Jan’s “old” brother—long story involving 23&Me—and his wife are stopping by for breakfast. He has few teeth left and they have very standard “American” tastes—so nothing too chewy or exotically spiced. I decided that biscuits and gravy would be to their liking.
Note: I serve this gravy with biscuits, but by the time my guests had arrive we were all so hungry that I did not take time to get any photos. By the time I remembered, all of the biscuits were gone. The photo above is the gravy on sour dough toast.
Biscuits and gravy are a fairly standard Southern (US) breakfast. If you look at the recipes online, they are all very close—with the same few ingredients and similar cooking methods. Fry and remove your sausage, make a roux, add your milk, return the sausage to the pan, cook just until thick and serve. Up until this meal, I made it exactly the same way, cook until thickened, and serve it right away—because “I am always very hungry.*” This recipe differs not so much in the ingredients list, but in the techniques that I ended up using to make it.
Note: That line (IamAvH) is from one of the first books we ever bought Miriam, 33 years ago. It remains a family tagline to this day.
This meal did not go as planned. My brother- and sister-in-law live in a mountain community with one main road, so they tend to get lost “in the big city.” They ended up being an hour and a half late of their expected time of arrival. For this meal—with the starts and stops as we waited—I accidentally browned my butter and then the gravy sat on the stove simmering for hours. This produced an absolutely amazing gravy.
Karl’s Biscuits and Sage Sausage Gravy
1 recipe of Karl’s Butter Milk Biscuits
1 lb. Jimmy Deans Premium Pork Sausage Sage
4 Tbs. Irish butter, separate uses
¼ cup white flour (AP)
3 cups milk
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 cup half and half cream, added over time
1. Make the biscuits.
2. Wet your hands and form the sausage into one large patty.
Tip: My mother, Claudia, like most cooks broke her sausage into tiny bits as she cooked her sausage. While this produced a very flavorful sauce—because of the Maillard reaction—the bits of meat also came out very tough and chewy. American’s Test Kitchen’s to the dilemma of flavor verses tenderness is to fry the meat in a patty—The outer meat forms a flavorful crust, but the majority of the meat stays tender inside.
3. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large pan and fry the meat on both sides until well browned.
Tip: European style butter has a higher fat content and more a distinct flavor then American butter—which is processed to have a neutral flavor.
Note: If you are making a sauce, that is not depending on herbs and spices for its flavor, use a European butter to add its distinction to the sauce.
4. Remove the meat to a plate to cool.
Tip: When it has cooled chop the patty into your desired bite sizes.
Note: For my brother-in-law I minced the meat very finely.
5. Add some water to deglaze the pan and drain the drippings into a small cup.
Note: Here is where I took my first big turn. I did not know how long it would take the family to arrive. Instead of making my roux with the pan drippings I removed them, so that they would not burn. I put the rest of the butter in the pan, but I did not notice that the stove was still on low. When I returned the stove my butter had darkened to a deep golden brown—the Maillard reaction once again. I decided to roll with it.
6. Add the butter to the pan and brown it well, 2-3 minutes.
7. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cook, stirring constantly, over a medium heat , until the roux has darkened.
Note: Before this I had always used a “white” roux for my sausage gravy. This is where the flour is cooked just until the raw flour taste is gone, about five minutes. As I was experimenting with getting the maximum flavor out of each of my ingredients, I decided to cook my roux to “blond,” which means that you continue to cook the roux until it has darkened to a tan color, about 20 minutes. You may continue cooking to a “brown” roux by cooking it for 35 minutes. Each stage enhances a nutty, chocolaty flavor.
8. Return the pan drippings to the pan and add one cup of milk.
9. Whisk the gravy to break up the roux to make a smooth sauce.
10. Continue to add the milk and whisk until the gravy is smooth and has thickened.
11. Return the sausage and any juices on the plate to the pan and whisk them in.
Tip: I tasted the gravy and the sauce was rather bland, with bits of savory sausage mixed in.
Note: I had timed my cooking so that I would reach this point just before the family’s expected arrival time—when they called to say they were starting out it should have taken 30 minutes to reach us. After an hour, we called them to find that they were on the way to Fremont in the other direction. Getting them turned around it took another 30 minutes before they arrived. My gravy had started to over thicken and develop a crust. I decided to whisk in some cream are work the crust back into the pot. I continued to do this about every ten minutes until my guests arrived.
12. Simmer the gravy for 1- 1½ hours, whisking in a cup of cream—a little bit at a time.
Tip: Scrape down the sides of the pot every ten minutes or so.
Note: Over the hour and a half of simmering the savory flavor of the meat had infused throughout the gravy. This was the best sausage gravy I have ever had.
13. Pour the gravy over the split biscuits.