THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER
Of all the recipes in The Kitchen Daughter, this one is my favorite. Each of the recipes in the book belongs to a character – when my narrator Ginny cooks from family recipes, the ghosts of those family members return to her kitchen, for as long as the scent of the food lingers. But this is fiction, and I am not my narrator. So these recipes are from different traditions than mine. They’re Peruvian and Tuscan and southern. I’m Ukrainian and Cornish and Midwestern. Most of the recipes in the book aren’t my family recipes. But this one is.
Whenever the McHenry family gets together, we don’t consider one meal done unless we’ve discussed what we’re going to have at the next meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. And when we’re together, we always have this for at least one breakfast: biscuits with sausage gravy. My mom and my dad are both great at making it, and originally, the recipe comes from my Grandma McHenry.
Biscuits with Sausage Gravy
Note: The only change I made for the book was to substitute soured milk – regular milk soured by adding a small amount of vinegar – for buttermilk, because I knew the character wouldn’t have buttermilk in her fridge. I like it a little better with buttermilk. You can make it either way. As a matter of fact, in a pinch you can use pre-made biscuits and just make the gravy yourself – the gravy comes together fast, and that’s where most of the flavor is, and you’re going to pour the gravy over the biscuits anyway. At least that’s how we do it in my family.
To make soured milk: Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to 2/3 cup milk. Let stand for 15 minutes to allow milk to curdle.
For the biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
2/3 cup soured milk or buttermilk (see note)
For the gravy:
¾ pound sausage (roll, not links – we use Jimmy Dean)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1-2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
2. To make the biscuits: Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut shortening into dry ingredients until pea-sized. Stir in soured milk or buttermilk (sprinkle on more milk as needed to form a soft, puffy dough). Knead lightly 20 times.
3. Roll or pat dough until it’s 1 inch thick. Cut dough into rounds using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or glass. Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden.
4. To make the gravy: Crumble and brown sausage in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat, add flour and stir to coat.
5. Return to medium-low heat and add enough milk to cover sausage. Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until gravy thickens. Adjust with additional milk for desired consistency. Grind on black pepper.
6. To serve: Cut each biscuit in half and pour on gravy.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings