Biscuits & Gravy
Don’t tell me you don’t like biscuits and gravy, because I wouldn’t believe you. After all, I used to think I was like you. It all started one morning after a sleepover at a friend’s house in elementary school, when my friend’s mom made biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Biscuits, as in the kind from the can that you have to bang against a counter to open up, and gravy, as in that powdery stuff from a little aluminum packet that you add to water. Now, I wasn’t actively judging the quality of food at that age, but I just didn’t like that breakfast. Not one bit. And ever since then, the words “biscuits and gravy” have repulsed me a bit.
(I hope this doesn’t mean that I was already a food-snob in the making at the age of 8. Sigh, I guess some things are a long time coming.)
Anyway, I have stubbornly clung to that repulsion and have managed to successfully live out the last 13 years of my life avoiding a bite of any and all versions of biscuits and gravy. Everything changed last weekend, though, when I decided to make Waylon this recipe.
Waylon, so very unlike me, is not new to biscuits and gravy. He grew up on them, and he almost always orders them when we go out to a diner-like place for breakfast (which honestly is pretty much the only type of place we go to for breakfast). He loves biscuits and gravy. Yet when I told him I was going to make them for him, he responded by saying, “Okay, but I have to tell you, if I don’t like them it’s not one of those times that I’m going to keep eating and pretend that I do. Really, I can’t eat bad biscuits and gravy.”
Moving on from the fact that he said he wouldn’t “pretend” to like it (but seriously, pretend?), this made me get some doubts about how much I could succeed with this dish. Maybe it’s just one of those things best left to the professionals—or, in this case, the greasy line cooks. But he loved them. Loved them! And here’s the really surprising thing: I did too. It is salty and fatty and carby and everything good. We ate the biscuits smothered in the gravy alongside some homemade hashbrowns that Waylon made. Everything was so good, so much so that all I can say is please, make these—whether you think you like biscuits and gravy or not.
I should note, though, that I don’t think these are the type of biscuits to make if you just want some flaky, tender biscuits to spread some butter and jam on. These are pure wonder when paired with the gravy, especially because by cooking the biscuits in a buttered cake pan, the bottoms and tops get a salty edge to them (see aforementioned salt + fat praise). They give a waft of buttery-goodness when you pull them out of the oven, and are pillowy-soft when you break them apart for the gravy. But they would not be my pick for butter and jam (although they are of course not bad with it because c’mon, they’re biscuits). In that case I prefer a softer more delicate cream biscuit like these.
Oh! And one more thing! Just to try and convince you a little bit more, I think I need to point out how easy this all was to make. The biscuits come together in no time and with just one bowl, and the gravy cooks up in the time the biscuits are in the oven. Whole thing took no longer than 40 minutes. So no excuses.
One Year Ago: Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Buttermilk Biscuits with Pork Sausage Gravy
Adapted from Saveur
Some important notes: First, I used salted butter here and I think you should, too. The melted butter that coats the pan the biscuits are cooked in leaves a salty, crusty taste on the bottom of the biscuits that is just too delicious to pass up. I’ve adjusted the salt content in the recipe to account for this–if you’re using unsalted butter, add about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon more in the biscuit dough. Also, I used 2% milk in the gravy, and it was great. Whole milk would be fine too though, I’m sure. I’m guessing nonfat might be okay, but you know, why would you have nonfat milk in your fridge anyway?
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, chilled and cubed, plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 ounces pork breakfast sausage
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
First, make the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with some of the salted melted butter and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using your fingers, rub the chilled and cubed butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is in mostly pea-sized pieces. Add the buttermilk, and gently stir together until just combined. Transfer to a floured work surface, and gently pat dough into a rectangle. Fold one side of the rectangle over on top of the other side, and pat back down so the dough is a little higher than 1-inch thick. Dip a 3″ round cutter into a bowl of flour, and cut out rounds of dough. Press scraps together, and repeat with remaining dough until you have about 6 or 7 rounds. Arrange the biscuits in the already-greased pan, and brush the tops with the remaining melted butter. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
While the biscuits are baking, make the gravy. Over medium-high heat, cook the chopped bacon in a 4-quart saucepan, stirring occasionally, until its fat renders, about 3 minutes. Add the pork sausage and cook, breaking it into the smallest pieces you can with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and continue to stir for about another 2 minutes, or until the flour starts to smell toasted. Add the milk and cream, and bring to a boil. Once a boil is reached reduce heat to medium to bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until gravy is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste–you’ll need to add about at least teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir to combine.
To serve, split warm biscuits in half, and cover (liberally) with gravy.