Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Biscuits and Milk Gravy (U.S.)

Sunday mornings were one of my favorite things as a kid. I’d spend the night at a friend’s on Saturday and usually by Sunday morning I’d feel exhausted by trying to fit in to other people’s idea of normal. I have a particularly vivid memory of walking home from Tina’s house. Tina’s family was from Rhode Island and they all seemed very sharp and hard to me. She was really into ballet and her dad was a cop and her mom did things like buy a dozen donuts for breakfast and it all seemed so TV normal and alien I couldn’t relax. Crossing the street to our place, I could already hear the music pouring out of our house before I even got to the front door. Getting inside felt like letting out a deep breath – I’d be enveloped by R&B, the smokiness of eggs, bacon, and biscuits with milk gravy and that feeling like “Ah fuck. I made it. I’m home.”

Here’s what my dad has to say about milk gravy:

“You asked about biscuits and gravy so here's what I can tell you, including... oh yeah... bacon grease... the truly critical ingredient in milk gravy. We used to save bacon grease in a Mason jar in the refrigerator but I can remember seeing it in an icebox (a box with blocks of ice used to keep food cool) on my great-grandmother's porch. My Mom, who was a more 'modern' homemaker, preferred to cook with vegetable oil (aka Crisco), but my Dad, with strong rural southern roots and a palette that appreciated organ meats, fried grits and wild game, prevailed occasionally for the use of bacon grease.

So gravy... Bacon grease (hopefully including what we called scrapins', i.e., that crusty, gummy stuff from the bottom of the skillet that usually gets generated when you fry pork) plus white flour plus whole milk plus salt and pepper to taste. It always seemed best cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Brown the flour in the lightly sizzling grease, like a roux, and add milk in small amounts, working out any lumps, seasoning as you go.

One of the many reasons I fell in love with your Mom was that, when I met her, she had a jar of bacon grease in her fridge.”

Got all that?
There’s no way to have a precise recipe for the gravy because it all depends on how much fat is rendered from your bacon or sausage. I will say that my dad has been known to crumble up extra bacon to put in the gravy and such action is highly recommended.

Here’s my dear friend Swiss’s recipe for biscuits. And, for the record, Swiss is one the most talented pastry chefs out there so you should listen to her:

“I do have the best biscuit recipe:
and yes I use lard because
1: it's delicious
2: you are going to eat biscuits and gravy so what's a little more fat
3: it makes the biscuits nice and flaky
4: the flavor of the lard goes better with a side of bacon than crisco

Buttermilk Biscuits

heat the oven to 450

4cups flour
4t baking powder
1 1/2t salt
1T sugar
1t baking soda
5oz lard
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk
mix dry ingredients with lard add buttermilk until it comes together.
you want it to be a wet dough but firm enough to roll out.”


Amanda said...

Mm mm.. biscuits and gravy! Brian's dad from Michigan made me vegetarian biscuits and gravy while he and Brian enjoyed the chicken variety. Now that I'm off the veggie train, I'll have to try this dish!

Keep up the great cooking!

Guy & Zola said...

That's sweet - how did that veggo gravy turn out? Lemme know what you think of this one if you try it. I recommend a plate of fruit on the side... it's not for the faint of heart. literally.
good thing Guy used to work in the cardiac intensive care unit!