Whilst on a walk with the dogs at one of my favorite trails, I happened upon a glorious patch of sweet stinky ramps. With everything green reaching desperately out of the ground it was at first a bit difficult to distinguish between the different shoots, however ramps have unmistakably wide green leaves that come in ones or twos. They seem to sway back and forth saying, “over here! over here!”
I have known of the existence of these gloriously wild spring edibles for several years now though have not been able to find them in the wild myself until this season. I feel as though it was nature’s consolation for me after having survived this oh so brutal winter. And as I have been taunted by photos of friends and colleagues standing in huge ramp patches and walking away with bushels for a few years now, the time had finally come for me to find some!
I had not come prepared to find these ramps so I was without basket, bag or shovel. Out of the corner of my eye I saw them and immediately had knees against the dirt and fingers in the earth. The dogs of course had no idea why we had stopped on our walk and were growing impatient as I had to just get a few more. I gathered a nice handful and, as a good forager should, left some for others. Good thing I did too because on my way off the trail I ran into my friend Rosie who had bag and shovel at the ready for collection!
It is such an amazing feeling to be able to identify plants in the wild, know that they are edible, know that they have such a short season and you got some (!) and then to be able to take them back to the kitchen and make scrumptious and truly special things out of them is so rewarding! I thought the sweet garlicky flavor of the ramps would be the perfect compliment to a big fluffy buttermilk biscuit. I only used about half of the amount that I collected in the biscuit recipe and I am thinking I might pickle the rest of my stash. I’m sure that recipe will follow!
Use this recipe as inspiration to go out into the woods around you and find something glorious!
Ramp Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwiches with Fried Chicken Thighs and Crazy Slaw
For the Ramp Buttermilk Biscuits (recipe adapted from http://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Grovemans-Kitchen-Nurturing-Friends/dp/B0001PG45E/ref=la_B001HD1WKQ_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364517857&sr=1-1)
- 2 tablespoons butter for sauteeing the ramps
- 1/2 cup ramps, bulbs and leaves thinly sliced and separated
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons cold butter, diced
- 1 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon melted butter, for glazing the biscuits
- 1/2 cup of your favorite sharp Italian cheese such as Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
- black pepper
Begin by sauteeing the ramp bulbs and stems in the butter over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until they have softened. Kill the heat and stir in the ramp leaves. Season with a lot of black pepper!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
When cooled slightly, stir the ramps into the buttermilk. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar with a pastry blender. Cut in the cold butter with the pastry blender until the flour looks like coarse sand. Stir in buttermilk slowly with a wooden spoon until the dry and wet ingredients are just combined. Turn the biscuit dough out onto a floured cutting board and pat down slightly into a large circle or square, whichever shape you like. Using a floured biscuit cutter, cut biscuits from dough and place them about an inch apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
The destiny of the biscuits in this case was a sandwich, of course, so I cut mine absurdly large..like kaiser roll size! I only got five huge biscuits out of my dough!
Glaze the biscuits with melted butter and top with a generous sprinkling of your sharp cheese and some extra black pepper. Bake for 15- 18 minutes until the biscuits have gotten big and golden brown! Set aside to cool slightly.
For the Fried Chicken Thighs:
- 4 chicken thighs, preferably skin on and boneless
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- few sprigs of fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon each cayenne pepper, chili powder and Old Bay seasoning
- 1 quart neutral oil, such as canola or peanut
- 1/2 stick butter
Place the oil and butter into a cast iron skillet and heat to 350 degrees or until a drip of the batter sizzles instantly upon contact.
Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and let them soak in the buttermilk along with the fresh thyme for about an hour.
Prepare the dredge by adding the flour, cornmeal and seasonings into a gallon size ziplock bag. Remove the thighs from the buttermilk, allowing the excess to drip off and toss into the bag of dredge. Seal the bag and shake to coat the thighs evenly.
Place the chicken thighs skin side down, away from you, into the hot oil. Fry for 8 minutes on the first side, flip and fry for 8 minutes on the other side. Finish in the 425 degree oven for 5-8 minutes depending on how thick them thighs are 🙂
The slaw that I found in the fridge was prepared by Chris and a few of his chef friends the day before when we cooked a whole crap ton of food for Cinco de Mayo. I only know that it was a cabbage slaw with cucumbers and carrots and had some sort of sambal mayonnaise dressing. It was spicy, crunchy and refreshing but any ole’ slaw will find a comfortable place on this sandwich!
To prepare the sandwich, I cut a biscuit in half and placed a chicken thigh on the bottom. I had some swiss cheese laying around so I put a slice of that on top of my chicken, however that is a completely optional step. Then I piled on the slaw and topped with the biscuit lid.
The sweet gar-leeky flavor of the ramps only made the biscuits some of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth!! Hot damn! The ramp season is short and sweet so make sure you capitalize on this opportunity for ultimate garlicky oniony stinky sweet bliss!