buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy

photo of biscuits with sausage gravy

It wasn’t until years into my marriage when we were visiting my parents back in the south that I made biscuits and gravy for my husband, and I’m pretty sure he felt like I’d been holding out on him all that time. I make them a little more frequently now. The biscuits are something I can give a recipe for, but the gravy… well, that’s something that’s done by feel with practice, so I can only provide guidance.

If you’re not used to making gravy and you make mistakes, it’s okay! Perfecting a cream gravy like this can take a lot of practice – I made some pretty questionable gravy when I was growing up and first learning, so don’t be hard on yourself.

If you want to do this in easy mode, use Wondra flour for the gravy. It’ll keep it from lumping.

buttermilk biscuits

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), frozen
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour (I prefer White Lily, or King Arthur)
1 cup cold buttermilk
2 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 475. Grate your frozen butter on a box grater using the largest holes. Toss the butter and flour together in a large bowl (USE YOUR CLEAN HANDS) and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.
After those 10 minutes, make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in your buttermilk. Stir it 15 times – it will be sticky.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. I use a large cutting board so I don’t have to scrub my counters. Lightly sprinkle some flour on top of the dough. Using your hands, press the dough with your fingers into a rectangular shape about 3/4″ thick. Fold it in half, then repeat 4 more times.
Now press the dough out to around 1/2″ thick. Cut using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, reshaping the scraps to use as much as possible. If you don’t have a cutter, you can use a clean empty can or even a juice glass.
Place the dough rounds into a metal baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and ensure they are just barely touching each other. Use multiple pans if necessary. You can also use a cast iron skillet for this. Don’t use glass or ceramic – it won’t get the golden crunchy bottoms you want.
Bake at 475 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. When you remove them, brush with the melted butter.

sausage gravy

If you want to attempt gravy, what you need is 1 lb of pork breakfast sausage. Do not use Whole Foods brands or anything that doesn’t generate plenty of grease in the pan. My favorite is Tennessee Pride when I can get it (that’s what I grew up with) or Jimmy Dean Sage. Pro tip: use a cast iron skillet for this if at all possible – 10″ or a #10 (which is like 11″) if you’re using an antique one.
Brown your sausage until it’s fully cooked and you have a decent amount of grease at the bottom. This is flavor – you want to use this. Remove your sausage to a paper towel-lined bowl. Add in enough canola oil that you have something like 1/4 to 1/3 cup in your skillet (depending on the amount of gravy you want to make. Get the new mixture nice and hot at a medium heat, then add flour until you get it to a consistency that is still fluid but not liquid – when you move your whisk through the pan, it’ll leave empty lines that slowly fill themselves back in. Let the flour brown a bit – you don’t want it white, but you don’t want it burnt, so the trick it to keep your whisk moving the whole time.
Once you get it to a medium beige sort of color, add in your seasonings: this is done to personal taste. I use a lot of sage (probably a good tbsp), a 1/2 tsp of salt, and some black pepper. Keep stirring, and it’ll get aromatic. Now, turn down the temp to low, but not simmering.
Now this is the tricky part: have a lot of milk on hand and start adding small amounts, whisking the whole time. It will keep thickening and cooking off, so you’ll be doing this a while. You want to get it to where it’s got some viscosity – not too thick, but also not too thin (no one likes a watery gravy). Once you get it there, add your sausage back and stir it once more.
You can add more milk after this is if your gravy is too thick for your liking, but I like it as pictured above.
Now serve it on the biscuits, halving the biscuits and spooning the gravy on top.

meat lasagna with bechamel

photo of meat lasagna with bechamel

Since my husband isn’t really a fan of ricotta cheese – it’s a texture thing – I’ve started making lasagna with bechamel instead and it’s been a hit in our house.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 lbs lean (92%) ground beef
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
29 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
1 tbsp beef stock concentrate
6 oz tomato paste
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour
6 cups milk
1 box of oven-ready lasagna sheets (you can use the regular kind, just remember to boil them according to the directions first)
8 oz shredded mozarella

Instructions for Bolognese:
Heat a 5 qt pot over medium heat, drizzle olive oil. Add in the onion and garlic and sautee until translucent and fragrant. Add ground beef and brown. Once done, add in the tomatoes, beef stock concentrate, tomato paste, basil, and oregano. Using spoon, break up whole tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to simmer. Let cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally and breaking up the clumps of ground beef.When done, remove from the heat and put aside until ready.

Instructions for Bechamel:
Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add butter and melt (do not let it turn brown). Add flour to pan in small amounts at a time, using a whisk to incorporate. It WILL get clumpy. Once all flour is added, add milk to pot slowly, whisking constantly. Bring temp of burner up to medium high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue whisking until it thickens and all lumps are gone. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: I like to use white pepper in my bechamel because it looks prettier and has a slightly different taste, but if you don’t have it, black pepper is fine). Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

Instructions for Lasagna:
Set your oven to 375. Spray a 9×13″ baking dish with non-stick spray (I prefer to use metal baking pans). Put a very thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Layer 2 of the lasagna sheets along the bottom. (If you’re using the oven ready, you’ll layer these perpendicular to the long side of the pan. If you used the boiling kind, you may have to lay them parallel, depending on the length of your pasta). On top of the lasagna sheets, add 1/3 of the bolognese, then 1/3 of the bechamel. Repeat 2 more times so you end up with 3 layers of lasagna, meat sauce, and bechamel – you should end with bechamel on top. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.Place in middle of oven (note: you should probably have a cookie sheet on a rack below this in case it bubbles over – it’ll save you a burning mess) and bake for 45 minutes. Once done, set the broiler on high for 2 minutes to further brown the cheese.Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes. Yes, I know it’s hard because it looks so good, but I promise you, it’ll be better if you’re patient since it allows everything to set up right.

chicken and andouille gumbo

photo of a bowl of chicken and andouille gumbo

This is a recipe that I grew up eating. My mom had a boss who was Cajun, and after he retired, my parents would go visit him down on his property. He taught my dad how to cook a number of things including gumbo. My dad came up with his own recipe, and I’ve made a couple of tweaks of my own

1/2 pound andouille, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
black pepper
cayenne pepper
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup canola oil
all purpose flour (I prefer White Lily for biscuits and roux)

Sautee chicken, andouille, onion, celery, and garlic in skillet (this is where I add some of my seasonings, but understanding I have to adjust later) then cover with 8 cups of broth.
In a separate cast iron skillet, make a roux using 1/3 cup canola oil and add flour until it reaches right color and consistency.
When roux is done, add to the pot.
Simmer until mixture thickens and season to taste.
Serve over cooked rice.