By June Naylor
Photo by Ralph Lauer
Since the Hot Box Biscuit Club began as a Fort Worth brunch pop-up a couple of years ago, it has gone from the occasional party to a regular gig that sells out within 30 minutes of each announcement. Co-chefs Matt Mobley and Sarah Hooton — who became pals when the two taught at a Dallas culinary college more than a decade ago — offer handmade biscuits topped with everything from honey butter to hot chicken along with sides such as poutine and bacon-fat creamed corn. They also work wonders with the once-humble pimento cheese in creating a fritterlike snack that is sinful and completely irresistible when dipped in ranch dressing with a kick.
Pimento Cheese Hush Puppies with Spicy Ranch
Serves about 8 to 10 as an appetizer
- 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 ounces beer
- 1 egg
- 2 cups scallions, sliced thin
- ¼ cup pimentos, drained and chopped
- 1 teaspoon jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 3 cups pimento cheese, homemade or your favorite store brand
- 1 cup grated aged white cheddar cheese
- Peanut oil for frying
- Spicy ranch dressing, recipe follows
Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne and garlic powder in large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk beer and egg until frothy. Add scallions, pimentos, jalapeno, pimento cheese and cheddar; stir to combine. Add beer-cheese mixture to dry ingredients in batches, stirring to combine. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
Roll into rounds about the size of golf balls. In a deep cast-iron skillet, pour enough oil to reach 2-inch depth and heat to 350 degrees; fry balls until golden brown. Serve with spicy ranch dressing for dipping.
Spicy ranch dressing This recipe makes 1¼ cups. In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup each mayonnaise and buttermilk. Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives; 1 tablespoon each minced onion, fresh mint and fresh dill; 2 teaspoons granulated garlic; and
½ teaspoon dry mustard, whisking well to combine. Whisk in juice of ½ lemon and a few shakes Crystal or other Louisiana hot sauce, followed by sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cover and chill. It keeps well in a refrigerated airtight container for up to 1 week.
Hot Box Biscuit Club Brunch and the occasional Friday-night supper are scheduled two weekends each month in a converted warehouse on Fort Worth’s south side. The multicourse menu, which includes a complimentary welcome cocktail and dessert, is $45 plus tax and tip. It’s BYOB; orange juice is provided as a mixer. Dates and menus are announced a week in advance, and spaces fill very quickly. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list or sign up at hotboxbiscuitco.com.