Last week I posted a recipe for Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits. Did you give it a try? I hope you did and that you received numerous accolades from family and friends! This week I’m sharing the perfect topper for turning that amazing breakfast staple into a full-fledged, stick-to-your-ribs meal…Old Fashioned Sausage Gravy. This is not so much a recipe as it is a nostalgic desire to return to my childhood.
As a kid, I remember sitting at the kitchen table as my mom stood at the stove whipping up special weekend breakfasts. This might be pancakes, french toast, or fried eggs and bacon, but my absolute favorite was biscuits and sausage gravy. When that sausage hit the cast iron skillet and began to give off its savory aroma, I would instantly start to salivate and time seemed to stand still. To this day I have that same Pavlovian response even though I’m the one doing the cooking.
Mom never referenced a recipe, but I watched her effortlessly create this magic in a pan on numerous occasions. I must have eventually absorbed her technique through osmosis, which is how many great dishes are passed from generation to generation. I’m sure mom’s technique and ingredients are similar to how most folks make sausage and gravy, but I’m going to share it with you anyway.
I’ve posted a few step-by-step photos, but scroll to the bottom for the complete list of ingredients and instructions for this old fashioned sausage gravy!
Just like mom, I use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet to brown the sausage. The cast iron skillet almost acts as an ingredient as the sausage leaves behind brown, crusty bits that will add immeasurable flavor to the gravy. Yes, other pans will work, but nothing beats a cast iron pan. I started with one pound of pork breakfast sausage, but if you are inclined to use something fancier, please do. I’m thinking of getting sausage from the local butcher next time or perhaps even making our own.
Remove the sausage from the pan. See all that crusty good stuff left behind? Why does that seem to have so much more flavor than the actual meat itself? It’s called the Maillard Reaction and it’s the result of the caramelization of sugars in food when it is cooked/grilled/baked/seared at a certain temperature (140-160º C). Love it when food and science hook up! Boom Chicka Bow Wow!
Start by making a roux. A roux is just a fancy word for equal parts flour and some sort of fat. In my case, I have about 2 tablespoons of fat left from frying the sausage, but I really want about 3 tablespoons of fat so I’m going to add 1 tablespoon of bacon grease to the pan and heat it up. If you don’t have a stash of bacon grease saved in a mason jar in the fridge I highly urge you to start hoarding it. It will make anything and everything better. I heated up the added bacon grease in the pan with the grease from the sausage and then sprinkled 3 slightly heaping tablespoons of flour over it. This process, in some form, is the basis for most gravies and sauces. Keep this simple technique in your culinary arsenal and you will NEVER have to buy gelatinous jars of gravy or gross dry gravy mixes again.
Whisk the flour and grease around the pan for 2-3 minutes. A couple of important things are happening here…you’re picking up those flavor packed bits of crust from the pan and you’re cooking out the taste of the flour. Have you ever tasted a sauce or gravy that was bland and pasty? Maybe it even had a few floury lumps in it? The flour probably needed a few more minutes in the pan mingling with the fat before the liquid was added. Many a gravy has been ruined by lack of patience.
At this point I slowly whisked in 2+ cups of whole milk over low heat. The milk melds with the flour and fat mixture and the whisk ensure a lump-free gravy. Keep some extra milk on hand because you may need to add more as it heats and thickens.
Next, I added salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of cayenne pepper. I took videos of the seasoning and sausage being added so I had to go in and snag stills from the videos, therefore these are not very good quality photos. I got a little over zealous with the cayenne pepper making it very spicy, so I recommend going at it with a little lighter hand than what you see in the photo above. Once I added the crumbled sausage back to the pan and a bit more milk to make it the desired consistency, it tasted great, but for a quick second I thought I might have “ducked” it up. Ducked is a substitution I learned from autocorrect on my iPhone. My iPhone is constantly trying to make me a better person. I wish it would stop.
Rich and meaty, this was the perfect compliment to those fluffy biscuits. If your gravy thickens as you’re getting the rest of the meal ready just continue to whisk in some milk from time to time.
Here’s the recipe in full without my ramblings.
Old Fashioned Sausage Gravy
- 1 pound good quality Pork Sausage
- 3 tablespoons fat (use fat rendered from the sausage and supplement with bacon grease, oil or butter)
- 3 tablespoons All Purpose Flour (slightly heaping)
- 2 cups Whole Milk (plus more as the gravy thickens)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- pinch Cayenne Pepper
- Brown sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel. Set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium low and add bacon grease, oil or butter to the sausage grease left in the pan to equal 3 tablespoons. Just eyeball it. No need to measure.
- Sprinkle flour over the grease and whisk together for 2-3 minutes until the four is completely absorbed and slightly golden in color.
- Reduce heat slightly and slowly whisk in whole milk. Mixture will thicken as it heats. Add more milk until you reach a desired consistency.
- Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir in sausage.
- Heat together for a few minutes and serve immediately for maximum compliment acquisition.