Brunch, and maybe especially Father’s Day brunch, is one of my favorite meals! This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan, a good cook who makes the very best of all Sausage Gravies.
Gene, after a lifetime career in nearly every sector of the grocery store arena, knows the food business. Just ask him about how long green beans are picked before they’re canned, when a melon is ripe, where sugar beets are grown in the world, how coffee is stored in the warehouse, or what H.E.B. actually stands for. He’s a fair hand in the kitchen, too, and can keep dinner coming. In fact, the man can bake when he wants to. What he’s really famous for, however, is his sausage gravy. Well, that and being just about the biggest Illini (University of Illinois) fan in the state of Illinois. He once sported an Illini ROOM in the house, in fact, all decorated and gussied up by his wife, my mother-in-law, Lorna, who joins right in year in and year out with the Illini devotion.
H-E-B stands for the name Howard E. Butt. The first H-E-B opened in Kerrville in 1905 by Florence Butt. 15 years later her youngest son Howard took over the operations of their grocery store business.
above: my husband Dave, left, and father-in-law Gene, right
If Gene’s visiting, or if you’re visiting him, you can bet one morning there’ll be sausage gravy cooking on the stove and you’d best be seeing to the biscuits tootie sweetie. There were, perhaps, a few grandkids that didn’t want sausage gravy right off the bat as itty-bitties, but they soon caught on and now are most likely making the one and only Gene Morgan breakfast in their own homes for themselves or for the great-grands. (our brood below)
Raised by southern parents, I don’t actually remember sausage gravy in our home kitchen, though biscuits were a nearly daily staple. When I first ate this rib-sticking goodness as a young bride, I couldn’t get enough of it.
I wanted twice as much as I needed and even today, with a lesser appetite, have to be very careful to not over indulge. It simply goes down so easily. Lord.
Occasionally we dish up eggs, too, or have a bowl of fruit. But most of the time, Sausage Gravy and Biscuits are just that: Sausage Gravy and Biscuits. Who needs more? A big pot of hot coffee is the drink of choice; this isn’t mimosa territory. Lunch? Lunch is then very far away and might not even happen. Full would be the word.
Once in a while, I make a savory waffle (leave out of a scratch waffle recipe all but a tiny bit of sugar and add spices or herbs) topped by the gravy and even add a fried egg:
That might be a different post!
If you’re cooking for a Father’s Day brunch, go ahead and do the side dishes and breakfast drinks. It is an occasion, after all. A Bloody Mary would be perfect for a start and berries stirred together with fresh mint –or even alone–could certainly bring up the rear so to speak. Skip the coffee cake, croissants, and other usual bakery brunchie suspects as the biscuits are without doubt enough.
About the biscuit flour: Plain old white flour (often White Lily) biscuits are de rigueur for sausage gravy, but with 25% or even 50% of the flour switched out and up to whole wheat, I get a tastier biscuit with a fuller flavor profile that browns beautifully and just happens to increase the healthful qualities of the bread. Kind of like the difference between a saltine or water cracker and a Triscuit. Why not try it?
Want more info on Sausage Gravy? Read the recipe, but mostly the comments about Sam Sifton’s Sausage Gravy recipe, which is much like Gene’s albeit with the addition of herbs. It’s worth a few minutes of any breakfast cook’s time. When you’re done reading, try my take on:
GENE’S SAUSAGE GRAVY
This gravy “recipe” can make a little or a lot, depending on how much flour you sprinkle in and how much fat and then milk you keep adding. I’ve seen Gene feed just four of us or a few of us plus all the grandkids with one expandable pot of gravy. If you need to make a mess of sausage gravy because you have a lot of people to feed that morning, it’ll taste just as good as the smaller pot full, it just won’t have as much meat in it. You’ll also make more biscuits, too, of course, and maybe someone else could stir up a skillet of scrambled eggs. It helps to remember that biscuits and gravy (milk), during hard times, were made just with pork fat, flour, salt, pepper, and milk — no meat because meat was dear and was difficult to keep. This sweet meal stretches and stretches as long as the milk holds out.
- 1 pound bulk hot or spicy country pork sausage, homemade or purchased
- 1-2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil (can use butter, too)– if sausage is very lean
- 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) all purpose, unbleached flour + more if you’re making a a big batch
- 3 cups of milk + more as needed or if you’re making a big batch
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crushed red pepper, optional
In a 6-quart pot, break the sausage up into pieces with a heavy spatula and brown well, stirring, over medium heat until there’s no pink showing in any of the meat. If there are not a few tablespoons of fat in the bottom of the pan after cooking the sausage, add a tablespoon or two of oil or butter. Sprinkle in the flour and, stirring, let it cook to get out the raw flour taste–3 or 4 minutes. Stirring or whisking regularly, pour in half of the milk and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering/stirring, adding milk/flour until gravy is of the consistency and amount you like–at least 10 minutes or more.* (It will thicken as it cools.) Taste and season with salt and pepper, adding crushed red pepper if desired. Serve hot over fresh warm biscuits sliced in half.
STORAGE: Cool completely, cover well, and store leftovers in fridge for 1-2 days or in freezer for 2-3 months. To reheat next day, whisk in a little milk to thin out the gravy.
FOR BISCUITS: Scroll down for my recipe or read the Cook’s Note here:
Cook’s Note about making/not making biscuits: My dear friend Helen Aldrich loved this meal of Gene’s. She asked one of us, “Couldn’t you make this with English muffins instead of biscuits?” Sacrilege, we thought. Trouble was that Helen was a Yankee through and through; southern biscuits weren’t in her cooking repertoire. So we said, “Sure, Helen.” And that’s how Helen made “Biscuits” and Gravy. If you’re desperate or can’t make biscuits, you can cheat and use English muffins or even Whop Biscuits–the kind that come in a cardboard tube that you WHOP on the edge of the counter to open. (I don’t like WHOP biscuits, but I won’t tell anyone if you make them.) There’s also BISQUICK, which is so easy and quick that kids can make those. I think some stores actually sell already made biscuits, too–was it COSTCO I saw them in once?? Check it out if you’re not a baker. Toast? Well, that might be going a bit far.
*You can whisk more flour into the milk you’re adding for a thicker consistency/larger volume after you’ve added the original sprinkle on top of the pork.
I’ll reserve the right to edit this recipe should Gene think it needs any changes. Everyone has their own little twist at making gravy and he’s made it a lot longer than I have.
Other gravy ideas include bacon grease as the additional fat ingredient and occasionally using only bacon grease with chopped ham as the meat. Red Eye gravy, though, is all about cooking/removing the ham from the skillet and making the gravy afterward with butter, coffee, and broth.
WHOLE WHEAT BISCUITS
makes 12 small biscuits
A light and quick, deft hand with biscuits is essential to keep the butter in pieces –for a flaky biscuit– and to avoid over-working the dough — to obtain a lighter, layered tall biscuit. Your hands are warm and will melt the butter if you’re poky and/or over-knead. The race is to the swift! If there’s any left after the gravy brunch, honey with sour cream are the perfect accompaniments. Ok–maybe strawberry jam, instead.
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour plus extra on counter to roll dough
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4 ounces salted butter (8 tablespoons), cold, cut into small pieces (1 stick)
- 2/3 cup milk plus a little more, if needed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Set rack at center of oven.
MIX DRY INGREDIENTS/CUT IN BUTTER: Mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar. Cut in the pieces of butter into the flour mixture with two sharp knives, a pastry cutter, or in a food processor using the steel (Sabatier) blade. (You can also use your finger tips; this is a favorite method for some.) Pour in the milk all at once and mix with a dinner fork or by pulsing in short bursts in the food processor until the dough just begins to come together, adding a few extra drops of milk if necessary–usually the case in drier or high altitude climates.
TIP DOUGH OUT ONTO A FLOURED BOARD/COUNTER and mix lightly with hands or a dough scraper until it holds together. Knead 5 or 6 times or until it is uniform and smooth in appearance. Pat dough quickly into a rectangle and press out with hands or roll out with rolling-pin (dust top of dough and pin with flour first) until 1/2-inch thick. Cut dough into rounds with biscuit/cookie cutter or slice into squares.
PLACE ON BAKING SHEET AND BAKE: Transfer cut biscuits with a spatula onto an un-greased baking sheet for crisper biscuits or into a large pie plate where the edges will later touch one another for softer biscuits. Place pan in oven and bake 13-15 minutes OR until light golden brown on tops, edges, and bottoms. Serve warm.
STORAGE/RE-HEATING: Store well wrapped at room temperature for up to two days (in fridge if weather is hot/ humid) or in freezer for two weeks. To re-heat, slice in half, butter and place buttered-side down in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until lightly browned.
BAKER’S NOTES: For a more uniform and more satiny top on the biscuits, after placing them in the pan, turn them back over again. You can also brush the tops with milk before baking to enhance browning if you like.
Based on Marion Cunningham’s Baking Powder Biscuits.
WHAT’S A DOUGH SCRAPER?
I use my dough scraper for things besides scraping/moving dough and getting excess flour off the counter after I’m done baking. It’s a handy gizmo to clean a griddle or to scrape off a cutting board or counter into the garbage after you’ve been chopping vegetables or anything else. Dough scrapers come in a metal or plastic and at various price points; they’re worth whatever you pay. Mine stays on or very near my counter.
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What are you reading? I’m finally on to James Comey’s book, A HIGHER LOYALTY: TRUTH, LIES, AND LEADERSHIP. I’m 100 pages in and captivated. An easy read.
This morning’s NYTimes Food Section has a lovely article by Kim Severson about Dolester Miles, the recent winner of the James Beard award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Happy, happy read about the 61-year old, self-taught restaurant pastry chef that includes recipes for a couple of her most stellar desserts–Lemon Meringue Tart and Coconut Pecan Cake. Sweet stuff! (No access? Try the public library and ask the librarian for a hard copy of the May 30, 2018 New York Times. The article begins on page D1 and continues on D6.)
Thanks for stopping by, for reading my stories, for being interested in home cooking, and for following the blog. I’m grateful for you.
Upcoming on the blog will be some new KIDS COOKING recipes for the summer as I try out a few cooking classes on a couple of great local kids whose mother has agreed for them to be guinea pigs. Stay tuned!
Sing a new song,