If you’re from the South, or have friends and family who hale from there, you know the pleasures of biscuits and gravy, a popular breakfast dish.
Soft biscuits are smothered in:
Sausage gravy, made from the drippings of cooked pork sausage, white flour, milk, black pepper, and in the best recipes, bits of sausage, bacon, or ground beef. The gravy is often flavored with black pepper.
Sawmill gravy (a.k.a. country gravy, cream gravy, milk gravy, sausage gravy and white gravy) a carnivore version of béchamel sauce with meat drippings added to the roux, and black pepper plus bits of breakfast sausage or chicken livers (our fave!) added to the finished sauce.
It’s loaded with with carbs and fat, but on a special day like Father’s Day, it’s a treat. While Biscuits & Gravy are a standalone main dish, you can serve smaller portions with eggs or other favorite breakfast foods.
THE HISTORY OF BISCUITS & GRAVY
Early European settlers to America had to rely on basic, simple cooking. During the best times they had meat, and every part of the animal that could be eaten was eaten.
Biscuits and Gravy emerged as a Southern regional dish after the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), when foodstuffs and money were in short supply. Breakfast was necessarily the most substantial meal to fuel people for the work day. Biscuits covered in gravy made from meat drippings, and possibly bits of meat, fit the bill.
This recipe, adapted from one in Breakfast: Recipes To Wake Up For by George Weld and Evan Hanczor.
RECIPE: BISCUITS & GRAVY
You can make the biscuits from scratch or buy refrigerated buttermilk biscuits. The biscuits are served warm.
While some people make the gravy with cream, whole milk is rich enough.
4 ounces fresh pork sausage (2 sausage patties or 1-2 large links)
1 teaspoon flour
2 cups whole milk
Optional topper: cooked bacon, ham, sausage patties or other meat
Optional topper: fried egg or side of scrambled eggs
Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley, chives or other herb
Ingredients Per Main Serving
1. SLICE sausage links in half, remove the meat and discard the casings.
2. HEAT a small or medium stainless steel sauce pan (do not use nonstick) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot (we use the water test*—see footnote below), add the sausage and use a spatula or wooden spoon to break it into chunks; then press down on the meat. As you brown the sausage, some brown bits will stick to the pan. This is the fond.
Top: Biscuits smothered in gravy from Chef George Weld (photo © Rizzoli). Second: You can go lighter on the gravy, with this recipe from Pillsbury. Third: Make more of a meal by topping the biscuits with sausage patties, ham, bacon or other meat (photo courtesy Pillsbury). Bottom: Top with a fried egg or serve scrambled eggs on the side (photo St. Louis Magazine).
3. REDUCE the heat to medium and sprinkle the flour into the pan, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in the milk and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the gravy thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. It should look velvety and have the thickness of heavy cream. Season the gravy with salt, black pepper and cayenne.
4. COOK the optional eggs and bacon or other meat.
5. Split the biscuits and arrange on plates or in shallow bowls. Top with the optional meat and eggs, pour the gravy over the biscuits and serve immediately. While fresh herbs are not a Southern tradition, we always sprinkle them as a garnish for flavor and color.
*THE WATER TEST: Drop 1/8 teaspoon water into the hot pan. If it forms into balls that sizzle, the pan is not hot enough. Keep heating, and when the water forms a single ball that rolls around the pan, it’s ready.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF GRAVY
Gravy is a sauce made in its simplest form from flour (a thickener), fat and seasonings (salt and pepper). Vegetables can be added, as well as wine and additional thickeners such as cornstarch.
The word originally referred to a sauce made from the drippings (fat and uses) from cooked meat and poultry, there are now vegetarian and vegan gravies.
Gravy has long used meat drippings (or in current times, a vegetarian substitute), as opposed to:
Sauces, which are made from fruits, vegetables and/or their juices.
Jus (pronounced ZHOO), the French term for a meat gravy that has been refined and condensed into a clear liquid.
Coulis, a thin fruit or vegetable purée used as a sauce.
Brown gravy, made with the drippings from roasted meat or poultry.
Cream gravy is the white gravy used in Biscuits and Gravy and Chicken Fried Steak. It is a béchamel sauce made with meat drippings and optionally, bits of mild sausage or chicken liver. Other names include country gravy, milk gravy, sawmill gravy, sausage gravy and white gravy.
Egg gravy is a béchamel sauce that is served over biscuits, essentially cream gravy with a beaten egg whisked in. The egg creates small pieces in the gravy.
Giblet gravy is a brown gravy that includes the giblets of turkey or chicken, and is served with those fowl. It is the traditional Thanksgiving gravy.
Mushroom gravy is a brown or white gravy made with mushrooms.
Onion gravy is made from large quantities of slowly sweated, chopped onions mixed with stock or wine. Commonly served with bangers and mash, eggs, chops, or other grilled or fried meat which by way of the cooking method would not produce their own gravy.
Red-eye gravy is a gravy made from the drippings of ham fried in a skillet, a Southern specialty served over biscuits, grits or ham. The pan is deglazed with coffee, and the gravy has no thickening agent.
Vegetable gravy is a vegetarian gravy made with boiled or roasted vegetables plus vegetable stock, flour and fat. Wine and/or vegetable juice can be added.
In American cooking, gravies are white or brown. Popular gravies include:
And let’s not forget our favorite dessert gravy: chocolate sauce, made with fat (butter), flour, cocoa powder and sugar.