I was waiting on this table the other day, and at the table was a woman from San Francisco. A Columbus man was telling her about biscuits and gravy, and how tasty this breakfast is. The woman was completely flummoxed "so, you just eat a bowl of gravy?" she said. "Well," the man said, "you have biscuits, too." "But really, it's just a bowl of gravy." No amount of explanation could make this woman understand why anyone would be waxing nostalgic about a bowl of gravy.
Being a good little daughter of the Amish, and a good Midwesterner, I love biscuits and gravy. And, like most comfort foods, this is far more than the sum of its parts. This was my first try at making my own gravy (I'm a whiz at pan sauces a la minute); I was afraid of roux-making, but it turns out it's pretty easy, and very rewarding indeed.
I know a lot of you are deathly afraid of baking, but I want you to try it. I used a scone recipe here, with a few modifications, and the recipe is easy. At least once, resist the urge to blitz everything in the food processor. Just use your fingers, just this once. I think it's good to get your hands into the flour and rub the butter in on your own. Especially with a soft-as-silk flour such as While Lily; the flour is always so cool and soft, I love it.
So, I used a scone recipe from Sam over at Becks & Posh (I figure a Brit should know her scones, right?) Get over the idea that a scone should be filled with nuts and sugar and chocolate chips. It's really just a yummy biscuit. My modifications were as follows: I actually prefer unsifted flour in biscuits, so I just stirred the soda, powder, and salt into the flower before adding the cream; the first time I made this recipe, I used homemade creme fraiche and water, as instructed in the recipe. This time I used 2/3 cup heavy cream - fattening, to be sure, but if you're making this recipe, we know you aren't concerned about that for this one recipe. I actually liked the all-cream version better; the scone turned out a little less dry. Also, I washed the tops with 1 egg yolk mixed with a tsp of water and 1/2 tsp salt, which infuses the biscuit with its own saltiness - good with gravy, butter or jam, I promise.
This is the timing for this breakfast: preheat the oven, put the coffee on, and make the scones. While they are in the oven, get on with the gravy making. You should be almost finished with the gravy by the time the biscuits come out (about 16-17 minutes) of the oven, piping hot and ready for gravy.
Sausage Gravy - serves, um, 2 in our household and probably 4 in everyone else's
8 breakfast sausage links (the little guys - Oink Moo Cluck has a yummy variety) I guess about a pound
rendered bacon fat, lard, olive oil, or butter, as needed (no, I'm not joking)
flour - start with 1/4 cup, but have more ready
milk - 1 - 1 1/2 cups
brewed coffee - 1/4 cup
water - up to 1/2 cup
lots of freshly-cracked black pepper - no substitutes, please!!
salt and hot sauce to taste
Brown the sausage. You don't have to remove the casings, because they are usually soft enough to cut through. Cut the sausage with a wooden spoon while it is browning. When the sausage is finished browning nicely (I like it really brown and nice, so that it retains its texture in the gravy) and is cooked through, you should have quite a bit of leftover fat in the pan. I didn't have enough, so I added about 2 T rendered bacon fat. Sprinkle the pan very liberally with flour and stir it in completely; repeat once or twice, until all of the flour has been absorbed by all of the fat. Stir this mixture for about 2 minutes to brown the flour a little bit (congratulations, you have just made a roux). There shouldn't be any flour visible. Add a little milk and stir; bring to a boil and add a little more milk, stirring very well to be sure the flour is being absorbed. Add the coffee and stir it in. Continue to add milk and water - adding water if the gravy is getting too thick until you have reached the desired liquidity. I know it isn't the most exact recipe, it's more of a feeling. I like mine nice and thick, more of a porridge-y consistency, but others might like theirs soupier.
If your sausage hasn't broken up into small enough pieces, you can blitz the gravy - carefully, now, it's hot! - with a stick blender. This will also help mix the flour in if you start to get lumps, but if you stirred the flour into the fat, and continue stirring over a light simmer, you won't have lumps. I promise, it's really easy once you start stirring.
Add a ton of freshly cracked black paper, a little salt, and a few dashes of hot sauce (I used Sauce Cartel's Burn In Love, which is really hot but blends in nicely, when used in small doses, and adds just a pinch of mystifying heat). Taste the gravy and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve with scones and more pepper and hot sauce. Follow up with a brisk walk.