Sausage fest

5000 Calories of AwesomeWhenever I have some occasion at which I am to provide a side item or hors d’Å“uvres, I consider making the quintessential party treat: sausage balls. I think these are a Southern US mainstay, as no one around here seems to have encountered them before, whereas in my youth they made an all-too-brief appearance at many a gathering. Take it from me and my waistline, these things are full of win.

The classic recipe goes like this:

2 c Bisquick brand baking mix
10 oz medium chedder cheese, grated*
1 lb breakfast sausage**

* Sharp tends to be too dry. I also freshly grate it with the food processor since block cheese usually has more moisture than packaged grated cheese.
** Jimmy Dean “Hot”. Spicier is better.

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix everything together with your hands until it forms one big lump. Roll into 1.5-2″ diameter balls. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool before serving.

It doesn’t get much easier than that. However, I’m not crazy about relying on Bisquick; if we ever buy it, it stays in our fridge forever. I make biscuits frequently, but I find Bisquick biscuits to have a very chemical, baking soda taste that reminds me of pancakes. Maybe because I’m too lazy to make pancakes from scratch, so if I ever do, I use Bisquick — guess how often we have pancakes.

Anyway, I always have the components for home-made biscuits on hand, so I thought I would make an extra batch without Bisquick and see how it went. I took my normal biscuit recipe (stolen from Alton Brown), replaced the butter with shortening, as I thought the butter would make it too greasy, and supplanted the Bisquick:

2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp buttermilk mix (my one cheat with biscuits, but it works great)
4 tbsp vegetable shortening
1.5 tbsp water
[rest same as above]

As indicated, I added a little water, because I found the Bisquick mixture to be a bit more moist than the flour mixture (I guess it has a little more fat in it). If the mixture is too dry, the ingredients will crumble rather than form a cohesive whole.

The result? The cheese and sausage really overwhelm the flavor of the dough, so there’s not much difference in taste. In texture, the Bisquick balls are chewier, while the from-scratch version is a bit lighter. It’s rather subtle, so while I somewhat prefer the latter, it’s not generally worth the extra effort. But since it saves me from buying biscuit mix, it’s a winner in my book.

Next time, I’ll try using chorizo.