Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shelby, drink the juice.

Dear Tricia, I love biscuits and gravy, and I really want to know how to make real gravy from scratch. Am I in over my head? Is this something I have any chance of learning before I'm a grandpa?

Biscuits and gravy ARE AWESOME! Its my favorite thing to make for Sunday brunch and I like to get all southern when I make them... you know, quote lines from Steel Magnolias and talk like I'm from Mississippi. And doing my impression of Julia Roberts as she's about to go into Diabetic shock is always a fun bonus. "Don't talk about me like I'm not here!"

No, you're not in over your head. Gravy is actually a really simple sauce that anyone can master. And as a bonus, all you need are a few ingredients. So as soon as you master this recipe, you'll be really psyched that you can have an almost empty fridge but still be able to make gravy.

Here's what you need:

1/2 pound breakfast sausage (you can use ground sausage or sausage links. If you use links, just peel off the casing and use the meat inside. The casing is that weird rubbery thing that holds it all together. Throw that part away.)
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper

1. Heat up a pan on a stove over medium-low heat (that means if your oven knob goes from 1-9, put it at 3 or 4. Or 3 1/2 if you can't make up your mind. Whatever. Just make a decision.) and put the sausage in it.
2. Break up the sausage into little pieces. I like to use a wooden spoon, but you can use whatever works best for you. What you want to do is "render" the fat, or slowly pull all the fat out of the sausage. If you have the heat up too high, you'll sear the sausage and give it dark color on it and the fat will stay inside. That's a no-no. With gravy, fat is good, so you want to gently ease it on out.
3. When the sausage is fully cooked, add the flour and start stirring. What you're doing is making a "roux", which is a cooked mixture of fat and flour. The flour is what's going to thicken up your gravy, but you need to cook it a bit first so that your gravy doesn't taste like paper mache. (Not that I know what paper mache tastes like. Especially not because I tasted some in 1988 when I was making mummies out of action figures with my cousins.) So stir and cook, stir and cook, and wait until the flour starts to turn a little golden. Go ahead and give it some color... you're not going to burn it as long as you keep the heat at medium-low.
4. When the flour has some color on it... like the color of apple sauce, add the milk. Now you're going to need to use a wisk. Stir the milk and sausage and roux together and try to wisk out any lumps. (Not to be confused with pieces of sausage.) Keep wisking and let the milk get really hot. As it gets hot, the flour will thicken it. If its taking like 10 minutes, then the heat isn't high enough. Turn it up a little and watch the magic happen. When the gravy starts to bubble a little, its done. Remember, its going to thicken up as it cools too, and if its too thick, you can thin it down a little with more milk.
5. Season it with salt and pepper. You probably don't need as much salt as you think: the sausage has a lot of that already and is what mainly flavors the gravy.

Now, if you take out all of my babbling, here's the quick instructions:

1. Cook sausage over medium-low heat.
2. Add flour, stir, and cook until golden.
3. Add milk and wisk until thickened.
4. Season with salt and pepper.

Just like that. 4 easy steps, 3 main ingredients: its one more item that you can add to your list of "things that aren't rocket science." On a side note, you don't always have to use sausage- my Grammie Sue (who was awesome because she crocheted little crafty ducks that were jelly bean holders and when you squeezed it, a jelly bean would pop out of its crocheted butt) used chip beef, and you can also use bacon. Whatever floats your (gravy) boat.


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