Cook’s Corner

Readers offer help replicating pimiento cheese biscuits


Sleuth’s Corner

Q. Our grandfather didn’t cook anything except when we went camping, and everything he made was fantastic. Our favorite was something he called Fry Jacks. It was a thin, puffed-up square we drizzled honey over. It had big bubbles that you could pop. He made it in a cast iron pan over an open fire. We would do anything to taste that again. The closest I’ve come is your recipe for fry bread, but it is denser than what he made. My brother Joe and I are hoping some campfire cook will recognize what I’m talking about.


Main Dish

Scott Conant’s Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

About 20 ripe plum tomatoes

About 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to finish the dish

Pinch crushed red pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/2 cup)

6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder and cut thinly crosswise into a chiffonade

1 pound spaghetti, high-quality dry or homemade

Peel the tomatoes by plunging them into boiling water, then ice water, and pulling off the skins. Cut in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.

In a wide pan, heat the 1/3 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes; season lightly with the salt and pepper. Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes to soften. Then, using a potato masher, chop the tomatoes finely. Cook 20 to 25 minutes, until tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Bring a large pot of amply salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing the pasta and sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons until the pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil had separated from it, now looks cohesive. (If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta cooking liquid.) Take the pan off of the heat and toss the butter, basil, and cheese with the pasta in the same manner (the pasta should take on an orange hue) and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 277 calories (66 percent from fat), 21.8 g fat (4.5 g saturated, 14 g monounsaturated), 7.9 mg cholesterol, 4.7 g protein, 20.3 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 31 mg sodium.

Quick Bread

Pimiento-Cheese Muffins

12 ounces beer, at room temperature

1 large egg

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimento, drained

2 tablespoons minced onion

4 cups baking mix, such as Bisquick

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Beat the egg; stir in the beer, pimiento and onion. Stir in the baking mix just enough to blend without any big lumps. Stir in the cheese. Coat 18 muffin cups with cooking spray. Spoon batter in to about 3/4 full. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan to a wire rack, and let cool 10 minutes before serving. Makes 18.

Per muffin: 191 calories (42 percent from fat), 8.5 g fat (4.1 g saturated, 1.5 g monounsaturated), 26 mg cholesterol, 6.2 g protein, 18.8 g carbohydrates, 0.8 g fiber, 427 mg sodium.

Quick Bread

Could Be Red Lobster Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup shortening or softened butter or margarine

2/3 cup cold milk

8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter or margarine

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Stir flour, salt, baking powder and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives (or pulse with a food processor), until mixture looks like small peas.

Stir in milk with a fork just until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Stir in cheese.

Place butter and garlic in a 9-by-13-inch pan; place in oven until butter melts and garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from oven and stir in the parsley.

Use about 1/4 cup dough to form a ball. Roll it in butter mixture to coat and arrange in pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Pat tops down slightly so bottoms are flat. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until just golden. Spoon any remaining butter on top. Serve warm. Makes 12 biscuits.

Per biscuit: 312 calories (66 percent from fat), 23 g fat (11 g saturated), 42 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 0.6 g fiber, 401 mg sodium.

Rebecca of Myrtle Beach was turned down by her own niece when she asked for a recipe for the pimiento cheese biscuits she brought to a reunion. “I always thought that was hooey,” she said of not sharing recipes, so she and turned to Cook’s Corner for help.

Thomasine Morris of Miami had a pithy response: “If your niece would not share her recipe … she may be entering it in a baking contest, has been asked not to share the recipe by the original baker, or she thinks you a lousy cook. … For the next reunion order biscuits from Red Lobster.”

Good suggestion — or you can use my knock-off recipe for Red Lobster biscuits. Add chopped pimientos if you like. Or try the recipe here from Jake Villjoen of Sunny Isles Beach for a pimiento cheese-flavored muffin that turns out much like a biscuit in texture. These would also be great made in mini muffin pans to pass as party fare.

Villjoen says he likes to brush the tops of the muffins right after they come out of the oven with melted hot pepper jelly. “It gives them a good shine and a nice pop of spiciness.” If you don’t want the heat, try apple jelly or just a smear of butter.

Cookbook corner

Scott Conant, of Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach (and also in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Toronto) is coming out with The Scarpetta Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35), with 125 of the restaurant’s signature recipes and lots of step-by-step photographs.

Conant’s spaghetti with tomato sauce recipe is indicative of what I like best about the cookbook — you don’t need expensive ingredients or complicated methods to produce delicious food. Conant says the recipe “exemplifies everything I believe in as a chef: treating ingredients with respect, paying attention to detail and elevating simplicity.”

Another big plus is that the book is full of wonderful tips. With this recipe, for example, he reminds us to save a bit of the pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning. In another recipe he suggests adding just a pasta water to the drained pasta because “the starch and salt in that water will help the sauce adhere.”

Send questions and responses to or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.

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