Sunday, November 13, 2011

A simple breakfast: Sausage-gravy and biscuits

Sometimes you don't think to write about the simple things. The food you can cook (almost literally) in your sleep. The stuff that's as simple as making lemonade or, well, boiling water.

Sausage-gravy and biscuits is one of those things. A simple Saturday or Sunday breakfast dish that's so easy it feels goofy to write about it. But maybe you don't know it. I didn't when I first moved in with my husband Mike 20 years ago. He introduced to me to this classic Southern breakfast back then. At first I didn't know what to think of it, but then I fell for its simple, warm savoriness. It's a great way to start a weekend.

OK, so the biscuits I make are a variation on a scones recipe from Bonniers Stora Kokbok, my trusty Swedish cookbook that is falling into pieces (that cross-country motorcycle trip in the rain about 10 years ago did the book no favors, but that's another story). The thing to know about biscuits (and most quick breads) is that you don't want to work the dough much, because the final product will get tough. Just barely mix the dough together, shape it, and pop it in the oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 485 degrees Fahrenheit.

You'll need

  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 450 ml flour (I use a mix of AP and whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 200 ml buttermilk (if you don't have any, never fear, you can use milk or cream or half and half instead)
Mix your dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, baking powder, and salt). Add the butter. With your hands (or you could use a fork, but I like getting my hands in there), start breaking the butter up into the flour mixture. Keep working the butter and flour with your fingers until the mixture feels like sand.

Add the buttermilk (or whatever liquid you end up using) and just mix it into the flour-butter mixture. Don't worry about it being a little crumbly.

Split the dough into two halves. Roll each half into a ball and then flatten it out into a disk on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The disk should be about six inches in diameter. With a butter knife, score each disk into four quarters (don't cut all the way through). Then poke the disks all over with a fork and slide the baking sheet into the oven. Bake for about 11 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Eat them hot with sausage-gravy, or with butter, or with jam.

Because the taste of the gravy almost exclusively comes from the sausage, make sure that you use good-quality sausage. We get our wonderful sausage from Haskins Family Farm. I am especially fond of using their sage sausage for this recipe. Note that I use loose sausage, instead of links or patties. I just prefer the way it breaks up in the gravy. You can use links or patties, but the flavor just doesn't distribute throughout the gravy as evenly. (Also, use pork sausage. Chicken or turkey sausage won't have enough fat to make the gravy thicken.)

  • 1 lb pork sausage (preferably loose, or you can remove the casings)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper
  • thyme
Add the sausage to a cold pan and bring up the temperature slowly to render out as much of the pork fat as possible. Continue cooking the sausage until it browns nicely all over and is cooked through.

Add the flour to the pan and stir it in. Let the flour cook a bit with the sausage. Let the flour darken as much as you have patience for (the darker, the more flavorful), but don't let it burn.

Add the milk to the pan. Scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir the gravy regularly until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember there's salt in the sausage, so start with a pinch and work your way up). Add half a teaspoon of dried thyme (or use any other spice or herb that you like; this gravy is easy to make your own).

Serve the gravy over the biscuits. Enjoy. Then feel sleepy, have another cup of coffee, and read the Sunday paper.


  1. Your recipe makes my mouth water. I am going to print your recipe and give it a try for Christmas .