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So what does a girl from Northern British Columbia know about a Southern classic like biscuits and gravy. Well, not very much until one glorious day in my early twenties when I discovered heaven on a plate. Since then I have this decadent delight whenever I cross the border. This is a truly ambivalent relationship. This meal is not for you if you are counting calories, counting carbs, watching your cholesterol or eating only whole grains. There is no redeeming nutritional value to this meal… buy that first bite of tender biscuit and rich gravy is all the redemption I need.
Biscuits have always been a part of my life. They were on the table almost as often as bread in a household that always had bread and butter on the dinner table. The baking soda biscuits were made according to my Great Grandmother’s recipe which was nothing more than an ingredient list and some proportions. Eventually, the “recipe” was committed to paper with proper measurements. It took away the guesswork but not the skill required to turn flour, lard and milk into a tender, flaky disk. My earliest attempts were just as likely to resemble hockey pucks. Fortunately, I did master the technique and serve them from time to time, most often with my Great Grandmother’s Baked Beans. Sadly, I had very little time to get this meal on the plate. Fortunately, Whole Foods makes a really good biscuit. Problem solved.
But this isn’t just about the biscuits. This is Biscuit and Gravy Week. In this context the biscuit is just a vehicle for the gravy. Just like fries are to poutine and spaghetti to bolognaise. The classic southern biscuit gravy is a cream gravy, sometimes chicken flavoured but often and best a creamy sausage gravy and that is what I decided to make today. I did take a few liberties with the tradition. I used fresh chorizo instead of a sweet sausage. I think a little spice makes everything nice… too cheesy? Okay, I think a bit of heat brightens the otherwise dense richness of the cream gravy.
I also took some liberties with the “cream” of the cream gravy. I used whole milk instead. I’m sure Paula Dean would call it pure blasphemy. I’m sure Paula’s recipe would call for heavy cream and about a pound of butter. But I think I can be excused for my lack of authenticity. I do have a formal gala coming up and I would really like a good reason to buy a new dress. And, “the old one doesn’t fit anymore” is a really good reason. So I made it a bit lighter, but the reality is there is no way to turn this into a healthy meal. So just enjoy it for what it is. It’s creamy, it’s savoury, it’s delicious.
- 1 lb sausage – I used Chorizo, but use whatever you like
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons butter – this if just for flavour, if your sausages render enough fat you can omit the butter
- 4 tablespoons flour – I like the gravy on my biscuits extra thick. Reduce to 3 tablespoons if you like a thinner gravy
- 2 cups whole milk – no skimmed. You need a bit of fat.
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped fresh herbs to your liking
Saute the onions until soft. Add the sausage and saute until cooked through. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more. Add the butter and flour and cook for at least two minutes. If you don’t cook the flour the gravy will taste like school paste. Add the milk and stir until thickened. Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. The herbs you add will depend on the flavour of the sausage. Thyme, sage and italian parsley are all good.
Pour the gravy over toasted biscuits and enjoy.
Okay. So I added some peas. I couldn’t completely ignore the lack of nutrition. But you know, peas don’t seem so healthy when you dunk them in gravy.
Friends! Janelle and I are just back from a day on Salt Spring Island. While we could wow you with tales of the “potato on a stick” we discovered at the market, we’re here to talk truffles… and I don’t mean the chocolate kind. Here’s 5 things you should know about this delicacy:
- A truffle is a rare, edible mushroom that is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Requiring climates with mild weather changes, truffles grow in a limited number of places including France, Italy, Croatia, and in the US in states like Oregon and Washington. They grow approximately one foot underground among the roots of oak, elm, chestnut, pine, and willow trees where they form a symbiotic relationship with the environment.
- Truffles are harvested in Europe with the aid of female pigs or truffle dogs, which are able to detect the strong smell of mature truffles underneath the surface of the ground. The female pig becomes excited when she sniffs a chemical that is similar to the male swine sex attractant. Sexy.
- Ann 18th-century French gastronome called truffles “the diamond of the kitchen”. (Janelle and I couldn’t agree more!)
- And, like diamonds, they are worth more than their weight in gold: The record price paid for a single white truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid US$330,000 (£165,000) for a specimen weighing 1.5 kilograms. One of the largest truffles found in decades, it was unearthed near Pisa and sold at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Hong Kong and Florence. As of December 2009, black truffles were sold between 1,000€ per kilo in a farmer’s market and 3,490€ per kilo in a retail shop.
- Too rich for your blood? Truffle oil is often used as a lower cost and convenient substitute for truffles, to provide flavoring or to enhance the flavor and aroma of truffles in cooking. Most of the “truffle oil” used in the US however, does not contain any truffles. The vast majority is olive oil which has been artificially flavored using a synthetic agent such as 2,4-dithiapentane. [Eeeewww.]
I did my best to consume truffles today –and like the Iron Chef, in a number of ways. For lunch we had truffle spiked sausage, and Salt Spring Island Goat Cheese Co. chevre with a truffle topper. Both were delicious, and consumed on fresh rosemary bread and with a gentle topping of caramelized onions. (No, Janelle and I don’t go 1/2 way with our picnics!). In particular the early goodness of the truffles in the young goat cheese was a hit with both of us.
Over dinner at Brasserie l’ecole, my sister ordered a 8oz steak (topped with Gorgonzola butter) and accompanied by “fancy fries” – fries tossed in Parmesan, truffle oil and parsley. Seriously yummy with a nice glass of red.
I was told, in the kindest way possible this morning, that I was a snob. Specifically, a snob about the finer, edible things in life. I took this as a compliment. After all, in the “religion” space on my facebook profile, I have “Sybarite“–and that wasn’t a joke. My friend went on to say that she didn’t feel like a snob, b/c she takes enjoyment from some foods that are less … gourmet. Like cheese whiz or eggo waffles. But I understand (and indulge!) like that too – don’t we all have foods that bring us back to some warm nostalgic place?
Which brings me to cold cuts. I’m not much of a sandwich eater. I certainly have never made my own salami or sausage (you can stop hoping for Deanna’s Special Turkey Sausage Recipe now!). But being a nostalgic snob, I do have opinions on the two best ways to eat cold cuts:
(1) A La Snob i.e In Europe, from a store like this one:
In this scenario, you’ve just come from the baker and the cheesemonger, and now you’re picking up the perfect salami or ham to round out your picnic. You have a 4Euro bottle of wine in your bag, you’re headed to grassy sunny nook near some impossibly beautiful architectural gem. After consuming your cold cuts and other treats, you have a nap in the grass and wake up surrounded by a rather confused looking group of Japanese tourists.
(2) With Nostalgia: Nostalgic cold cuts should be consumed at 12:05 am, at a small town wedding, after you’ve danced with your uncles and cousins, and you’ve had a few rye and coke. These coldcuts-summer sausage, shaved ham, some kind of compressed chicken product–will be served on large white trays, with orange and white cheese cubes, sweet pickles, and white buns. Don’t forget to take a few pieces of carrot and celery sticks and a little ranch dressing to round out this feast. Scarf down, then continue to eat, drink and be merry.