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Biscuits and Such
On her blog, Elena shares her love of southern cuisine and southern culture, and apart from the amazing recipes, you'll find gems such as her Cast Iron Chronicles, which is a series that documents the restoration of a seriously rusted cast iron pan.
She co-authored a cookbook called The American Cookbook: A Fresh Take on Classic Recipes, contributed recipes to The Meat Cookbook, and has a new book coming out in April called The No Time To Cook! Book, which you can preorder.
I am so delighted to have Elena Rosemond-Hoerr from Biscuits and Such here on the show today.
On Missing Home:
I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art which is an art school in 2008. I graduated right at the beginning of the recession which meant that I took a job that I didn't really want just to sort of float along. I was living in D.C. with my then fiancé, who's now my husband, and the apartment was decorated with all of his stuff which meant swords and dragons.
I was so out of place and I felt so homesick.
I just kept telling myself that if I could only make food that reminded me of home, I would feel better and it would be the way to get myself through this stretch.
I really wanted to make my grandmother's country-style steak, but I couldn't remember the whole recipe and I was a little dodgy on it. So I looked online because food blogs were starting to become a thing and I felt like I might be able to find some resources and there were no southern food blogs.
It was just a total lack of availability; there was nothing representative of the south online.
So I was complaining about it to Dan, my husband, and he was like, 'Well, you could just do it.' I was like, 'Oh, yeah, that's a good point.'
So I have a degree in photography, that's my background, and he is a web developer. So we put together Biscuits and Such and the first post, which was Country-Style Steak went up in October of 2008.
I have gone back and updated a lot of the photos and a lot of old posts. But, I have left the photos on that post because they are horrible and since they're so bad I think it's nice to look back sometimes and see how far I've come.
It's a good indicator of how much the blog and I have progressed over the past six years.
My family is very passionate about cooking, all sides.
My mother is from New Jersey and her mother is very Sicilian and her father is very Irish; both families are recent immigrants and food is the way that they give love and the way that they nurture each other.
My father's family is very, very southern and on that side, also, food is how you comfort. You bring food to friends and relatives and families; potlucks for funerals, potlucks for weddings. It's the way that we nurture each other. So I grew up in a family where even through a lot of passionate fighting, the way that we connected and the way that we communicated was around the dinner table.
So I'm definitely not a chef. I learned from my parents and my grandparents and from experimenting. But food is something I've always been very passionate about.
I cook for my family pretty frequently. When I first started the blog, the person I was thinking of most was my grandmother, my father's mother, Barbara. We just spent a ton of time together throughout my childhood and my teenage years.
She cooked with me a lot and both of my parents were not super keen on having us in the kitchen when we were growing up because it got in the way of the productive things. But my grandmother would let me make JELL-O with her and let me dabble with her. It's really where I learned how to experiment.
I do love cooking for my family, now. My dad and I cook together all the time and it's really nice to talk to them about food and to feed them and to share traditions. Especially because what I focused the blog on is our southern food culture. So I really had a great opportunity to connect with my family about our family food traditions and foods that they grew up eating, and that they still love, and that I grew up eating and that I still love. That's been really nice.
On Southern Cuisine:
The thing that stands out about this so much, to be both in southern cuisine and southern culture, is just the sense of warmth and a sense of community. I feel so loved everywhere I go in the south. The grocery store, my vet, the parents at the school where I teach. Everyone is just loving, and friendly, and welcoming, and warm and that's one of the things that I missed the most when I was outside the south.
Southern food is kind of the same way. It's home food, it's comfort food. It's not overly experimental or fancy. It's just good, quality ingredients made with care and that is something that I think is really special.
It definitely has its roots in sort of frugal, simple, farm-based, agricultural-based communities. They didn't have a lot of many things, but what they had was the time and energy to put into the ingredients and to really cook with quality and care.
On Being Fearless in The Kitchen:
I was definitely always fearless.
It’s a really important quality, especially during recipe development.
I learned a lot of techniques, both with my parents and grandparents and through trial and error, just by sort of seeing what would happen if I combined these ingredients or if I tried this method.
I drew a lot of inspiration from watching them and from cooking with them. But a lot of my progression has just been through seeing what would happen and a lot of times failing and being cool with that.
On Kitchen Disasters:
The first Thanksgiving after Dan and I started dating, we had his sister, her husband and their then two-year-old daughter, our niece Meredith, over for dinner. It was the first time that I'd ever cooked for them.
There was a lot of pressure because I had just started this blog and I bought a pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie. I was super excited to make it from the pumpkin and to do it from scratch. I made it and I was so proud. It had taken me hours.
Meredith and I whipped the cream together and we put it out. She took a bite and she started to bawl.
I was like, 'What happened?'
Then, I tasted it. I realized that in my excitement, I had forgotten to put spices in the pumpkin pie and sugar in the whipped cream. Two super essential ingredients. Pumpkins don't really taste like anything without the pumpkin pie spices. You need those. It was awful, it was so awful, I was so embarrassed.
The next year for her birthday, I made Meredith a chocolate mousse pie and she said it was 'pony magical.' That's about the highest praise a three-year-old will give you.
On Co-authoring – The American Cookbook: A Fresh Take on Classic Recipes
I got a call last June from someone at DK, which is a publisher based in London. They have U.S. and international publications and they're part of Random House.
They said that they had been interested in doing a cookbook about American cuisine, but that the author that had pitched the idea was from London. They didn't think it was a great idea for an English author to fly solo writing an American cookbook, so, they were looking for an American author to work with her.
I was super interested and it turned out that Caroline, my co-author, lives in Durham, which is about two hours away from where I live and is where I'm from. I drove up to meet her and we just really hit it off. We spent the day coming up with a list of all the recipes and dividing it up.
Then I spent about three and a half, four weeks cooking, writing recipes and cooking like crazy. The whole book was cooked and tested and re-cooked and written in about three and half, four weeks.
It was a really cool experience for me.
I had obviously been writing recipes and developing recipes for the blog for a number of years, but it was my first experience writing for a book where there are standards for how the recipes need to be written. It's UK-based, so I had to measure and weigh everything because it's the metric system which I am not familiar with.
There was this huge learning curve which was really challenging and also really fun. I'm very fortunate that my first cookbook was in such a wonderful environment where I had Caroline holding my hand and the editors holding my hand and everyone sort of showing me the ropes.
I'm very fortunate that since the American cookbook, DK has asked me to come back and work with them on two additional projects. So I did The Meat Cookbook and then we just wrapped on The No Time to Cook! Book, which has been fun.
The Meat Cookbook came out this past September so it's available. It's 300 recipes and so much more. It's a really great, solid cookbook and I contributed 50 recipes to that book.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
None. We don't have cable.
What are some food blogs or websites that we have to know about?
Nothing in the House is one of my favorite ones. Not Without Salt is great. Those are probably my two favorites.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter that make you happy?
Instagram is great. I follow a ton of food bloggers but then also, a lot of lifestyle bloggers. One of my favorites is Hey Natalie Jean.
What is something all home cooks should have in their pantry?
Name one ingredient you cannot live without?
I love them because they add a really subtle heat. They add a nice undertone of spice that isn't overpowering and that you can use in any dish.
I put them in everything.
You never notice that they're there, but they add just a really rich and subtle heat, which I think is important in pretty much all savory dishes.
What are a few cookbooks that have made your life better?
I just bought Not Without Salt's new date night book, Date Night In.
I love her blog and I love that 'Dating My Husband' series, so I'm really excited to dig into that one.
When I was first learning how to cook, my husband bought me Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef. It's amazing because it teaches you processes, not recipes, which I think is so important, especially when you're first starting out.
Ratio is another one that's similar that's really great.
That teaches you how to make things… like the ratios for making cookies, the ratios for making cakes. The sort of standard recipes for all of these things that you can then adapt to your own needs.
That is absolutely what made me the recipe developer that I am now. I have a foundational understanding of how to make different kinds of dishes.
Keep Posted on Elena:
The blog is called Biscuits and Such. It's BiscuitsAndSuch.com. I am on Twitter and Instagram as @ElenaBrent. On Facebook as Biscuits and Such.
So you can find me and follow the blog and see new posts and updates on all of those places.