Every year at Thanksgiving my father-in-law makes a sweet potato casserole with lots of butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. My mother-in-law always has ham as well as turkey on the table. During one of these family gatherings my wife made biscuits for breakfast and we warmed up the leftover ham to serve with it. I did what almost anyone presented with ham and biscuits in the South would do—I made a ham and cheese biscuit. That’s when the light bulb went off. What if I were to put the ham and cheese in the biscuit, thereby making an all-in-one tasty morsel? I wrote out a recipe for a ham and cheese biscuit, then quickly realized that it needed a touch of sweetness to counteract the salty ham and the salty cheese. That is when my father-in-law’s sweet potatoes came to mind. Voilà! I had exactly what I was looking for: a savory biscuit that perfectly married salty and sweet. —Excerpted from I Am From Here: Stories and Recipes from a Southern Chef by Vishwesh Bhatt.
A Biscuit Sandwich Rolled Into One
Make a meal out of Vishwesh Bhatt’s sweet potato, ham, and cheddar creation
Photo: Angie Mosier
SWEET POTATO, HAM, AND CHEDDAR BISCUITS (Yield: About 12 biscuits)
1 medium to large sweet potato
1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
½ cup finely diced good country ham (I use Benton’s)
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
½ cup shredded Gruyère or sharp white cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. grated orange zest
1 large egg
⅓ cup cultured buttermilk
Pepper jelly, preserves, or Tomato-Coconut Chutney (recipe found in I Am From Here), for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
Pierce the sweet potato a few times with the tines of a fork, wrap it in aluminum foil, and bake until tender when poked with a fork or skewer, about 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut the sweet potato in half, scrape the flesh into a bowl, and mash with a fork. Measure ¾ cup mashed sweet potato. Once cooled to room temperature, set aside in the refrigerator to chill.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and thyme or rosemary. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, mix the butter into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the ham, jalapeño, cheese, and orange zest. Chill the flour mixture for 10 minutes. (When making biscuits, you will get the best results if all your components are cold. If it is a hot day, chill the mixture in the freezer. On a cold day, the refrigerator will do.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the chilled sweet potato, egg, and buttermilk. Fold this into the chilled flour mixture to form a dough. The dough will be soft and fairly moist.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle (it does not have to be perfect). Fold the dough into thirds as if you were folding a letter to put in an envelope. Turn the piece of dough 90 degrees, roll it back out, and fold into thirds again. Repeat these steps, folding, turning, and rolling a total of six to eight times. This process is what creates the biscuit’s layers. Finally, roll the dough to ½-inch thickness and cut into 2½-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or the rim of a glass. Gather the scraps, reroll, and cut again. (You will not repeat the folding process at this point.) Repeat a third time, if needed, until all the dough is used. You should end up with 12 biscuits. (Be aware that the second and third rerolls will not rise as much as the batch you cut first.) Or, if you prefer, you can cut the biscuits into 12 squares using a sharp knife.
Place the biscuits on the prepared sheet pan just touching each other. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until light golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly, then serve with your favorite topping.
Note: You may roast and mash the sweet potato the day before you plan to make the biscuits. Let it cool to room temperature, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Excerpted from I Am From Here: Stories and Recipes from a Southern Chef by Vishwesh Bhatt. Copyright © 2022 by Vishwesh Bhatt. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.