Saturday, February 16, 2008

biscuits & gravy!

Exclamation point! J-Cat and I both really love classic biscuits with white sausage gravy. One of the first times we hung out on a maybe date (this time around, not in high school) we went and had biscuits and gravy at the now defunct Union Picnic. Ever since then, we've made it a point to try any place in our general area that has the dish. We're usually pretty disappointed. Union Picnic was inconsistent; a couple of times they were awesome, a couple of times they were strange or mediocre, and at least once they were just awful. Pies N Thighs, also gone, were the best in the hood, and Brooklyn Label's are passable but lacking in flavor. Like the ever elusive great hash browns, biscuits and gravy are not easy to come by. But now, I've finally done it. I finally made my own. For some reason, I've long been afraid of making my own white gravy. I have no idea why. I've made roux, I've made bechamel, it's really not that different. And I'm so glad I tried, because these finally satisfied our cravings.

The first step is, of course, to make the biscuits, which I do all the time because I love buttermilk biscuits and they are also less popular around here than they should be. My twist for these was the fat. The other night when I made bucatini all'amatriciana, I saved some of the excess rendered fat from the guanciale and stashed it in a jar in the fridge. And what better way to use some cured pork fat than in biscuits?

I used about 3 parts guanciale fat to 1 part butter, mostly because I still thought the butter flavor would be desireable. I don't know if it really is because of the fat, but these biscuits seemed to rise much higher and fluffier than they usually do.

Now on to new territory, the gravy. I started with a pound of pork sausage, one of those big old tubes with no casing. And of course, if you want to make it the real way, you must do it in a cast iron skillet.

The next step was to remove the sausage from the fat and start the roux. It starts out pretty white...

...but eventually turns a lovely deep golden.

Finally, you add the milk and whisk vigorously until it thickens.

The sausage goes back in, and you're done.

Split the biscuits, top with the sausage gravy, and if you really want to clog those arteries, throw a poached or fried egg on top. Deadly delicious. Recipes after the jump:


For the biscuits:
2 cups flour
4 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp fat, chilled (any combination of butter, lard, bacon fat, or shortening will do. If I don't have meat fat, I use half butter, half shortening)
1 cup chilled buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, mix in the cold fat until it becomes a coarse meal, working as quickly as possible so that the fat does not melt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk. Stir just until the dough forms, it will be sticky. Turn out onto a floured board and fold over onto itself 5 or six times, then pat into a 1-inch thick round. Use a biscuit cutter of your preferred size, I often make mine about 3 inches in diameter. Place on a baking sheet with the edges of the biscuits touching. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool. Makes about 6 3-inch biscuits

For the gravy:
1 pound pork breakfast sausage, crumbled
4 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
salt and pepper

In a large heavy skillet, brown the crumbled sausage well, then remove from the fat with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Keeping the heat on medium, add the flour to the fat 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly to avoid burning. Add the next tbsp of flour when the roux turns brown. When the last of the flour is incorporated and the roux is a golden brown, add the milk 1 cup at a time, whisking constantly to avoid clumping. When all the milk as been added, reduce heat to low, add back the sausage, and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the gravy has thickened to your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste; it may require more salt than you realize. Serve the gravy over the split biscuits and top with a poached or fried egg.


Sarah C. said...

I think my heart just seized! I am sure it tastes delightful, and I am sure its great to have on occasion, but that meal cant be safe to have on a weekly basis. :)

Leah said...

That looks just beautiful. Alex loves biscuits and sausage gravy. Every once in a while, I make creamed chipped beef on toast (I think every Army guy has a strange fond spot for this concoction, and who am I to deny it to said grunt), which bears some similarity the way I make it (not with bona fide dried beef...). But I'm going to try yours. I think Alex will absolutely plotz.

faycat said...

I had chipped beef on toast once in New Orleans, a friend made it for me, and I had never even heard of it. I really liked it, but something about the name freaks me out. The words "creamed" and "beef" just shouldn't be so close together.

faycat said...

sarah c., I'm not sure this meal is safe to have on a yearly basis...