Classic Southern red-eye gravy is traditionally made by simply adding a little water or brewed coffee to a skillet in which slices of country ham have been fried and deglazing it by scraping the bottom with a spatula or spoon. When, however, grits are featured as the main item in a hearty breakfast, a deluxe version of the gravy, such as this one, is always in order. Typically, these grits would be served with eggs, maybe a few fried green tomatoes, biscuits, and some form of fresh fruit. I defy even the most uninitiated Yankee not to gobble up every morsel.
To make the gravy, fry the bacon in a skillet over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, and crumble. Add the ham to the skillet with the bacon grease and cook, stirring, till slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the scallion, sage, and pepper, and stir for about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the top and cook, stirring, till nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Add the coffee and water, cook, stirring, till the gravy is thick, about 2 minutes. Keep warm.
To make the grits, combine the milk, water, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Gradually add the grits, stirring, and cook, stirring constantly, till thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes.
To serve, spoon a mound of grits on each serving plate, spoon equal amounts of the gravy over the top, and sprinkle each serving with crumbled bacon.
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