Showing posts with label JJ Cook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label JJ Cook. Show all posts

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Secret of the Biscuit Bowl

A very warm welcome to our friend J.J. Cook. We're always happy to see JJ here with her wonderful Southern recipes. Today she's tackling something that is an art in the South. Biscuits! But these aren't any ordinary biscuits. They've been elevated to a gourmet level!

And here's J.J.!

When we hit on the idea for making biscuit bowls the signature dish our heroine made in her food truck, it changed everything. The name of the food truck became obvious – The Biscuit Bowl – right down to the flying biscuit on the top of the motorhome.

Zoe Chase wants to make a name for herself in the foodie world. She wants to own a wonderful restaurant with great cooking. But she doesn’t have the money to fix-up the diner she bought. That’s where her food truck comes in. She hopes to make enough money to remodel. She goes out day after day, trying to find what she hopes will be her followers.

The idea behind the biscuit bowl came from a trip to the Renaissance Faire. My husband and I always have bread bowls with hot chili, thick soup, or stew. We usually go in November so the warm bowl in your hand is great, and so is the hot food in it.

So we thought – what about making a biscuit into a bread bowl? How would we do that? How would Zoe do it in her story?

We took ideas from many people we visited in the food truck world while we were writing the first book, Death on Eat Street. They had some crazy thoughts on how to make a biscuit bowl, but we wanted to keep it simple. Zoe only has a limited amount of room to cook anything in her food truck.

The biscuit also had to be strong enough to hold thick sweets like pie filling and custard, and savory fillings like stew, gumbo (she’s from Mobile, Alabama), or fresh salads.

Our son is a pizza chef, and he helped us a lot. (Thanks, Christopher Lavene!) We finally came up with the way to bake thicker biscuits that held together so they could be filled.

First Zoe makes the biscuit dough. She always makes her fresh. She has to bake the biscuits at the diner because she doesn’t have an oven in the food truck. She doesn’t bake them flat on a sheet like most biscuits. Instead, she puts dough into each opening in a muffin tin.

As the biscuits bake, they leave a hollow area in the middle. Sometimes, you have to take out some extra dough to make room for the filling, but most of the time, it works perfectly.

The next step is to deep-fry the biscuit. This is the secret to the biscuit bowl. It makes the sides crunchy and strengthens the bowl. Let the biscuits cool completely before dropping them into a deep fryer. Only leave them in the hot oil for about 2 minutes, and then remove.

Let the biscuit bowls cool again before filling them with sweet or savory fillings. Keep the fillings solid – they won’t hold a runny soup. Serve right away. The biscuit bowls are best when they are fresh.

One of the first fillings we tried was Crème Brulee, in honor of Zoe’s cat of the same name who is truly the star of this new series.

You can add garnish to the bowls by adding powdered sugar, icing, or cinnamon for the sweet ones, and cheese, herbs, or crumbled bacon to the savory.

Here’s the recipe we use for biscuit bowls. It seems to be a hit for Zoe!


2 cups white flour

¼ tsp baking soda

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

6 tbsp. butter or vegetable shortening

1 cup buttermilk

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it forms coarse balls. Add the buttermilk until the mixture is slightly wet. Turn the dough out on a floured board. Gently roll or pat dough until it is about ½ inch thick. Fold the dough three more times then carefully press down to about 1 inch thick.

Here’s where the normal biscuit recipe changes for biscuit bowls.

Spray vegetable shortening into a muffin tin. Use a cutter to cut circles of dough. Place these circles into the openings in the tin, pressing down the center gently. Bake for about 10 minutes until brown. The biscuit dough will rise around the circle, leaving a well in the middle for the filling.

The biscuits don’t have to be deep-fried right away, but don’t wait more than a few hours. The freshest biscuits will make the best biscuit bowls. If you can’t use them right away, freeze them for later.

To fry, simply drop the biscuits into a deep fryer set on high for 2 minutes. You want them to be crisp but not greasy. Be sure to use good quality vegetable oil in your deep fryer.

J.J Cook are married authors who live in North Carolina, and write the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries and the Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The sweetest, hottest peppers in the world!

I try to keep up with new cozy mystery series. So when I saw this dramatic and eye-catching cover, I knew we had to invite the author to be a guest at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. After all, firemen are known for their cooking skills and creativity in the kitchen. But who was this mysterious JJ Cook? No clue to the author's gender there. I got a mighty good laugh out of it when I tracked down the elusive author. It's our old friends Joyce and Jim Lavene. Gee, I can't imagine where the JJ came from! And now, here's Joyce, er JJ!

My new mystery series, the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries, begins with That Old Flame of Mine - out now!

In the story, the tiny town of Sweet Pepper, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains is crazy about everything pepper. They have a giant hot pepper on their water tower and a three-day hot pepper festival that showcases a recipe contest with various ways to eat peppers from chocolate-covered to pepper enhanced cakes and pies. Every food can be made with hot peppers - the wilder, the better.

Their pepper of choice is the Tennessee Teardrop. The pepper is about mid-way on the Scoville Scale which charts how hot a pepper is. This means if you like really hot food, this will seem mild to you. If you don’t like hot food, it will seem hot. Always taste a very small amount of pepper before committing to a mouthful!

The people of Sweet Pepper have been growing and eating hot peppers for more than a hundred years. For them, the Teardrop is perfect. Their slogan - we grow the hottest, sweetest peppers in the world!

When my heroine, Stella Griffin, comes to Sweet Pepper from Chicago, she’s a little put off by pepper-eating and the tiny town.

She’s used to having everything available 24/7, and that includes a fire department with professionals, not volunteers. But Stella learns fast about everything but grits, and she even enters a recipe in the Sweet Pepper Festival.

She’s a sweet-eater, so candied hot peppers appeal to her. She even volunteers to judge the coveted chocolate-covered pepper recipe contest!

Stella’s cardamom candied peppers

Slice some mild or medium hot peppers, width-wise. Be sure you know what type they are and that they are the right heat for you.

Make a syrup from one cup of water, one cup of sugar (or sugar alternative works too). Add two teaspoons of cardamom and stir. Put this in a double boiler on low heat for about twenty minutes.

When the syrup thickens, add the pepper ‘coins’ and let them stay in the syrup for about five minutes. Be sure they are coated on both sides.

Drain the syrup from the peppers and put them flat on a baking tray. Cook on low heat (about 200 degrees) for about twenty minutes, or until crispy.

The peppers will be very sweet with a ‘bite’ of heat as you taste them. They’re very good on vanilla ice cream as a garnish but I know people who use bits of them in cookies and brownies too. Get creative!

If you find that you’ve swallowed a pepper that’s too hot for you, drink milk or eat ice cream. It’s the best way to lose the burn. Don’t drink soda or water. It will make it worse!

Firefighters and food

Stella has been a firefighter for ten years. She has experienced all sorts of strange foods made by her fellow team members.

I always wanted to be a firefighter but when I was sixteen, I got the bad news – no women firefighters. I had many people in my family who served the City of Chicago and very nice memories of spending time at my grandfather’s station house there.

Now women can serve too and I’m sure the food has improved with that addition.

My great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my uncle always said the worst food they ever ate at the station house was stew because you never knew what might have gone into it!

About That Old Flame of Mine

Set in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, J. J. Cook’s thrilling new mystery series features Fire Chief Stella Griffin, who solves crime with the help of her predecessor, who just happens to be a ghost...

Joyce Lavene writes award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction with her husband/partner, Jim. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at