My father was raised in Eastern Kentucky, and although he left the Bluegrass state when he was only 17, you can take the boy out of Dixie, but you can’t take Dixie out of the boy.
Soon after, he married my mother and brought her “down-home” for the first few years of their marriage. My mom, an Italian girl, was out of her comfort zone, but quickly learned how to cook up my dad’s favorite meals, biscuits and gravy—under the watchful eye of my Mamaw.
One of them, and the most important, was biscuits & gravy. It’s an Appalachian table staple, and my mother made it every Sunday morning.
The Best Biscuits and Gravy Recipe
The problem with Appalachian recipes is that there aren’t a lot of precise measurements. Neither my Mamaw or Mother ever used something as crazy as a measuring cup. It was always a little of this or a pinch of that.
I think it goes without saying, (but I’m going to anyway). Biscuits & gravy is not health food. It might not be good for your figure, but it’s definitely good for your soul. I’ve always imagined biscuits & gravy as a food that helped a lot of families get through tough times in the hills of Eastern Kentucky and throughout Appalachia. When you think about it, biscuits and gravy is the epitome of making something out of nothing. I think it perfectly encompasses the life that my grandparents and millions of people across the country lived.
Let’s Make Some Biscuits and Gravy!
It’s actually pretty easy to make biscuits from scratch. Making great biscuits from scratch is another matter entirely. It can be a little messy, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to knock them out in a matter of minutes.
This recipe will make two pie pans worth of biscuits. If that’s too much, you can either cut the recipe in half, or have a few extra biscuits for later. (is that so bad?)
- 4 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 8 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- Pinch of Salt
- 6 oz. Cold Butter (diced)
- 16 oz. Buttermilk (don’t use lowfat)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and sift thoroughly. Next, add the diced butter and the buttermilk.
*Important- I’ve found that the biscuits turn out better when the dough is a little wet.
Begin mixing (preferably with a wooden spoon) the ingredients. Don’t over mix, just enough to get everything combined.
Mixing too much will make the biscuits tough. Still delicious, but a little tough. Nobody wants tough biscuits.
Now that the biscuits are mixed PREHEAT the oven to 400 degrees.
On a large flat surface (kitchen table) layout a piece of parchment paper. Scatter some flour on the parchment to keep the dough from sticking to it, and flop the biscuit dough on the table.
Next, get two pie dishes, I prefer the metal over the glass, but either will work. Now, spread a thin layer of Crisco shortening with your fingers on the bottom and sides of each pie dish.
Each pie dish will hold 8-9 biscuits. Make sure your hands are dry, cover them in flour dust and start making biscuits!
With your biscuit blob laying on parchment, fold it over a few times to “clean it up” and shape it. Now, tear off a piece that’s about half the size of a baseball, roll it around in your hands to round it up.
Next, with your hands flatten the biscuit into a pancake shape, now fold the 4 edges back toward the center of the biscuit. Place the biscuit in the pie dish with the folded side facing down.
Repeat until you’re done with the biscuits. Place in a 400 ° oven.
Delicious Sausage Gravy, Here We Come!
- ½ pound ground breakfast sausage.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 8 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 5 cups cold milk
- Salt and pepper to taste.
You need to choose a sausage that creates grease. You need grease for gravy. No grease, no gravy. The best sausage that I’ve found for biscuits & gravy is Tennessee Pride. Doesn’t matter if it’s spicy or original, up to you. A close second is Jimmy Dean’s.
Slice up the sausage into pattie sized pieces and place in a large skillet. Saute’ until brown. If you notice that your sausage isn’t producing enough grease, I’ve found that if you place a cover over the skillet, it helps.
Once the sausage is done, remove with a fork or slotted spoon, place on a dish and set aside. Now we’ll use the grease to make a roux.
First, add the butter and melt it. Then add the flour a little at a time while you’re whisking. Keep whisking until the roux turns to a dark brown, usually about 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Next, start adding the milk a little at a time. Never stop whisking. When you’ve added all of the milk, I like to crumble one or two pieces of sausage and add it directly into the gravy. Salt & Pepper to taste. Don’t go too light on either the salt or the pepper.
Unless you’re a total Yankee, you know what gravy is supposed to look like. I like a thicker gravy. Be careful not to make your gravy too thin, but keep in mind as the gravy is cooking it will thicken. It will also continue to thicken after it comes off the heat of the stove.
Your Gravy Is Done!
Now take a peek into the oven, your biscuits should be just about done. Once they have a nice light brown on top, they’re done. Depending on my mood, I’ll sometime pull them out of the oven quickly, give the top of the biscuits a quick rub with a stick of butter, and place back in the oven for another 1-2 minutes.
Once you pull the biscuits from the oven (don’t be a dumbass, use oven mitts), simply flip the pie plate upside down on a plate and lift. Congratulations! You just made down-home biscuits.
Find a large enough bowl to hold your gravy and pour it in. I like to pour it into two medium-size bowls so there’s less passing around the table.
Pull the biscuits, pour the gravy, thank God, your Mamaw, and Mama and enjoy. Now call everyone to breakfast and start frying up some eggs.
One Last Thing…
It’s tradition in my family that you don’t cut the biscuit in half. You break your biscuit into bite-size pieces and then pour the gravy, if you want authentic Appalachia style. We also don’t cut cornbread.
I asked my father why when I was a kid. He told me that the metal from the knife ruins the taste of the biscuits and cornbread. I wonder if that’s where the expression “break bread” comes from?