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Adam’s Biscuits

Makes 10 to 12

2½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4½ ounces (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter, chilled and cut into large cubes

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

½ cup heavy cream (see Note below), plus more for brushing the dough

Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt into the work bowl of a food processor or a medium bowl. Add the butter and pulse several times, or use a pastry cutter, and work until it’s the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Refrigerate until well chilled; overnight is ideal.

To finish the biscuits, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the flour mixture into a medium mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

Working quickly, combine the buttermilk and heavy cream and pour the mixture into the center of the flour mixture. Stir gently with a fork until the dough just comes together; do not overwork.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently until it forms a smooth disk; do not overwork it. Pat the dough until it is about 1-inch thick and cut into 10 to 12 equal pieces. Brush with cream, transfer to a baking sheet, set on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the biscuits are golden brown, 12 to 20 minutes, depending on their thickness.

Note: You can use all buttermilk or substitute ½ cup sweet potato puree for the cream.

Being in Adam Fisher’s West End kitchen is a calming pleasure. He moves through the open spaciousness of the newly renovated room with a quiet confidence, reaching for this tool or that ingredient as he talks about how he grew into his love of cooking. His 3-year-old son Kamal, runs in and out, absorbed in the urgency of play.

“I grew up in Towanda in rural Pennsylvania,” said Fisher, 44, the son of hippies who met in a communal house before marrying and moving to Bradford County, where they raised Adam and his younger sister.

His father worked as a beekeeper, and nearly everything on the family table was made from scratch.

“I don’t recall seeing store-bought bread until I was in college,” Fisher said.

Now married and living in Santa Rosa, he does nearly all the shopping and cooking for his family, even on Father’s Day, a day he considers a Hallmark holiday. He may sleep in a bit, have some good coffee, head over to the West End Farmers Market and in the garden with his wife and son. And he suspects he also will cook.

Fisher works as a civil engineer, a job that brought him to Santa Rosa 14 years ago. He met his wife, Santa Rosa acupuncturist Lorelle Saxena, in a food forum on Craigslist, where both were looking for recipes to share with friends who were pregnant. Today, much of his cooking reflects their connection.

Saxena is Indian and Chinese, raised in Honolulu by parents who grew up in their respective countries before moving there. Both are motivated by the comfort aspect of food.

“We seek out our childhood favorites,” Fisher said, adding that he tries to make the best possible versions of Saxena’s childhood favorites.

Fisher cooks several nights a week, spending 30 minutes for something as simple as steak sautéed in ginger butter, or 2½ to 3 hours for Korean fried chicken, a recipe he has nailed. The skin is taut, crisp and perfectly seasoned, the chicken juicy, succulent tenderness.

For vegetables, Fisher gravitates toward preserved greens such as kimchi, sour mustard greens and sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, bread and butter pickles, cole slaw and a variety of sturdy greens sautéed in the Asian style, in a very hot pan with a bit of oil. Kamal’s favorites are beet greens and kale, sautéed in either bacon fat or coconut oil.

The refrigerator almost always has congee, a rice porridge that Saxena enjoys for breakfast topped with leftover chicken, julienned chicken skin, pickled vegetables and, sometimes, an egg fried in coconut oil.

On nights when he does not cook, they enjoy a night out at a local restaurant — Willi’s Wine Bar is a favorite — or Saxena cooks. She also knows her way around a kitchen and enjoys the process; gnocchi is one of her specialties, and Kamal enjoys helping make the little potato dumplings.

These days, Fisher does little shopping at farmers markets because of the couple’s spacious backyard garden, which has mature fruit trees that include an enormous fig tree, borage, artichokes, nasturtiums, leeks, carrots, young tomato and pepper plants, horseradish, lots of greens, broccoli, cabbages, a planter full of chives and another full of strawberries.

At the far end of the yard is a sturdy chicken coop with seven hens, two that were hatched here. Kamal has named each one and gathers their eggs, putting them into a small cloth basket that he carries to the kitchen.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Fisher’s pantry is impressive and full of surprises: Chicken stock canned in an electric pressure canner; apple butter and apple cider vinegar, all homemade. Eight jars of kombucha ferment on a counter, and recently-harvested garlic fills a drawer.

His refrigerator contains raw milk, homemade hard cider, homemade kimchee and tepache, a delicious agua fresca made of pineapple rinds, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Fisher also makes mayonnaise, which Kamal loves on homemade bread.

Fisher shops mostly at Stony Point Oliver’s, Asia Mart, Sonoma County Meat Co., Imwalle Gardens, Lao’s strawberry stand on Highway 12 and, in Cotati, Asiana Market for its broad selection of Korean ingredients.

“I get a few things from Costco, too,” he said, holding up a package of the Garofolo spaghetti he likes.

Fisher also scours the Internet for things impossible to find locally, like Wholly Gochujang, a fermented hot pepper paste.

He is inspired by well-known chefs such as David Chang of Momofuku fame and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” (Norton, 2015). He also is one of those rare creatures who enjoys both cooking and baking, turning out delicious scones, biscuits, breads and cookies.

After most family dinners, Kamal prepares a follow up meal in his bedroom kitchen, a well-stocked play area. He runs back and forth with a pan and spoon so his parents can taste his latest concoction.

“It’s often some sort of ice cream,” Fisher said, “and breakfast ice cream has been a theme lately.”

___

Hot from the oven and covered with butter, these biscuits are good and easy to make. When Adam Fisher includes them with a savory meal, he usually adds a teaspoon or two less sugar, and when he serves them with strawberry shortcake, he adds another tablespoon or so.

Adam’s Biscuits

Makes 10 to 12

2½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4½ ounces (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter, chilled and cut into large cubes

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

½ cup heavy cream (see Note below), plus more for brushing the dough

Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt into the work bowl of a food processor or a medium bowl. Add the butter and pulse several times, or use a pastry cutter, and work until it’s the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Refrigerate until well chilled; overnight is ideal.

To finish the biscuits, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the flour mixture into a medium mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

Working quickly, combine the buttermilk and heavy cream and pour the mixture into the center of the flour mixture. Stir gently with a fork until the dough just comes together; do not overwork.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently until it forms a smooth disk; do not overwork it. Pat the dough until it is about 1-inch thick and cut into 10 to 12 equal pieces. Brush with cream, transfer to a baking sheet, set on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the biscuits are golden brown, 12 to 20 minutes, depending on their thickness.

Note: You can use all buttermilk or substitute ½ cup sweet potato puree for the cream.

___

These mustard greens are adapted from a recipe in “Joy of Pickling” by Linda Ziedrich (Harvard Common Press, 1999). Enjoy them for breakfast with congee or as a side dish at lunch and dinner.

Adam’s Sour Mustard Greens

Makes about 6 cups

1 ½ pounds fresh mustard greens, tough stems trimmed

1 bunch green onions, trimmed

5 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt or 3 tablespoons kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal

1 ½ teaspoon sugar

Cut the mustard greens and their tender stems in 2-inch-wide crosswise slices. Cut the green onions into 2-inch lengths.

Spread the greens and the onions on a baking sheet or large tray and set in the sun for several hours, until they are quite wilted.

Fill a container with 4 cups of water, add the salt and sugar and stir to dissolve it.

Pack a handful of the wilted vegetables into a half gallon jar, cover with brine and repeat until all the vegetables are in the jar and covered. Put a freezer bag, open side up, into the mouth of the jar, pour the remaining brine into it and seal the bag, pushing out air as you do so. Set the jar with the greens into a bowl and let stand at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

Remove the brine bag, seal the jar with its lid and store in the refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks.

___

Use the biggest hanger steak you can find for this simple dish, which Fisher often makes after work on a weeknight. The inspiration came from a recipe in “Simple to Spectacular: How to Take One Basic Recipe to Four Levels of Sophistication” by Jean-George Vongerichten and Mark Bittman (Clarkson Potter, 2000). The original recipe calls for rib eye, sirloin or top blade steak.

Steak with Ginger Butter Sauce

Serves 4

1 large hanger steak, about 1 pound

5 teaspoons butter

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Set a large heavy skillet — cast iron is ideal — over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the steak, cook for 2 minutes, turn and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer the steak to a plate and remove the skillet from the heat.

When the skillet is no longer smoking, set it over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the ginger and sauté for 20 to 30 seconds. Do not let it brown. Then add the soy sauce, tipping the pan or stirring quickly.

Return the steak to the pan, along with any juices that have collected on the plate. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes for rare to medium rare, turning the steak over every few minutes; add a tablespoon or two of water if the juices evaporate.

Transfer the steak to a clean work surface, let rest for a couple of minutes and cut into crosswise slices. Transfer to plates, spoon pan juices over the meat, and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com and visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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