At diners, roadside restaurants, and family restaurants throughout the South, “biscuits ’n’ gravy” refers either to fried sausage patties between split biscuits covered with a thickened pan brown gravy or to fried country ham and split biscuits with red-eye gravy. Both are quintessential breakfast dishes that uphold the Southern tradition of starting the day with “serious food.” No matter where I travel, I never fail to search for places that serve one or the other—with, of course, some style of eggs. Unless you can find decent bulk sausage, I strongly suggest you grind your own, and unless you want tasteless, revolting, milky white gravy, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of frying the sausage and making the gravy in a cast-iron skillet (never a nonstick one) so that as much browned sausage debris as possible can be scraped from the bottom. And do consider doubling the biscuit recipe so there’ll be plenty of extra ones to spread with fruit preserves.
To make the biscuits, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the shortening and cut it in with a pastry cutter or rub with your fingertips till the mixture is mealy. Gradually add the milk and stir just till the dough holds together and is still sticky. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface, knead about 8 times, and form the dough with your hands into 8 smooth rounds about 1 inch thick. Arrange the rounds on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart,
With your hands, form the sausage meat into 8 patties, fry the patties on both sides in a large skillet over moderate heat till nicely browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes, drain on paper towels, and keep warm on a plate. Set the skillet with the fat aside.
To make the gravy, pour off about half the fat from the skillet, add the butter to the skillet, and stir over moderate heat till the fats are incorporated, scraping the browned bits off the bottom. Gradually add the flour, stir till it has absorbed the fats, and
To serve, split 4 to 6 of the biscuits in half and place the bottoms on warm serving plates. Top each bottom with a sausage patty, arrange the biscuit tops at an angle, spoon hot gravy over the tops, and serve immediately.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.