Magnolia Table

by Joanna Gaines

Clock Icon 29 minute read

INTRODUCTION

I like to compare our first month of marriage to free-falling through the air with no idea how or where we would land. Chip and I had just started renovating a really small house that I couldn’t wait to call home, while also renovating my little shop on Bosque. If you’re familiar with our story, then you may remember that we bought the building on Bosque because Chip had encouraged me to start my own business after I’d quietly dreamed about it for years. Before then, I had never really taken any true risks. I didn’t like trying things that I might not be good at because I believed that failure was a bad thing, and therefore, not an option. Looking back, there’s no telling what I missed out on because I was too scared to try something new or because I gave up on something that may have been a little uncomfortable before I could see the reward in it. I preferred feeling safe to being stretched. But after only a month of marriage, Chip was already somehow making risk look fun. He sincerely believed that failure could be a valuable thing, and I was beginning to see that it didn’t need to be something I feared. Chip was teaching me that even if I failed at something, I could just get back up and try again.

We were newlyweds and uncertain about how to do this thing called marriage. As we got closer to finishing the updates on the house, I had two looming thoughts in the back of my mind: “How do I even begin to decorate a house?” and “What in the world am I going to cook in our new kitchen?” I was feeling way out of my comfort zone as a new wife and putting a ton of pressure on myself. But I was determined to put my best foot forward and try my hand in the kitchen. My sister-in-law, Shannon, had given me one of the best wedding presents: a cookbook full of Gaines family recipes. To be honest, at the time I was mostly just intimidated by the thought of cooking full meals, but it still meant so much and made me feel truly welcomed into their family.

As we got close to spending our first night in the renovated house, I started combing through the recipes Shannon had shared with me, looking for inspiration. They sounded delicious, but really unfamiliar. Since I wasn’t one to try something new and was terrified of ruining a beloved family recipe, I decided that the very first thing I’d serve Chip was my mom’s spaghetti. It was one of my favorites, and it was really simple to make. She browned ground beef in a skillet and added a jar of store-bought marinara sauce while she boiled thin noodles. Mom would mix it all together in a bowl after it was cooked and serve it with warm bread and butter on the side. This meal embodied comfort and safety to me. It felt like home. To this day, whenever I eat spaghetti, that warm, fuzzy feeling hits me and I feel like all is right in the world.

That evening, I set the table with our new dishes, lit a few candles, served water in nice wineglasses (we were on a tight budget, but the glasses made the water seem fancy), and dished out the spaghetti for Chip. I was feeling pretty confident that this was a fail-safe meal to serve to my new husband in our new home. He took two bites and didn’t say anything. That was probably the first time since we’d met that he’d been at a loss for words. I figured he was just in awe of what was in front of him and trying to process how much he loved it. After six bites I couldn’t handle the silence so I asked him what he thought.

And then he said these words: “Welllll, umm, it doesn’t taste like my mom’s spaghetti.”

I almost choked on my noodles. A few not-so-nice thoughts (and words) were running through my mind, but I kept quiet and let him continue to dig himself even deeper into this hole.

“I just love my mom’s spaghetti. I wish you would have asked her for her recipe. This tastes different, and I’m just used to my mom’s.”

I got up from the table, cleared away his plate, and told him he could do the dishes and clean up the mess in the kitchen. I was done. Let’s just say he learned his lesson. But I learned a valuable one that night as well. Food is personal. It’s like the musical soundtrack of our lives, and it can take us back to a particular moment in time—good or bad. Food is also emotional. It connects us to our past. Chip’s deep loyalty to his mom’s spaghetti is actually really sweet. I love and appreciate it now, fifteen years later. And back then, I eventually realized that we were both just missing our mamas and anxious about adjusting to this new, unfamiliar chapter of life. Food was the symbol of everything we’d known up until then. And through my cooking that meal and Chip’s reaction to it, we were in fact communicating everything we were experiencing in that moment, as newlyweds at our own table, in our own home.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with our first son, Drake, that I started to step it up in the kitchen. This happened mainly because I was having the oddest cravings. Many times I would want something so particular that I had no choice but to whip it up myself. I don’t think I ever made anything too amazing; I just know that I tried. Chip also knew by then to encourage me in my efforts—or else he’d have to go get takeout.

There are two things I remember distinctly about those early days in our marriage. One, I really loved the act of putting on an apron. I think it was because it felt nostalgic and also because it reminded me of my grandmother. And, two, I had a domed glass cake stand on our counter that I never liked to see empty. There was something about having it filled up that made the kitchen feel right to me. I always had fresh cookie dough in the fridge so I could quickly bake a batch of cookies or I’d make a quick Bundt cake to put on that stand.

It was in that season that I learned how to prepare a lot of the meals from the book of family recipes that my sister-in-law had given me, like the Gaines chili and a favorite breakfast: warm Malt-o-Meal served with butter and brown sugar and a side of toast for dipping. Chip also tried some of my family’s favorites, like my mom’s bulgogi (Korean marinated beef) and the Stevens family breakfast tradition: toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches dipped in black coffee. Apparently both families liked to dip, a tradition all of our children happily carry on.

Fast-forward to life with three more kids, and by then even an occasional meal at a restaurant wasn’t really an option anymore. Our first four children are pretty close in age, and when Emmie Kay was born, we had four kids aged four and under. We quickly realized that it was just easier to feed them at home rather than in public. That season of my life wasn’t about making the most beautiful meals. It was just about making a meal that would nourish my growing family. I really appreciated cookbooks that made things easy for a busy mom. Simple ingredients, minimal prep time, and really yummy dishes for young and adult palates alike. Casseroles, Crock-Pot dinners, and big pots of hearty soup that could simmer for a while became my go-to meals. Even today, these are my favorite choices when we have a busy week.

Then, as our kids got older and could better articulate their preferences, I began to really enjoy cooking for them. I loved hearing what they liked and what they were craving. There’s nothing sweeter to me than the time we spend around the table. The moments shared over a meal are well worth the preparation and the work that go into making it. Food has come to play such an integral role in our family that the meaning of “seasonality” has expanded beyond just what’s growing in the garden. It’s also about what’s happening in our lives. When I plan the meals for the week, I really take into account each of our individual schedules. It’s important to acknowledge the season of life we’re in as well as the season unfolding outside and make practical food decisions to support both. When it’s a quiet week, each kid gets to pick the menu for a night. They would much rather eat a warm meal at home than go to a restaurant in town. The kids seem to be growing up quicker than ever, and a home-cooked meal is the thing that connects us all the most. When Drake went to summer camp for the first time this past year, he mailed me quite a few letters that said things like “Dear Mom, when I get home, can you please make me a lemon pie?? And also fatayar?” There was something about the thought of his mama’s cooking that consoled and was a comfort to Drake when he was missing home.

Life is busier these days and honestly it can be harder to find the time to cook meals from scratch, but it’s important enough to me to prioritize it. Cooking has become something that’s not only good for my family but for me, too. When I’m at work, I’m making so many business and creative decisions that my mind gets into a mode that’s legitimately hard to turn off when I get home. I find it difficult to be fully present when I am still processing all that happened during the day.

But then . . .

I stick my hand in a bowl of flour to begin to make a pie crust, or peel some potatoes, and all of a sudden my thoughts slow down. I begin to unwind. I turn on my favorite music, open the kitchen window, and let the background noise of the kids playing with Chip set my mind at ease. These are the sounds that signal to my heart and my mind that I am home.

The kitchen actually reminds me a lot of the garden. You put your hands to work and tend to it, and when the harvest comes, it gives back to you a hundredfold. There is a reward that comes from working with your hands, whether it’s in your home, garden, or kitchen. We can choose to view the everyday tasks of life as either chores or gifts. It’s powerful how just a slight change in perspective can transform something that you dread into something you look forward to. For me, this whole cooking thing has become one of the things I look forward to most and I wouldn’t trade my time in the kitchen for anything.

This cookbook is a celebration of bringing people together. I share many of my favorite personal recipes as well as some from friends and family, and of course from our restaurant, Magnolia Table. You’ll see in every recipe that I’ve included prep, cook, and cool times. These are estimates, so please don’t take them too literally. This is just how it works for me when I’m cooking for my family. A recipe that takes me 30 minutes to prepare might take you half or twice the time. Just as some people chop faster than others, some ovens heat quicker as well. If the recipe takes you longer or doesn’t look like the photograph, please don’t be hard on yourself. A huge part of cooking is owning and enjoying the experience. Similar to my design philosophy about making your space uniquely yours, I want you to feel inspired to personalize these recipes and adjust them as you need for your family’s tastes. If you don’t like onions, take them out! If you love mushrooms, add more! Just because a recipe is in the breakfast chapter doesn’t mean that you have to serve it for breakfast. In fact, I encourage you to switch it up more often than not. There are no gospel truths on these pages. I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a busy, working mama who loves to cook and share recipes.

And I’m not trying to achieve perfection in the kitchen. If I were, I’d be exhausted by the time we all got around the table to enjoy it—and that would really defeat the purpose. That’s why you’ll see things within these pages that might look like contradictions, but are truly the ways I cook for my family. For example, I often buy organic meat and I grow lots of the vegetables we eat, but I consider store-bought refrigerated dough and boxed broth to be gifts from the heavens. I love to make pie crust from scratch when I have time, but I always have store-bought on hand so I can whip up a quick quiche. I keep my pantry stocked with all the ingredients I need to make pancakes from scratch, but oftentimes I make them from a mix or heat up frozen waffles when the mornings are just too busy for anything else. And if I don’t have time to bake a fresh pie for dessert, I buy one at the store and make fresh whipped cream for the topping.

Whether you picked up this book because you want to try your hand in the kitchen for the first time or because you want to add a few new dishes to the collection of meals you have been serving for years, my hope is that you are inspired beyond the food and the photography to discover ways to make meals that are uniquely yours. No matter what happens, try to enjoy the process. As Chip told me early on: If you mess up, there’s always pizza.

Here’s what I always have on hand in my fridge and pantry for when I want to whip up something quick, whether it’s dinner or freshly baked cookies.

REFRIGERATED

  • Salted butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Half-and-half
  • Heavy (whipping) cream
  • 2% organic milk
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Eggs (see Note)

PRODUCE

  • Bananas
  • Lemons
  • White onions
  • Fresh garlic and jarred chopped garlic

DRY GOODS

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Self-rising flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Active dry yeast
  • Refrigerated pie crust
  • Pancake mix
  • Light brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Semisweet chocolate chips
  • Pecans
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Canned cream of chicken soup
  • Boxed organic chicken broth
  • Assorted types of dry pasta: I usually have a couple of boxes of long pasta, such as fettuccine or spaghetti, and a couple of boxes of short pasta such as farfalle (bow ties).
  • Dark chocolate–covered almonds: These aren’t for cooking but for my sanity!

SPICES

  • Kosher salt
  • Parsley flakes
  • Garlic salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper: I usually buy whole black peppercorns in bottles that have a grinder attached. Black pepper is so much better when freshly ground, and I love the convenience of these.

OILS

  • Extra virgin olive oil: For cooking and vinaigrettes
  • Vegetable oil: I usually have canola oil on hand. Whatever neutral oil you like will work fine.
  • Vegetable oil spray and nonstick baking spray with flour

NOTE: In the United States it is commonly believed that eggs need to be kept in the fridge, which is the case when you buy them refrigerated from the store. We leave ours out on the counter because they are coming straight from the coop and have not previously been chilled.

Tools

When Chip and I were first married, our kitchen drawers didn’t have much more than a couple of knives, a vegetable peeler, and a can opener, and we did just fine for a while. After cooking for a few years, I learned that while there is certainly no need for a lot of fancy equipment to make amazing food, a few trusted tools can make it easier and more enjoyable. These are the tools I use most often.


GLASS MEASURING CUPS

With graduated lines to measure hot and cold liquid ingredients, these are an everyday essential. I use them for everything, from beating an egg before brushing it on biscuits to melting chocolate in the microwave. I have several ranging in size from 1 cup to 8 cups, and I prefer Pyrex because they’re sturdy and dishwasher safe.

MEASURING CUPS

I use my pretty wood-handled sets for light jobs, but when I’m really cooking up a storm, I need sturdy, dishwasher-safe cups that come in a wide variety of sizes. At a minimum, most sets include ¼, ⅓, ½, and 1 cup. For convenience it’s good to have a few more sizes, such as ⅔ and ¾ cup, and even ⅛ cup, which is the equivalent of 2 tablespoons. Cups with the measurements embossed rather than printed are ideal because the marks won’t fade.

MEASURING SPOONS

Just as with measuring cups, I like dishwasher-safe spoons in a lot of different sizes, with the measurements embossed. The standard four-piece set usually has ¼ teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon. It’s very helpful to have ⅛ teaspoon and ¾ teaspoon, as well as ½ tablespoon, which is the equivalent of 1½ teaspoons.

BISCUIT CUTTERS

These are like a perfectly round cookie cutter but with higher sides and a sturdy handle on top. Often sold in sets of three or more in varying sizes. Good cutters have a sharp edge to cut cleanly through biscuit dough.

WOODEN SPOONS

These are inexpensive, heat resistant, useful for cooking all kinds of dishes, and easy to clean by hand.

RUBBER OR SILICONE SPATULAS

These flexible scrapers and stirrers are indispensable. I like to have a large size and one that’s a bit smaller. If you’re using a spatula only for stirring and scraping cold or room-temperature ingredients, choose a head made from either rubber or silicone, but only silicone should be used in hot pans; rubber can melt at high temperatures. I like dishwasher-safe spatulas, so I tend to avoid wooden handles, which can dry out after repeated rinse cycles.

WHISKS

I have two whisks, one large and one small, that I use for blending and whipping ingredients.

SLOTTED SPOON

A large spoon with several slots is ideal for stirring pasta and draining the liquid from solid ingredients, like when I transfer my pickled jalapeños from the hot brine into individual jars.

METAL SPATULA

We eat a lot of pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches in our house, and a good sturdy metal spatula is invaluable to get the job done right.

LADLE

I make soups and stews often, and a quality ladle is the only way to serve them. I find a long-handled ladle is most useful so that I can serve from tall stockpots as well as shorter saucepans.

HINGED CITRUS PRESS

I love lemon juice and I end up adding it to many dishes. If I need the juice from just one or two lemon halves, I’ll often squeeze them with my hands, but any more than that and I reach for my hinged citrus press. It does a great job of getting every last bit of juice out of each half and it helpfully strains out the seeds.

CHEF’S KNIFE

No kitchen tools are more important than good knives, and I think a chef’s knife in particular is one of the few things that’s worth spending whatever you can afford. A well-made knife that holds a sharp blade will last years and will certainly prove itself to be worth every penny. I have a knife with an 8-inch blade for chopping and slicing all kinds of ingredients.

PARING KNIFE

This small knife with a slightly curved blade fits neatly in the hand. I probably use my paring knife every day for so many different things: slicing apples, peeling onions, halving lemons, topping and tailing green beans, trimming vegetables, and chopping small amounts of garlic or onion.

BIRD’S BEAK KNIFE

This type of paring knife has a distinct concave blade and a thin, sharp tip. I use it most of the same ways I use a paring knife, but not for chopping on a cutting board.

VEGETABLE PEELER

I use my sturdy peeler not only for the obvious—peeling vegetables and fruit—but also for cutting items such as asparagus and carrots into long, thin strips and shaving cheese or chocolate.

MICROPLANE GRATER

This handheld grater with a long rasp is a great tool for grating citrus zest or fresh garlic.

MARBLE ROLLING PIN

I love a beautiful, wooden rolling pin to place on a shelf or counter, but for everyday cooking I’ll reach for my marble rolling pin. It stays cold, which is important when rolling buttery pastry, and it’s heavy so it doesn’t take too much effort to roll dough very thin when that’s what the recipe requires.

TONGS

I have a few pairs of tongs in different lengths, with both metal and silicone pincers, and I use them for tossing pasta or salad, sautéing chicken cutlets, flipping tenderloins on the grill, and lots of other tasks. Choose strong tongs with comfortable handles, and they’re easier to store if they can be locked in the closed position.

BOX GRATER

A sturdy four-sided box grater with different-sized grating holes on each side makes it easy to grate cheese and hearty vegetables and fruit.

IMMERSION BLENDER

Making velvety smooth soups and sauces is so easy with a handheld immersion or stick blender because I don’t have to fuss with transferring piping-hot ingredients to a blender.

PASTRY BLENDER

This U-shaped tool has several curved metal wires and a handle. It is used to mix solid fat such as butter or shortening into flour to make pastry dough like pie crusts, biscuits, or scones.

EXTRA-LARGE STAINLESS-STEEL BOWL

The biggest bowl in most mixing bowl sets isn’t large enough to hold the amounts of dough I need to make big batches of cinnamon squares or biscuits. That’s when I pull out my extra-large, 16-quart bowl, which is also great for preparing salad for a crowd. Before you buy one, confirm the measurements of both the bowl and the cabinet or shelf on which you’ll store it so you can be sure it will fit.

NESTING STAINLESS-STEEL MIXING BOWLS

Every home cook needs mixing bowls in a variety of sizes, and I highly recommend buying a matching set that can be stacked for convenient storage. Choose bowls that are light but not flimsy and have sturdy, flat bottoms so they don’t wobble.

SMALL PREP BOWLS AND RAMEKINS

When I’m cooking, I use 2-ounce, stackable prep bowls and 4- to 8-ounce ramekins to hold all the little things that are prepped or measured along the way, such as spices, minced garlic, chopped herbs, and lemon juice.

PIE PLATES

I make a lot of quiches and pies and have an ever-growing collection of assorted pie plates. My favorite ones are weighty (flimsy pans lead to burned crust) and made of stoneware, clay, or ceramic.

BAKING SHEETS

I bake cookies on my heavy-duty, rimmed, aluminum, 18 x 13-inch baking sheets, but that’s far from the only thing I use them for. I also roast vegetables and meat on them, and I slide them under pies while they bake to protect the oven floor from potential drips. I also use them to hold trimmed vegetables prepped for grilling or roasting. Honestly, there are very few meals I make where at least one baking sheet isn’t called into service in one way or another.

LARGE CAST-IRON SKILLET

A 10- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet is an inexpensive, durable stovetop and oven-safe pan to use for everything from frying donuts, to cooking bacon, to baking cornbread and frittatas. Once the pan is well seasoned (you can buy them this way or do it yourself following the directions that come with the pan), it’s essentially a nonstick pan with an almost indestructible surface. The best way to keep cast iron in good shape is to wash it by hand under running water, using little to no soap, and blot it dry with a towel. Use a paper towel to rub vegetable oil on the inside of the pan until it is well coated but there is no excess oil. Heat the pan on the stovetop or in the oven until it is completely dry.

TALL STOCKPOT

We are a family who loves leftovers. I often make big batches of family favorites like chicken and dumplings or chili in a very tall stockpot. I love it because it holds a ton without taking up a lot of excess space on the stovetop.

DEEP CASSEROLE DISH

A standard 9 x 13-inch pan with 2-inch-high sides works perfectly for most casseroles. Some of my family’s favorites, like chicken pot pie, have really big yields, and for these I use a 9 x 13-inch pan with 3-inch-high sides because of its larger capacity.

PARCHMENT PAPER AND WAX PAPER

These two papers make cleaning up after baking and roasting so much easier, but they are not interchangeable. Wax paper should never be directly exposed to the heat of the oven, so it’s used to line pans that are completely filled with batter to make it easier to allow baked cakes and breads to come out of the pan easily. Parchment paper can be exposed to the oven’s heat. It’s used to line baking pans to create a grease-free nonstick surface for baking cookies and roasting vegetables. It can also be folded into airtight packages to cook fish in the oven.

CUTTING BOARDS

I have a whole bunch of white dishwasher-safe cutting boards in all different sizes. I prefer boards that have a thin groove around the outer edge to catch liquid so it doesn’t spill all over the counter.

MORTAR AND PESTLE

Putting spices in a heavy mortar and crushing them with a pestle gives you control over how fine or coarse the spices are ground. I use my mortar and pestle primarily for crushing the aniseed for Syrian donuts and black peppercorns for salads.

FOOD PROCESSOR

I use my food processor at least once a week to make fresh salsa, mix the dough for drop biscuits, or blend the filling for cinnamon squares. I use it so often and for such large quantities that I finally splurged for a bigger-than-average food processor a few years ago. I love that I can process everything in a single batch.

ELECTRIC STAND MIXER

A heavy-duty freestanding mixer is helpful for anyone who loves to bake as much as I do. The best part of it might not even be how well it does its mixing, beating, and whipping jobs. I think it’s that you can walk away while it does the work for you. Just be careful not to walk too far away from something that needs watching, like egg whites or cream.

HANDHELD ELECTRIC MIXER

I love my stand mixer for all the big jobs, but when I need to mix up a smaller batch of something, I prefer to use my handheld electric mixer and a stainless-steel bowl.

BREAKFAST

Chip loves breakfast. It’s absolutely his favorite meal. He firmly believes that starting our family off with a warm meal in our bellies is the best way to set everyone up for a great day. He’s so enthusiastic about it that for years he has dreamed of opening up a restaurant that’s all about breakfast. It was especially thrilling to be a part of making his dream come true when we opened Magnolia Table in Waco, where the heart and soul of the menu is breakfast, served all day long.

Like his passion for so many things, Chip’s enthusiasm for breakfast is contagious. Thanks to him, our kids get to look forward to a hot breakfast nearly every morning, and I’ve come to appreciate how grounding it is for all of us to spend a little time together in the morning over a warm, nourishing meal. The challenge, of course, is finding the time for it—not only to prepare something for everyone but also to get all of us to the table at once on a busy morning. Half the time Chip prepares it and the other half I do, and as the kids get older they’ve started to help out a little more, too. The boys like to make scrambled eggs and they’ve gotten really good at it. Believe me, there are certainly times when I pop some frozen waffles in the toaster, add lots of softened butter and warm maple syrup, and call it good. (A hot breakfast is a hot breakfast . . . right, Chip?)

But most often we do something more substantial, and we’ve discovered some great tricks to make this possible. Just after the kids go to bed, I’ll spend fifteen minutes assembling a quick casserole, like overnight French toast or Eggs Benedict casserole, and refrigerate it so that Chip can put it in the oven first thing in the morning. Sometimes I’ll mix up the liquid and dry ingredients separately for ricotta pancakes so the next morning they can be stirred together quickly and poured onto the griddle—and it takes only a few minutes.

There’s a reason I call breakfast Chip’s love language, and it’s not simply that he loves to eat it. It’s because of what all of us sitting around the table together and sharing a hot breakfast means to him. It’s about taking the time to pause before we all head out into the world. And I think there’s no lovelier way to start the day.

JOJO’S BISCUITS

It took me a year of Saturdays to get these biscuits just right. Almost every weekend for months I worked up another batch for Chip and the kids to taste and then wrote down their feedback. Biscuit after biscuit was judged to be too heavy, too light, too flat, too salty, too dry, or just . . . not right. I don’t entirely know what kept me going back to the mixing bowl, but something inside me was clearly determined to prevail. All those failed batches didn’t discourage me—instead each one spurred me to tweak my formula and try again the next week. Of course it helped that I had a houseful of agreeable taste testers who delivered their criticisms with kindness, and encouraged me to keep at it with the kind of enthusiasm that can only be mustered by people who really love biscuits.

I vividly remember the moment I finally nailed it, when the whole family declared simultaneously, “This is it.” They have been our family’s Saturday-morning breakfast ever since. Among the tricks I worked out along the way are the somewhat unusual addition of eggs and the way they are arranged for baking so that they all touch, both of which contribute to the moisture, lightness, and loft of these biscuits.

Chip thinks they are nothing less than heaven on earth. Every Saturday he has the same breakfast—fried eggs cooked over-medium and two biscuits, one slathered with butter and strawberry jam and the other one tucked under a generous serving of sausage gravy. Every week he declares that it’s the best breakfast he has ever had. And every week the kids reply, “Dad, you say that every time!” These biscuits have become so ingrained in our lives that when our oldest, Drake, went away to summer camp for the first time he wrote me a card that said, in part, “Dear Mom, I miss you so much. All I can think about is home and your biscuits and gravy. Promise me that as soon I get back, we’ll have biscuits and gravy.” Naturally, I framed the card.

When we opened Magnolia Table, there was no question these biscuits had to be on the menu, so I turned the recipe over to the chefs to transform it to suit the needs of a restaurant kitchen. (I make only twenty at a time; they make hundreds of them every day.) When the time came to decide which of my family’s favorites would go in this cookbook, I knew not only that I had to share the biscuits, but also that the recipe had to be the very first one in the book.

JOJO’S BISCUITS


PREP: 20 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes chilling COOK: 15 to 20 minutes COOL: 5 minutes

 

4 cups self-rising flour, plus more for the work surface

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ pound (3 sticks) salted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch pieces or grated

2 large eggs, beaten, plus 1 large egg for brushing

1½ cups buttermilk, or as needed, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing

Pop’s Strawberry Jam or Bobo’s Classic Gravy, for serving (optional)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the butter and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are even and about the size of peas.

2. Stir in the beaten eggs with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in 1½ cups buttermilk until the dough comes together into a sticky mass. If it is too dry, add more buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition, until it reaches the correct consistency. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

3. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface. Use your floured hands to press it into a round roughly 14 inches across and about ½ inch thick.

5. Use a floured 2¾-inch round cutter to cut out about 20 biscuits. If necessary, collect and pat out the scraps to cut more biscuits.

6. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, arranging them so that they all are touching.

7. In a small dish, beat together the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon buttermilk. Brush the mixture on the top of the biscuits.

8. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly in the pan on a rack.

9. Biscuits are best the day they are made (and ideally fresh out of the oven!). Serve with strawberry jam or gravy, if desired. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Makes about 20 biscuits

NOTE: For longer storage, arrange the biscuits about ½ inch apart on two parchment-paper-lined baking sheets and freeze until solid. Transfer them to a zip-top plastic bag and freeze for up to 2 weeks. There is no need to thaw them before baking.

POP’S STRAWBERRY JAM

To me there’s nothing better on a biscuit than a sweet jam, and our family friend Pop’s recipe is one of my favorites. It reminds me of breakfasts I had when I was a kid.


PREP: 15 minutes COOK: 10 minutes, plus 20 minutes for processing the jars COOL: 24 hours

 

5 cups (2½ pints) strawberries, rinsed and hulled

One 1.75-ounce packet powdered pectin

7 cups sugar

1 tablespoon salted butter

1. Have ready 8 clean ½-pint (8-ounce) canning jars, canning lids, and rings.

2. Place the empty jars right side up on a rack in a boiling water canner. Fill the canner with water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer. Keep the jars in the hot water until needed. Wash the lids and rings in warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Set aside to dry.

3. In a food processor, process the strawberries until the desired consistency is reached: For chunkier jelly leave more clumps, or blend well for a smooth texture. Transfer the strawberries to a large saucepan and add the pectin. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar and butter. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 1 minute. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.

4. Use a jar lifter to remove the jars from the canner, carefully pouring the water inside each jar back into the canner. Pour the hot jam into the jars, filling each jar to ½ inch from the top rim (a jar funnel makes it easy to do this without spilling the hot mixture).

5. Carefully wipe the rims and sides of each jar. Place the lids on top and screw the rings on, tightening them by hand.

6. Place the filled jars on the rack in the water canner. Make sure the water in the canner covers the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover the canner and bring the water to a rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and uncover the canner. Let stand for 5 minutes.

7. Use a jar lifter to carefully remove the jars and place on a towel on the counter. Let the jars stand without moving them for 24 hours.

8. Check the jars to make sure they are properly sealed: Press on the center of each lid; it should not flex. Unscrew each ring and try to lift the lids with your fingers. If they can’t be lifted, the seal is good. Screw the rings back on, label the jars, and store in a dark, cool place for up to 6 months. (If the center of a lid flexes when pressed or the lid can be removed, refrigerate that jar and use within 1 week.)

9. Once opened, refrigerate jars of jam for up to 2 weeks.

Makes eight ½-pint jars

BOBO’S CLASSIC GRAVY

Chip’s dad, Bob (the kids call him Bobo), makes the best sausage gravy I’ve ever tasted. And biscuits for breakfast wouldn’t be the same without a serving of this rich gravy on top. The yield here is generous because we often have neighbors over for breakfast on Saturday morning and I always want to be sure I have enough to go around. You can easily cut the recipe in half if you prefer, but consider yourself warned: This gravy goes fast. In the unlikely event that you have lots of leftovers, you can keep it in the fridge for a few days and it reheats beautifully.


PREP: 5 minutes COOK: 25 minutes COOL: none

 

Two 12-ounce packages pork sausage patties, preferably Jimmy Dean

⅓ to ½ cup all-purpose flour, or as needed

4 cups milk, or as needed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large skillet, cook the sausage patties over medium heat until cooked through and nicely browned on both sides, about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking. (Do this in batches if necessary.) Transfer the sausage to a platter and set aside.

2. Whisk ⅓ cup flour into the rendered grease in the skillet. Whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Adjust the gravy’s consistency if necessary: If it is too thin, whisk in more flour 1 tablespoon at a time, or if it is too thick, add milk a couple tablespoons at a time.

3. Chop the reserved sausage and stir it into the gravy. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

4. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat gently over low heat.

Makes about 6 cups; 10 servings

MUSHROOM, SPINACH & SWISS CHEESE QUICHE

One of the great things about living on a farm is that we always have a surplus of fresh eggs in the barn. Gathering these colorful beauties never gets old. Our family eats fresh eggs at almost every breakfast, so I’ve got to change things up for them every now and then. Quiche is simple to make and tastes so good—plus it uses up a lot of eggs—so I have a bunch of great recipes for it. I love its versatility and the fact that it surpasses the sum of its parts. Whether it’s served at an elegant brunch or at the breakfast table, a beautiful quiche makes the moment seem a bit more celebratory. Depending on how much time I have, I either make my own pie crust or use a store-bought one.


PREP: 10 minutes COOK: 1 hour COOL: 5 to 10 minutes

 

2 tablespoons salted butter

⅓ cup finely diced white onion

12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (about 4 cups)

2 cups baby spinach (about 2 ounces)

6 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces Swiss cheese, grated (about 3 cups)

1 unbaked Pie Crust, or a store-bought 9-inch pie crust

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they have given up their liquid and it has mostly evaporated, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in the spinach/mushroom mixture and the Swiss cheese. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell.

4. Bake until the quiche is lightly golden and set in the center when the pan is gently pushed, about 45 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover it with foil to prevent it from burning.

5. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 or 8 slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

6. The quiche is best served the day it is made. Tightly wrap leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

THREE-CHEESE QUICHE

It’s hard to find a better way to enjoy two of my favorite ingredients—eggs and cheese—than this creamy quiche. Serve it for breakfast with fruit salad or for lunch with lightly dressed spring greens.


PREP: 15 minutes COOK: 40 to 45 minutes COOL: 5 to 10 minutes

 

6 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon sweet paprika (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

4 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup)

2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about ½ cup)

1 unbaked Pie Crust, or a store-bought 9-inch pie crust

¼ cup minced chives

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, garlic powder, paprika (if using), salt, and white pepper.

3. Stir in the Cheddar, Parmesan, and Gruyère.

4. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle the chives on top.

5. Bake until the quiche is lightly golden and set in the center when the pan is gently pushed, 40 to 45 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover it with foil to prevent it from burning.

6. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 or 8 slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

7. The quiche is best served the day it is made. Tightly wrap leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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