Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Grandma's Biscuits and Gravy

And by biscuits I don't mean the kind that comes in a can. Not that my mom didn't do that growing up but they don't taste the same. Not bad, just different. And if your grandma is anything like mine, she's been making this "recipe" for like, 60 years and doesn't follow a recipe. She does it by feel. And that, my friends, is why it has taken so long for me to post this. I have watched her many times and taken notes and then gone home and tried it myself and...well, let's just say it took me a while to get it just right. Now that I have I happily share it with you. Admittedly, I did adapt the biscuit recipe slightly but otherwise, this is as close to replicating Grandma's recipe as I'm going to get.

This is not a low-fat dish (duh) and I really only make it about 3 times a year. But it is so good that you'll be thinking about biscuits for the rest of the day.

For the biscuits:

2 C self-rising flour (I happen to keep a sack in the freezer--feel free to make your own)
1.5 T baking powder
a big pinch of salt
1/4 C butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/4 C shortening, cold (yes, shortening--really--trust me on this)
1 C low-fat buttermilk, plus extra on hand if needed
butter for greasing the pan and the tops of the biscuits

For the gravy:

one pkg hot pork sausage (Bob Evans hot is the best for this)
1 can evaporated milk (2% is fine--do not use fat free)
a smidge of bacon grease (I keep mine in the fridge)

First, preheat the oven to 450 and then get started on your sausage. Open the tube of sausage and put it in a cast iron pan set over medium heat. Break up the sausage into medium chunks while it cooks and when it is brown, delicious and cooked through, remove from pan to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon. If using Bob Evans sausage, you'll find it to be on the lean side and so you may not have enough grease left over in the pan. This is where you'll need to add a smidge of bacon grease, if you have it, or a bit of oil. If you are using another brand, it may render more than enough grease and you'll have to get rid of some. Either way, you should have 2-3 T of fat in the pan. Turn down heat to somewhere between med-low and medium. Sprinkle over 2-3 T of AP flour and whisk to combine. You are making a roux here so just keep going until the roux is brown and has taken on a nutty smell. Slowly add in the evaporated milk, whisking constantly to avoid roux balls, and then add 1.5 C of water. Return heat to medium and stir frequently. Cook gravy until thickened to desired consistency (some people prefer thin gravy and some not--whatever you like is fine) and add S&P to taste. YOU MUST SALT THE GRAVY. I know, you're thinking that there's plenty of sodium added to the sausage and while that might be true, you must salt the gravy. Stir in sausage and set aside in a warm place. I leave mine in the skillet until ready to serve.

For the biscuits, it is important to remember not to overmix them or they will get tough. I like to use my food processor b/c it makes this as close to foolproof as you can get. In your food processor, add flour, baking powder and salt and pulse a few times to combine and fluff up the ingredients a bit. If you want to do this by hand, you will need to sift your dry ingredients together. Add in the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles nubble-y sand. At this point, pour in a scant cup of the butter milk and pulse to combine. You want this to be a wet dough. You may need to add a bit more buttermilk. Pulse a couple of times and then dump out onto a well-floured surface. Liberally sprinkle with more flour (AP flour is fine at this point) and knead carefully a few times. You don't want to overwork the dough but too little kneading and the biscuits will fall apart as you try to take them from the pan. Pat out into a 3/4"-1" high circle and press out rounds with 2.5" biscuit cutter. Be sure to use a tall cutter b/c you do not want to compress the dough. Also, be sure to push straight down without twisting. Cut out as many biscuits as possible and then carefully knead together scraps, press out dough and cut out more biscuits. Each time you have to knead together scraps you will toughen up the dough so try to do this as little as possible. It may be easier to just cut them out into squares using a large knife or bench scraper. I ended up with 14 biscuits using my cutter.

Melt a bit of butter, about 1-2 T, in the microwave. Liberally grease a heavy-duty baking sheet with some of the butter and place biscuits close together in the middle. If you like all of your biscuits to be GB&D all around, then keep some space between them. Using your fingers, lightly rub the remaining butter on the biscuit tops and then put the pan on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 15-20 or until GB&D.

Grandma has "asbestos hands" from years of cooking and scrubbing so she would split the biscuits in half for us, pour over some gravy and serve with one or two over easy eggs with perfectly runny yolks. I recommend you do the same. Consume. You'll think you've died and gone to heaven.

Serves about 4 or so but it depends on whether you are serving eggs, too. Leftover biscuits should be stored in an airtight container or zip top bag. Put in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm up and serve with butter and apple butter or strawberry preserves. It's just heaven.

*A few notes, you really want to use pork sausage here. I think I tried it once with turkey sausage but it just does not have the flavor nor does it render enough fat to make good gravy. Admittedly, I am always striving to recreate something that has very strong memories attached to it and I insist on making it the way I've written it out. Feel free to tweak it to suit your needs.

Also, you don't have to buy self-rising flour but since I do make B&G a few times a year and I do occasionally use self-rising flour for other recipes, I keep it on hand and store it in the freezer.

Leftover gravy will keep in the fridge for a few days but you'll want to press a piece of cling wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. It will also thicken up a bit during storage so when I reheat I add a bit of water until it has the desired consistency.


hefk said...

this sounds like the way a worn cotton patchwork quilt would taste if it tasted like biscuits and gravy.

Alissa said...

Yum. I went to Ruth's Diner in Salt Lake City twice this week - they were profiled on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for their biscuits and gravy. Their "mile-high" biscuits were "scrumdiliumscious" in the words of the shuttle driver who took us up to the diner in the hills. I've never made it at home but maybe now I'll try it.

PS. You don't have to apologize for posting recipes that aren't low-fat. If it's delicious, we want to try it. ;)