Although I am not a son of the South, I spent 44 years in the border state of Missouri and in the deeper South state of Arkansas. Those years shaped my taste for Southern comfort foods, such as grits, country ham and especially, biscuits and sausage gravy.
Photo courtesy of Geni Certain
The first time biscuits and gravy and I met was in a cheap cafe in Waynesville, Missouri, near Fort Leonard Wood. My buddy, a true son of the rural South, and I were between activities on an extended caving weekend. We stopped in the early morning hours (in my opinion, 4 to 7 a.m. is the time to experience small town cafes and truck stops at their best. Guys in gimme caps are being served endless cups of coffee from bottomless pots while fine greasy aromas of hash brown potatoes and bacon waft from the kitchen pass-through.
At that time, I'd no idea what biscuits and gravy (hereafter, "B&G") was. To me, a son of the South side of Brooklyn, "gravy" was a brown sauce that went on pot roast or roast beef.
At the urging of my caving buddy, I ordered the B&G. When it arrived, I was somewhat startled by the gravy. It was a thick, not very attractive white sauce, studded with bits of country sausage. The biscuits, (a "drop" version of which my Mom used to make from Bisquick, here were of lower profile, and when split open, revealed a more open textured crumb. The taste was tangy with buttermilk. It was all a bit odd, but palatable, and certainly a lot easier to eat than my first bowl of menudo, years later, in a trackside cafe in Lordsburg, NM. (Note the sneaky reference to Mexican food, thus validating my blog's title.)
Over the years, and many caving trips later, my taste for B&G grew fitfully. Some restaurants make the worst imaginable grease-based wallpaper paste gravy and leaden biscuits. That usually occurred around midnight, when B&G are unofficially out of season.
Eventually, I learned how to make this true Southern delicacy at home. B&G has become a favorite dish for when we have guests to breakfast. Although it's a simple dish, my interpretation depends greatly on high quality ingredients. There are three principal components:
• Homemade Country Sausage
• Angel Biscuits (AKA Double Leavened Biscuits)
• A proper gravy, based on a flour and meat drippings roux, properly cooked.
First, I'll issue the usual Disclaimer:
This Is Not Health Food. It contains mostly carbohydrates and fat, with a reasonably healthful diluent of milk. It will meet all your cholesterol needs for the near future. You really don't need bacon, ham or additional sausage with this meal. But some have had those additions, and lived, at least for a few more years.
I'll be giving detailed recipes in the next installment, God willing.
Watch for updates.