When I have homemade biscuits, there really is only one thing I want with them…sausage gravy.
It’s a simple dish, based off a classic béchamel sauce, but somehow it has taken on a life of its own. Growing up, whenever my dad made gravy for breakfast there was always some sort of meat dripping included for flavor. My mom would frequently cook a piece of meat in gravy (cubed steak, pork steak, etc). But, actual chunks of sausage meat in the breakfast gravy didn’t really start happening until I was about twelve years old. I remember an aunt mentioning having sausage gravy for breakfast at a local restaurant, and everyone thinking it was terribly decadent. I even remember a period where you could have this meaty delight if you were going out to breakfast (which we didn’t do), but never at home. Then, one day a switch flipped with my dad and he’s never made it any other way since.
It’s funny, really, how we can remember the very moment when a dish gets introduced into our lives.
It’s nothing fancy. It’s not posh. It’s not fussy. It is in fact found in every truck stop in the country. And most of of it is done very badly, with too-thick gravy and flavorless sausage. Most Alaskan restaurants I’ve been to seem to do it even worse than in the rest of the country. I don’t understand why, but its true. Breakfast sausage links seem to be all-to-common as the meat of choice for this dish in Alaskan restaurants, and this disappoints me every time. Links aren’t usually as aggressively spiced as loose ground sausage, and they don’t brown well enough to give a solid meaty base flavor to the gravy, even if removed from their casings before cooking. Use good loose sausage, or even make your own. Whatever you would want to eat as a patty should work well here, but be sure to brown it properly to convey as much flavor as possible.
The worst sin against sausage gravy is when, for reasons I’ll never fathom, the cook decides that gravy (or both gravy and biscuits) should be sweet. This is not a sweet dish. Let not a grain of sugar touch this most simple and savory collection.
Finally, keep in mind that gravy will thicken as it cools. To avoid serving up a plate of flavorful sausage-studded glue, be sure to leave the gravy a little runny, and serve it on something that is, itself, already hot. Use good ingredients, keep it simple, and I promise it won’t last long enough to get cold. But, if you need to reheat gravy still in the pan, just had a splash more milk and stir over low heat until rewarmed and re-thickened.
By the way, you can get the recipe for southern buttermilk biscuits here.
Southern Sausage Gravy
- 2 cups of milk (not skim, please, but also don’t use the extra buttermilk now in the fridge from your biscuit making)
- 8 ounces of flavorful ground raw breakfast sausage
- 1/4 cup of flour (and really, there is no need to get extra flour out – just brush 1/4 cup worth of the flour from your biscuit cutting work surface into a bowl…I won’t tell)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a frying pan, sauce pan, sauté pan, etc, brown your sausage meat, breaking in to small pieces with a wooden spoon. Be sure that the meat is well browned, with some fond (the sticky brown bits) at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the flour, and stir to combine with the sausage pieces and fat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat, to cook out the floury taste.
- Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the milk, return to the heat, and stir to combine.
- Add salt and plenty of black pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching and lumps.
- If your gravy is too thick, thin with a little more milk. If it’s too thin, DO NOT add more flour – that’s a recipe for lumps and wallpaper paste. Just cook the gravy gently for a few more minutes and it should tighten up.
- When gravy is cooked, taste for salt and pepper levels, and adjust as needed.
- Serve immediately, or keep warm by covering the pan and keeping it over low heat.