Monday, January 12, 2009

Biscuits and Gravy with friends in the New Year

One of many new traditions for 2009 is to cook simple brunches, often. Keeping in tune with that, we invited couple friends over for brunch on New Year’s day weekend. At first I wasn’t sure about the menu and when I suggested biscuits and gravy, the friend said her husband loved biscuits and gravy. Since my husband loves them too, biscuits and gravy would be our first cooked meal with friends in 2009.

Maybe you can help me figure out my husband’s obsession with biscuits and gravy. It’s a southern dish that probably got its start in an older woman’s kitchen. On a lazy Sunday morning, this woman woke up to leftover biscuits from the previous night’s (fried chicken and biscuits) dinner and had preserved sausage links from the meat season. Hypothetical scenario that could be true, will you please just play along? So with a cup of milk, flour, salt and pepper she invented gravy for the biscuits, served them to the family and called it a day. I bet she had an easy morning that morning compared to all the other days she’d spent peeling and grating potatoes for the hash, or deep frying catfish or better yet frying balls of dough and sprinkling sugar on them.

Like that woman, I also had a lazy start to the morning. I first made the dough for biscuits, following Alton Brown’s recipe. I’d seen him make these with his grandma in one episode and knew I had to try them.

Alton Brown’s Biscuits (not pictured; those biscuits are from before Alton gave me a wonderful lesson on biscuit making. From a previous life, I guess you can say)

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening – I used vegetable shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. (The recipe states the measurements make 12 biscuits and unfortunately mine only yielded 6. I made another batch of dough for more. Or my cutter may have been too big. (I used a water glass since I don’t have the 2 inch cutter. I’ve learned my lesson.) After baking the biscuits, I realized the water glass proportion made giant biscuits. Something was a mistake on my part). Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes. (I baked mine for 30 because they were giant biscuits). Other than fixing my cutting measurements, I wouldn’t change a thing about the recipe. The gravy’s real simple too.

Sausage Gravy

Vegetable oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided (use for turkey sausage or lean pork sausage)
1 lb sausage- ground or links, remove casing if using links. (Ground turkey or pork is fine; until recently, I’ve bought ground turkey tubes (in the frozen foods isle) but since the start of the CSA, we’ve been on a pork kick. And by we I really just mean the husband.) Make sure the ingredients consist of water and meat, nothing else!
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups of milk, room temperature
Freshly ground pepper, lots of it

Add oil (one coat) and 2 tablespoons of butter (if using) to a large pan on medium heat. When the butter melts, drop in the ground sausage. Break up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon as soon as it hits the pan. I like small to medium sized chunks (pictured). Season with salt and pepper. As the meat cooks, the color changes from pink to gray. When the meat is about 60 percent cooked, add the flour, and combine so most of the meat is coated with flour. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until there is a nutty aroma from the pan. (When flour is raw it doesn’t smell like anything, and when it’s cooked, it releases nutty smells.) Stir in milk and bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened to desired consistency. Stir in the last 2 tablespoons of butter, taste, season with salt and pepper, if necessary and serve over baked biscuits.

Actually, my husband was born and brought up in India and didn’t know a thing about biscuits and gravy. His definition of biscuits is the American cookie and gravy is the sauce that comes with an Indian vegetable or meat dish that’s scooped up with naan or rice. Why a grown Indian man goes ga-ga for southern style biscuits and gravy- I don’t know, but I do know that when they are on our menu, he’s like a kid in the candy store. Regardless, I think these satisfied the cravings of both husbands, and wives.


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Anonymous said...

Has Your husband managed to find anywhere in Cincinnati that has good biscuits and gravy? I've been looking since I got here and haven't managed to find any

liberal foodie said...

He hasn't yet, however we haven't tried Tucker's. I've heard many people give their biscuits and gravy highest of reviews.