In Heartburn, Nora Ephron writes about how cooking became her way of showing love to her husband and son. Clearly, I should have married her rather than Carl Bernstein, because it's perfectly obvious to me that serving someone the perfect vinaigrette is a declaration of love. Thus, this snow day found me tackling biscuits and gravy for brunch, and remembering our trip to Taos, where the Hampton Inn served biscuits and gravy, and salsa at the breakfast buffet.
I live in Philly, and the closest I come to "Southern" is a grandfather from Kentucky I never knew, and grandparents from and family in southern Germany. But I don't believe that biscuits or sausage gravy are something you need a drawl to learn how to make. Sure, a Meemaw who can show you the right way to make biscuits and the correct ratios for gravy, gives you a head start on the those of us raised on scrapple, but a good cook can cook anything.
First, you need to be able to make a good biscuit. If you have some experience baking, this isn't hard. Just remember it's not bread dough, and doesn't need to have a uniform texture.
For the gravy, I started at about.com (Remember them?) and just winged it when I got into the kitchen.
Preheat your oven for the biscuits. Using a 10" pan, start frying a 12-ounce package of breakfast sausage links. The original recipe said to break them apart, but someone likes his sausage whole, and will need years to before he'll think about trying sausage gravy. It turns out only half the links went into the gravy, and that was more than enough. I started the sausage frozen in a cold pan. While the sausage is frying, start making the biscuits.
By the time the biscuits are in the oven, the sausage should be just finishing. Move the links to a plate, leaving behind as much fat as possible. I had about a tablespoon (I'm really bad at estimating) and added another two tablespoons of butter. Whisk in three to four tablespoons of flour to make a roux; cook until the roux is light to medium brown. The leftover fond will make it hard to tell the color of the roux, but exactness is not required.
Whisk in two cups of milk, and get the nice brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Keep whisking as it thickens. The gravy will be very, very thick; if it cools, it will become pudding. If you'd like a thinner gravy, use less butter and flour, or add more milk.
If the reserved sausage is whole, chop into small pieces. Add the sausage bits back into the gravy. There will be a lot of sausage in the gravy. This is not mediocre diner gravy that's mostly flour and milk. Whisk in a dash of cayene, and white pepper and salt to taste.
(I didn't actually do this, I made the gravy, then the biscuits, and the gravy congealed on the stove. I added an extra half cup of milk (two cups total) and stirred over medium heat until I had gravy again.)
Serve over biscuits. Moan quietly.