July 02, 2012

Breakfast at home: Biscuits & Gravy

One of my favourite breakfast foods from the USA is biscuits and gravy. Not a lot of places up here offer it, and of those that do, well, they tend to do it fairly badly - gluey, gloppy stuff, usually without much in the way of sausage meat, sometimes with unanticipated and unwanted alternative seasonings. This is a pity, because anyone ordering biscuits and gravy is not likely to want to be surprised by avant garde seasonings - certainly not without warning.

Biscuits and gravy is a hot, filling breakfast, it's also comfort food at its finest. It doesn't need to be lethally rich, either, especially if you're serving alongside eggs. Easy on the fat - there's plenty of flavour to go around.

I like the name "Sawmill Gravy", but while most people seem to accept pretty much any white sausage gravy as "sawmill", I understand that name belongs more properly to the lumbercamp style of gravy, conditions of which necessitated the use of tinned, evaporated milk. I've also heard "cream gravy", but since I use milk, I'll just stick with "White Sausage Gravy". It's pretty simple, and very delicious.

Make up biscuits according to whatever biscuit bible you adhere to, and make the gravy while they bake up in the oven.

White Sausage Gravy
Serves 4

225-340 grams pork breakfast sausage
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 1/2 cups milk (I use 1%)
sprinkle granulated onion
black pepper to taste

Remove casings (if any) from the sausage and break it up into little chunks (chop it with a chef's knife, if you like). In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook and stir the sausage until it's turned the lightest shade of gold, and rendered its fat out. Continue to break down the sausage pieces as you go. Modern sausage can be quite lean, but if you have richer sausage, spoon out all but about a tablespoon. If your sausage was quite plain, you may want to add a tiny pinch each of leaf oregano or marjoram, ground sage, and ground thyme but don't go overboard. The pork should be the star of this show.

Sprinkle the flour over the sausage, and stir it through, scraping the bottom of the pan, until it starts to turn light butterscotch in colour. Then, while stirring constantly, add the milk a little at a time, working the sauce to keep it smooth and lump free. If free-handing makes you nervous, switch to a whisk. Don't pause in moving your spatula or whisk until at least half the milk is incorporated, and then you'll have a little more leeway.

Once all of the milk is in, continue to cook over medium low, so that everything is bubbling gently until the sauce is thickened. Sprinkle the granulated onion over, stir it through, and then taste for salt. I never add extra salt, because there's enough in the sausage, but your mileage may vary, as they say. Grind some black pepper over the pan, turn the heat to low, and continue to stir occasionally. Give it a final taste to adjust the seasonings, split your hot biscuits open, spoon the gravy over, and serve right away. A little extra pepper on top never hurts, either.

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