At a recent Sunday brunch at Phil & Derek’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, there was something new at the omelet station: good ol’ Southern style biscuits and gravy.
Phil Mitchell uses bakery bought biscuits, but they are big and fluffy, and he makes his cream gravy from scratch, ladling it into an omelet pan to reheat it. Then pushing the biscuit halves down into the gravy and throwing in a couple of generous pinches of crumbled bacon before serving it up on a plate.
Growing up I didn’t eat biscuits and gravy. We were pretty much a cereal, instant oatmeal and Pop Tarts kind of family. But when I was in high school in a small Texas town, a bunch of us used to hit up honky tonks and dance halls on the weekend and stop by a diner in the wee hours to
sober up eat breakfast.
I don’t know who the first person was to create this dish but they were genius. Pure genius.
There was one diner, much like a Denny’s, called Sambo’s, outside of San Antonio that was decorated with art from an old children’s book called The Story of Little Black Sambo. Once a national chain, it bit the dust when politically correctness came in because of racial overtones. Only the original location in California remains but it no longer features any link to the storybook. Anyway, the old one in Texas always served biscuits with cream gravy, grits and every style of eggs.
That’s where I got addicted to biscuits and gravy. And despite my best (healthy) intentions I remain a fan of this Southern staple.
I don’t know who the first person was to create this dish but they were genius. Pure genius. Some records date the dish back to the American Revolution, probably because they were eating day-old (or older) dry biscuits and needed the gravy to make them more edible. Other reports claim the dish was created to feed Appalachian logging camp workers hundreds of years later but it’s probably been around for as long as flour and meat drippings.
It’s fast, easy to make and very cheap.
You bake your biscuits (or if you want to cheat use canned biscuits from the grocery store), pan-fry some meat — normally pork sausage but I’ve seen everything from leftover turkey to steak used — drain some of the grease from the pan, add flour and whisk, add milk (keep whisking), a pinch of salt and pepper and when it’s all hot and the right consistency you’re good to go.
You can eat the sausage on the side or crumble it into the gravy. Which is what Whataburger does for the hordes of Texans who order the dish all hours of the day and night. Whataburger gravy is very popular in our house. Whenever we bring some home on a cold morning I put a tiny bit of gravy on the Chihuahua’s kibble, which he promptly picks out piece by piece, rolling the kibble around in his mouth to suck the gravy off before spitting the kibble out on to the floor. Sigh.
But you can find biscuits and gravy on so many menus around Houston, from Avalon Diner to The Breakfast Klub to most every fast food place that offers breakfast. Triniti used to have a fancy version on their Sunday brunch menu, topped with cheddar cheese and peas that was awesome. But the beauty of biscuits and gravy is that it is a simple, filling dish that just about anyone can whip up.
Although, clearly, it is not the healthiest dish if you are on a diet. But it is something every Southerner should try at least once. Or once a week. Up to you.