Joni Woolf: Birds ‘n biscuits — that’s what I like about the South
Published 12:40 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016
A recent trip to coastal Maine with my daughter Tracy Schroeder and her husband, John, was a classic New England vacation. Our cottage was on a small island near Boothbay Harbor where throughout the day we could sit on the porch and watch the lobster fishermen bringing up their catch. The primary menu items in restaurants were lobster, chowders, and fish. I especially enjoyed the halibut, not being a great fan of lobster. But it was fun to watch the fishermen unload their traps, hundreds of squirming lobsters at a time, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world — and for them it is. This was lobster heaven for those who love it, and it reminded me, once again, of how our tastes are shaped, regionally, by what is available.
I came home to a house full of evacuees and their pets, and on their final day, I made a pan of biscuits for them to enjoy with peach preserves I had made (and written about) during the peach season. All this led me to thinking that, though we like foods that are available now from all over the world, it is our regional food that feeds more than body: it feeds the soul. Then, sitting on my deck, I heard a gunshot and remembered that bird season is here. This brought to mind some recipes that my first husband, “Bubber” Woolf (who had never clipped a recipe in his life) brought home one day during dove season, suggesting I try them. He hunted occasionally, and always brought home birds.
Published in Violet Moore’s column in the Macon News (both Violet and the News are gone from the earth), the article told the story of Sam Goolsby, an outdoorsman who owned Cedar Creek Hunting Lodge in Morgan County, where he entertained hunters and showed them how to properly prepare birds. In fact, his book, “The Great Southern Wild Game Cookbook,” is a standard for those who love wild meats. I have used the two recipes — the newspaper page is now brown and tattered with age — for almost 40 years — and they still satisfy. One of the reasons these recipes work for me is how well they pair with biscuits. The gravies that both recipes produce are delicious and become even better when drizzled over a warm biscuit. I no longer have hunters in the family, so it is a rare day when someone gives me quail or dove. But when that happens, this is what I prepare.
Goolsby’s Smothered Quail
½ cup sherry
2 cups chicken broth
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown quail in melted butter in large skillet. Remove quail and place in baking dish. Add flour to remaining butter in skillet, stirring well. Add chicken broth, sherry, salt and pepper. Mix well and pour over quail. Bake, covered, one hour in 350 degree F. oven. Serve with cooked rice. And biscuits.
Baked Dove in Sauce
6 tablespoons butter
1 can condensed mushroom soup
½ cup cooking sherry
Season doves with pepper and celery salt to taste. Brown in butter. Make sauce of soup, sherry and a little parsley. Pour sauce over doves in a casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F. until tender, about one hour, basting often.
I use many biscuit recipes (adding cheese, rosemary, butter instead of Crisco) but this standard never fails.
2 Cups White Lily self-rising flour
1/3 cup Crisco
2/3 cup milk or buttermilk (approximately)
Mix Crisco into flour with pastry blender. Add milk slowly, till mixture holds together, sometimes adding a little more milk. Turn out onto floured board; with a little flour on your hands pat down to half-inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter, or small juice glass, place biscuits side by side (touching each other to make them rise even higher, or apart if you want crusty sides on each biscuit) and bake at 475 degrees F. for 10 to 12 minutes.
Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org