When my youngest sister turned 10 years old, we went to brunch at a place called Kitchen Notes, and I ate the best biscuit I’ve ever tasted. Since that moment, I’ve been looking to recreate it.
I tried just about every recipe I knew, but none was fluffy enough. None, that is, until I found a recipe in “Magnolia Table.”
The 2018 cookbook was written by one half of the famous house-flipping couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines. While most people know Gaines and her husband for their HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” or perhaps the Magnolia Market, the couple’s new artisan market in Waco, Texas, that has become a popular tourist spot since it opened in 2015, it turns out she’s not just an interior design goddess: Joanna Gaines knows food, too. The cookbook boasts many show-stopping recipes, but none quite so interesting to me as “JoJo’s biscuits.”
Gaines’ approach to the book is refreshingly simple: She aims to make good, hearty food. Some recipes are healthier (garlic and herb tomatoes, or beef stew with jalapeno cornbread), some are delightfully indulgent (fried chicken with sticky poppy seed jam).
But what makes Gaines’ cookbook great is how approachable it is: brussel sprouts with crispy bacon, toasted pecans, and balsamic reduction are both a genius idea and also something that can be made with ingredients already in your freezer. It’s common food done creatively.
Unlike so many contemporary cookbooks, “Magnolia Table” also does not try to cut corners to make things healthier. If Gaines is making a burger — the “Gaines brother burgers with drip jam,” to be precise — it’s big and it’s juicy and it’s topped with Gruyere cheese, arugula, and a jam made of brown sugar and bacon drippings. She doesn’t do things by halves (though you may need to with this burger).
A lot of the hype around the Gaines’ popular home renovation show is due to Joanna Gaines’ interior decorating style, and her signature “rustic farmhouse look” has taken over Pinterest boards and home magazines since 2013. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the Gaines’ style, though, is the fact that it is both clean and cozy. It’s minimalist without losing depth of character. It’s the ideal home.
Gaines brings this understanding of home to the cookbook: She’s neither overly simple, nor overly showy. It’s good food with good ingredients, nothing more. Even the names of the recipes are straightforward: Try “cod in parchment with lemon and vegetables” for a fresh summer dinner.
The beauty of this is that it’s an excellent all-in-one cookbook. From the perfect roast chicken to strawberry shortcake, the gang’s all here, like the best versions of your mom’s standby recipes, but all in one place. Everything is fresh, everything is hearty, everything has the warm familiarity of home.
I bought “Magnolia Table” — and some buttermilk, flour, and a pound of salted butter — and two years after that first life-changing Kitchen Notes biscuit, I finally replicated it. With three types of rising agents, JoJo’s might be the fluffiest biscuits you’ll ever eat.