Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Biscuits & Gravy - Better Than a Blast from my Past

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and gravy and I have a long and bumpy history together.

I rarely give them a second thought and over the years only see them on breakfast buffet bars, featured at free continental breakfast, or holding down the tablecloth during a conference. I think I would rather eat paste.

As a child my Dad would order them often. I just didn't understand it. Colorless, pasty and often packed with enough sodium to fell a pachyderm, I avoided them like the plague. To me they only fit into old style diners and over 65 crowd.

Young people eat fruit, waffles, yogurt parfaits and drown it with expensive coffees, right?

Buttermilk Biscuits

Sausage has never been my thing, so it is safe to say I am a little biased against the sausage gravy that makes up the smothering half of biscuits and gravy. I blame it on the quality of sausage I was offered as a kid. Most of it was flavorless and people around me delighted in drowning it in rich, maple syrup. If the sausage was so good, why didn't they enjoy the taste of it? So sausage may not be my thing but, I do have a soft spot in my heart for a tender little buttermilk biscuit.

I always like to make my husband foods he enjoys. He has mentioned a few times lately that he likes biscuits and gravy. Well, I am happy to make him biscuits, but I was looking for something more to go with them. After eating a surprisingly good sausage patty one morning, cooked by someone else, I decided to take the challenge of making my husband his biscuits and gravy. Homemade is always heads above mass produced food, right?

Maybe it is the late night feedings that park me in front of the television for Diner's Drive-Ins and Dive marathons, but I was starting to get excited to tackle the classic breakfast food. I was especially excited about the biscuits.

Biscuits really are simple to make. Very few ingredients and they come together fast. With buttermilk and good cold butter, you really can't go wrong. My only complaint is that one batch makes too few biscuits in our house.

The key is to not overwork the dough - touch it as little as possible. Punch them out and get them onto your baking tray. This dough comes out a little sticky, but it yields a very tender biscuit.

Of course, you can enjoy these little beauties with a little butter and jam or honey on their own. But, I really wanted to give a bit of sausage and gravy a fair shot with my taste buds. It seemed like a good way to do honor to lonely biscuit.

So I browned...

 Since my husband is not a big fan of heat, I chose to buy a plain sausage and spice it up myself. This allows you the freedom to customize the meat as you like. Spiced up with some smoked Paprika, fennel, onion and garlic, my plain Jane sausage was dressed up and ready to party.

Then comes the flour. It soaks up the excess fat and will help thicken up the milk. I am amazed how simple the gravy really was to make.

Then add in the milk, and simmer till it tightens up the gravy. Season to taste and then enjoy over those delightful little biscuits.

The verdict? Homemade definitely blows all the commercial stuff out of the water. Now, I don't have plans to make this on a regular basis ... I think that would go against my workout goals. But, I do plan to pull this out as a treat for the hubby from time to time. All things in moderation, right?

Easy Buttermilk Biscuits

You Will Need:

  • 2 c. all purpose flour + more for dusting your surface
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 c. buttermilk, or 1 c. water and a packet of buttermilk powder
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse up the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter. It should resemble small pebbles. Don't over process.

Slowly drizzle in the buttermilk till the dough is fully mixed. Again, don't over work it. It will be a very wet dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently pat out to 1/2", lightly dust the surface with flour and then fold the dough. Do this 3 more times and finish with 1" thick dough.

Dip your biscuit cutter, or glass in flour, and cut out the biscuits. Fit as many onto the dough as possible since re-using the dough will make a tougher biscuit. Place cut biscuits on a lined baking tray and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.

Homemade Sausage Gravy
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 lb. breakfast sausage
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk

Break the sausage up into small pieces by hand and place in a pre-heated cast iron skillet. After turning add  the smoked paprika, fennel, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Add more to suit your tastes. We keep things flavorful but mild here. The gravy will mute the flavor of the meat, so don't be afraid to season it well.

Once browned, sprinkle on the flour and stir it to soak up all the added oil from the sausage. Once it has warmed through and is fragrant, add the milk and simmer, whisking till it thickens.

Serve immediately over biscuits. Enjoy!

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