mama would swoop in and take over all of my parenting-related decisions.
Mom, should I wear the pink or the white shirt?
I’m so sorry but I have no opinion at this time.
Mom, are you a robot?
I have fifteen minutes: Should I pay the bills, clean the toilet, or snuggle with my son? Is it cruel to give the kids only one hour of screen time a week? Is five hours excessive?
When is it the right time to put the dog to sleep? How do I guide my children through their grief?
Is that mole on my back oddly shaped? Should I include peanut butter and jelly ice cream in my book? Do I drink too much gin?
How do I explain to my children the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the airplanes dropping out of the sky, the wildfires, the mass shootings?
Why is writing my book more important than lying in bed every night reading to my son from “Starry River of The Sky.”
What’s for dinner?
This is where Helen Corbitt comes in. I wouldn’t necessarily turn to her pages for a dinner menu because on a hot summer night she might suggest Jellied Watercress Soup followed by Lobster Quiche. But I would let her pull my overloaded brain into another world, a soothing and welcoming and opinionated perspective from 1974, all from the pages of Helen Corbitt Cooks For Company.
While you might not need to brush up on how to throw a ladies’ lunch or a debutante’s tea, you sure as shit want Corbitt to tell you how to make a chicken salad or a popover or a biscuit. And these are the foods I’m craving. Not my own tarts and ice creams and braises. I’m burned out on those. Instead, I’m wanting a different kind of comfort.
According to the book jacket, she knew how to throw one hell of a party. She was director of all the Neiman Marcus restaurants, she ran a tight ship, and boy could she write a recipe. She not only tells you how to cut the butter into the flour, peel the asparagus, and fold the napkins, she also has some things to say about how you chew, what you wear, how to treat your man.
Bring it, Helen (I’ve paraphrased a bit).
A pound of butter will serve 50 people.
A pound of hard candy will serve 50 people.
Cookies are a sign of hospitality and are old as 1563.
Rub the outsides of pots and pans with soap before using over an open fire. They will be much easier to clean afterward.
If you wish to mail homemade cookies to your children, pack them in popcorn to prevent breakage. They can eat the popcorn too.
Men are very easy to please. If and only if, you make them really good food.
Do not overmix.
After baking biscuits, cut one in half and slather with butter.
Either be generous with the berries, or don’t bother.
Serve the individual shortcakes on 12-inch crystal plates.
I part ways when the crystal plates are mentioned, but otherwise I’m in.
1 cup heavy whipping cream, plus 1 tablespoon for an egg wash
1/2 cup water, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, refrigerator cold
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups summer berries
1 tablespoon white sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for the whipped cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus one teaspoon for the whipped cream
1/16 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 egg (for the egg wash)
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or any coarse sugar), as a topping
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (for whipped cream)
Photos by Phyllis Grant