Meet Alfonso: the Spanish biscuit maker

Here’s the first half of the Castejóns:

Alfonso at the garden
Alfonso at the garden

He might be Spanish, but he makes biscuits like your Granny from small town South Carolina! The first time Alfonso ever ate a sausage biscuit he made a face. And it wasn’t a good face. He said he felt like he was eating a hamburger for breakfast (I still don’t see the problem.) and he would always prefer his tostada con jamón y tomate. While I think his preference for his special toast is for life, his opinion on sausage biscuits has improved by leaps and bounds, especially since he learned how to show up his Southern wife in the biscuit-making department! To be fair, I don’t know how good of a southerner I really am- I don’t like sweet tea, I don’t root for a college football team, and I never even attempted biscuit-making until I was well into my 20’s. But, either way, ever since he learned to make biscuits in culinary school (This IS South Carolina, so that was day 1, y’all.) he has become a biscuit-making and eating machine! His recipe was inspired by what he learned in class and adapted to fit our tastes. Play around using Alfonso’s recipe and make it work for you.

Alfonso at work
Alfonso at work

What to do when you have constant, delicious biscuits at your disposal? Make some mini chicken biscuits! So, I brined and fried the chicken and he made some pillow-y biscuits and we were in brunch business at casa Castejón. Check out the recipe below and think of Alfonso every time you chow down. Also, a word from the wise: 2 minis=1 regular biscuit. Try not to eat 17 of them! Or do. I don’t know your health goals. :)

Biscuits, fresh out of the oven
Biscuits, fresh out of the oven
Mini chicken biscuits with maple dijon gravy
Mini chicken biscuits with maple dijon gravy

Mini Chicken Biscuits with Maple-Dijon Gravy

*note: Part of the preparation for this recipe will need to sit 4-24hrs. Don’t forget to plan this into your cooking!

For the fried chicken pieces:

2 chicken breasts, trimmed and chopped into 1.5 inch chunks

2 cups cold water

1/4 c. kosher salt

leaves of 1 sprig of thyme

1.5 cups flour

1 t. salt

1/2 t pepper

1/2 t paprika

1 extra large egg, beaten

pinch of salt and pepper

For the mini biscuits:

4 cups all purpose flour

2 t salt

1 T white sugar

2 T baking powder

1 3/4 sticks super cold butter

about 2 cups of whole milk (Subbing in buttermilk also makes a nice biscuit.)

For the maple-dijon gravy:

4 T butter

2 T flour

1/2 c. whole milk, room temperature

1 T maple syrup

1 t dijon mustard

1/2 t salt

pinch of pepper

To make the fried chicken pieces:

First, prepare the brine: Put the chicken into a bowl with the water, salt, and thyme. Cover and let it work it’s magic in the fridge for at least 4, but no longer than 24 hrs. After the brine time, take the chicken pieces out and pat them super dry with paper towels. Set aside. Discard the brining liquid. Prepare a Dutch oven or deep pot with about 6 inches of flavorless oil (I like organic or non-GMO canola oil). Stick in a candy thermometer and bring oil to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 bowls: one with the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika, mixed together and one with the egg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Dredge all the chicken pieces in the flour and set on a clean plate. Next, dip each piece into the egg and then back into the flour. Cover all sides. When the oil is ready, begin dropping each piece of chicken into the pot without crowding them. You will fry them in batches. When the chicken has a golden brown crust, scope it out of the pot and onto a plate lined with paper towels. Cover and set aside to keep warm.

To make the mini biscuits:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the dry biscuit ingredients with a fork or whisk. The main biscuit making concept here is to touch the butter and the dough the least amount of time possible. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or you can break it into pea size pieces as you mix it into the flour mixture. Either way, do this a quickly as possible so as not to melt the butter at all. Add in the milk, starting with one cup and adding the rest bit by bit until the dough just comes together (I like to do this with a wooden spoon). It will still look very loose and you may not need all of the milk. Flour the counter and dump the dough on top. Knead a few times (not more than 4-5 times) to bring it all together. If you knead too much you will not have light fluffy biscuits, they will be more dense like regular bread. Roll the dough out to 3/4 inch thick and cut with a 2 inch biscuit/cookie cutter. Transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until golden- about 10 minutes.

*note: If you want biscuits that have soft sides, place your biscuits on the sheet pan touching each other. If you like them golden and crispy all the way around (not just on top) then leave an inch or so of space between the biscuits when you put them on the cookie sheet.

To make the maple-dijon gray:

Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. When the butter is melted add the flour and stir to make a paste. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds to a minute. Add the milk slowly as you constantly whisk the mixture. Whatever you see will be the consistency of your gravy. If it seems too thick add more milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time. If it is too thin, let it cook a bit longer to reduce in amount. When gravy reaches desired consistency remove it from the heat. Add the maple syrup, dijon mustard, salt and pepper and whisk together.

Now you get to assemble your beautiful creation! Put 1-2 chicken pieces in a split open biscuit and drizzle with gravy. Now, eat a biscuit out of one hand and sip a Bloody Mary out of the other and have a happy brunch!

I leave you with one last photo of the Fonzinator doing what he loves.

Alfonso and his guiso
Alfonso and his guiso *photo credit to Rocio