Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

The whole idea of biscuits and gravy used to repulse me. Of course, as a lactose-intolerant kid, I used to loathe any cream-based sauce of any kind. I remember going over to the Andrews' house and being served Chicken A La King and thinking that I was going to die if they made me eat it. Heck--I wouldn't even eat Mac and Cheese. How un-American was I? Given those things, it's probably understandable that I wouldn't go for a milk-based sauce served over soggy bread.

Then college came. You learn so many things when you're in college, don't you? How not to kill your messy roommate, how to sneak food out of the dining commons, how to write a senior thesis in under 72 hours...and, most importantly for this post, how to appreciate the beauty of gloppy white sauce.

I remember the first time I had sausage gravy: we'd gone to visit a friend of ours who had recently started waiting tables at Bob Evans. We went at breakfast, because that's when you eat at Bob Evans, and Nate, our friend, recommended the Sunshine Skillet. It consisted of an open-faced omelet topped with hash browns, sausage, country gravy, and cheddar cheese, and was served with one of their fantastic buttermilk biscuits. Hello--he had me at hash browns and cheese. I ordered it.

Sweet fancy Moses, it was good.

I thought I might die of heart disease right there, but my, my, it was good.

My affection only deepened when I sopped up the extra gravy on my plate with the biscuit. Suddenly, my eyes were opened to the glory of biscuits and gravy.

For years, unless I went to Bob Evans, I stayed away from that sausage gravy in particular. It just didn't seem prudent for my waistline to eat too much of it. But a couple of months ago, we went out for breakfast as a family and I revisited it at long last. The doctor had recommended that we feed Ruby all sorts of high-fat stuff, so I decided to take one for the team and order biscuits and gravy to share with my daughter. It was the least I could do.

Well, Biscuits and Gravy has since become a staple of my Saturday-morning eating-out experience. Thankfully, we don't do it that often. It has been a few weeks since I've had it, though, and I was getting a taste for it, so last night, I made it for dinner.

Sweet fancy Moses, it was good.

So I thought I'd share it with you.

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits (from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening (sometimes I use margarine)
3/4 c. buttermilk (SEE NOTE AT BOTTOM)

1 lb. bulk sausage
1/4 c. flour
approx 2 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. thyme (optional)

For the biscuits:
Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the shortening or margarine with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, just so it isn't too sticky. Roll to 1/2-3/4 in. thickness and cut out with a biscuit cutter (I used a thin-edged cup). Place 1-inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Notes on successful biscuit making:
1) Don't overwork the dough. Use a very light hand.
2) Brush the tops with a little melted butter before baking to achieve a really beautiful brown crust.
3) If you don't have a suitable cutter or cup to cut the biscuits with, you can always just use a knife and cut the dough into uniform squares. Who cares what shape the biscuits are?
4) Buttermilk: I don't keep it on hand, but you can imitate it with 1 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice, and enough milk to make a cup. Let sit for five minutes, then use as the recipe requires.

Brown the sausage to a deep, caramelized brown. Remove the sausage, leaving behind the drippings in the pan. (If you don't end up with about 1/4 c. of drippings, add a bit of butter to the mix to equal about 1/4 c. total, when combined with the drippings.) Add flour to drippings, and whisk over medium heat for about a minute, or until the roux is the color of straw. Add milk 1/2-cup at a time, whisking continually over that same medium heat so the gravy thickens nicely, without lumps. Add the sausage to the white sauce, then season with salt and pepper to taste. I recommend lots of pepper. You can also add thyme here, if you wish to have a more savory sauce. And if the gravy gets too thick, just add a bit more milk. Serve over warm, split biscuits, then swoon.


Gregg said...

Same boat here. Found Biscuits and Gravy fully repulsive until my late 20s. Now I wake one the weekends with a tireless hankerin' for 'em.

Also, I grew up having Chicken a'la King almost weekly. Allison now prepares my mom's version perfectly, and we keep it in heavy rotation through the cold-weather months.

Sophia said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe, one favorite of the whole family. I'll try this over the weekend!