Classic biscuits and gravy with crumbled sausage swimming in it are a breakfast staple all over the American Southeast. The gravy is a form of Bechamel Sauce, one of the classic French Mother Sauces, and called sawmill gravy, white gravy, cream gravy, or poor-do in parts of Appalachia because it is the kind of food that the poor made do with. The origin story is that, prior to the Civil War, the gravy was created in logging camps to give lumberjacks extra energy for a long day of chopping down trees. For dinner, It is occasionally poured over fried chicken. If you whisk a beaten egg into hot Sawmill Gravy you have Egg Gravy. Nowadays, you can find hearty Sawmill Gravy in traditional Southern cafes, roadside greasy spoons, The Waffle House, and hotel continental breakfasts. I have even seen it at a truckstop McDonald's near Louisville, KY.
It started with cooking sausages in a pan and then making a roux by tossing flour and/or cornmeal into the pan. Cooks deglazed the pan with milk and scraped off the sausage bits stuck to the pan, called fondly by the French, fond. If the gravy was served too thick and chunky, lumberjacks were said to accuse the cooks of adding sawdust to the recipe. The original recipe most likely consisted of only breakfast sausage, pan drippings, milk, and black pepper. But I had to amp it up to 11. Purists are invited to call me names in the comments section below. But before you do, maybe try it?
White Gravy, Cream Gravy, And Poor-do Recipe
Once you've made Sawmill gravy you'll wonder why you didn't do it this way the whole time. Also known as poor-do in parts of a Appalachia, it will give you the energy you need to chop down a few trees.
Makes. 4 servings
Takes. 30 minutes
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 pound pork sausage
1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
3 cups whole milk or 2% milk
Morton's kosher salt to taste
About the biscuits. In a pinch, you can serve the gravy over toast or English muffins.
About the milk. This recipe works fine with 2% milk but if you have real cream or half and half, use 2 3/4 cups of the milk and 1/4 cup of the good stuff for extra richness.
Optional. I like to garnish with French's Original Crispy Fried Onions for crunch.
1) Prep. If you are making the biscuits fresh, don't start cooking the gravy until the biscuits are almost done. If you are using pre-cooked biscuits, warm them as you start the gravy.
2) Combine the flour, sage, fennel, chipotle, and pepper in a small bowl.
3) If the sausage is in links, remove the casings and crumble it.
4) Cook. Cook the crumbled sausage and onion in the bacon fat or butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until brown and warmed through.
5) Sprinkle the flour mixture over the sausage and onions and cook, stirring steadily, for about 2 minutes or until flour has soaked up the fat and gotten a bit tan in color.
6) Gradually stir in the milk and simmer for about 5 minutes until it thickens. If the gravy gets too thick, add more milk.
7) Serve. Split the biscuits open with a fork and spoon the gravy over the top. Wear a bib.
"Every single diet I ever fell off of was because of potatoes and gravy of some sort."Dolly Parton