Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Breakfast Fit for a Hokie

When I first saw a plate of biscuits and gravy, I was less than impressed. It was a big pile of whitish lumpy goo on top of a food that I though was reserved for dipping in my mom's beef stew. I will say however that my opinion quickly change when I took a leap of faith and had a sloppy fork full. I don't remember exactly what restaurant served up my first taste but I am sure that it was in Blacksburg, VA and that I was probably a little bit hungover.

During my five year, yes that's right I took a victory lap at the end, stint at Virginia Tech I became more and more intrigued by the great southern breakfast tradition of biscuits and gravy. It started out as a hangover helper must have meal and grew into something I enjoyed making and eating on even a sober weekend morning. If you are reading this and are interested in the best version for a post partying night, I would most certainly recommend Hardee's drive thru. No shower or decent outfit required! If, however, you are interested in making the dish, please read on.

I have to thank my good friend Lindsey French for teaching me the basics of good sausage gravy construction. She also has a food blog called Foodie on the Rocks and you need to check it out! The first thing you are going to need is your favorite brand of breakfast sausage. It's easiest to get the kind in the big bulk roll rather than having to remove the sausages from their casing but if links are all you have, then just squeeze the goodness out of the casing into a pan.

It looks a little gross at first but once you chop it all up you are in good shape. Cook the sausage on medium-high and be sure to break up the bits as if you were browning ground beef. Once the sausage is nicely broken up and browned, drain the excess fat and put it back in the pan and back on medium-low heat. This next step is the most crucial for the thickening of the gravy. Add enough flour to coat the amount of sausage that you have in the pan. You need to cook the 'raw-ness' out of the flour, this is called a roux. The sausage, unless you are a weenie and used turkey or chicken sausage, should still have enough fat in it to bind with the flour and cook down. If not you can just add a little butter to the mixture. After a minute or so you can add the milk. Barry and I keep 1% around for drinking and cooking. If you are using skim, it will still work, it just might not be as smooth. When adding the milk do it just a little at a time. REMEMBER you can always add more but you can't take it out. Add enough milk to where the gravy is just slightly thinner than you would prefer it. It will continue to thicken as it cools either in the pan or on the plate.

Now that the gravy is made, its time to talk biscuits. I don't think I knew that bread type products were available pre-made in boxes or cans as a child. My mom made pretty much everything from scratch. Cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, cookies, brownies (hers are the best!!); they were all made by hand from eggs, flour, butter and sugar, and they were all AMAZING. She did not pass this baking gene on to me. My sister, Gwen (who I owe all the credit to for the title of the 'Pork on Pork Action' post) is a fantastic baker and maker of sweet delights. I digress...

For the past 10 or so years, I have been using refrigerated biscuits out of a can for anything biscuit related. Last week Barry woke up and wanted biscuits and gravy for breakfast and I had no canned bread! What was a girl to do??? I decided to take the plunge and open up a cook book to a biscuit recipe. I have several cook books but I used my Joy of Cooking book for this extremely daunting task. The recipe seemed relatively straight forward; flour, baking powder, milk and butter. Impossible to screw up, right? Not so much... I tried to half the recipe but spaced out on the milk and put it all in. I ended up with flat but very tasty biscuits. This weekend, I decided to give it another go and just make the whole recipe to decrease the error potential.

I mixed the ingredients per the instructions. Cutting in ice cold butter with two forks makes a giant mess and takes a long time. I now know why my sister asked for a pastry cutter for Christmas last year. The next step was the rolling. I have a marble rolling pin that was my great grandmother's, and I have no idea if she ever used it. She weighed about 85 pounds soaking wet and this thing would probably weigh in at about 7 pounds, so I would imagine it was not used as much as the wooden one that she had. The directions say 'Roll to about a half inch thickness'. I do not have my husbands contractor eye for these type of measurements and rolled them a little on the thin side. I just kind of pushed them back together to puff them back up.

The recipe says that if you want the tops browner to give them a brush with butter or milk. I wasn't about to add another variable to my baking experiment so they went in the oven in the nude. I baked those terrifying little pillows of hell for the directed time and, to my surprise, they actually puffed up and grew into real, recognizable, edible biscuits!!

I was ready to celebrate!! For me this was perfection... Split one of those puppies open, pour some of the gravy goodness on it and call it a day but this was not the case for Barry. He is an eggs with every breakfast kind of guy. He grew up with back yard chickens and they laid enough eggs to feed an army. Which was a great thing because my mother-in-law ended up with three sons who are all over 6'4" and love to eat! She is a great fried egg maker but my favorite of hers is quiche. She made 3 fantastic quiches for my bridal shower a couple of years ago and they were the hit of the party.

Barry loves a sunny side up, runny yolk egg. He also loves to have those slimy little suckers piled on top of his biscuits and gravy. Thereby, ruining the posterity of the biscuits and gravy in my opinion, but I'm just the cook and I will give people what they want. For me, the easiest way to cook a sunny side up egg, is to use a non-stick pan, spray it with a little Pam and cook on medium-low with a lid over them until the whites are just cooked through.

These are not done enough.
The final plate can be seen below. As you can see the membrane on the egg on the left had just started to turn white. That's when I know the eggs are done. This was a pretty high calorie breakfast but we ended up being able to work in the yard non-stop for about 6 hours thanks to the carb, protein and fat in our southern delight breakfast. If only I could get him to eat grits... maybe next weekend.


  1. This looks like a must-try. And your mom's brownies ARE the best!

  2. Nice work and I am impressed with the square biscuits...never would have thought of that but it makes great sense :) Love you, Mom2

  3. Cheating the pastry cutter: grate frozen butter or if you don't think that far ahead like me, grated refrigerated butter and put it in the freezer while you measure out everything else! Messing with the fork will take no time! So, the colder you butter and milk (or buttermilk) and the less you work with the dough, the fluffier your biscuits will be!!

    1. That is an amazing idea with the frozen butter! I will certainly try it next time.