Friday, June 13, 2014

(Lighter) Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

Mmmm Mmmmm... Oh, my my! Would ya look at that! Hot, fresh homemade biscuits, smothered in creamy sausage gravy! Those of you who've been hanging around here for a while, are more than likely scratching your heads and thinking, why the heck is this loony broad making (and eating) something that rich (and probably fat-laden) and deliciously pork-y, just shy of one year after having a major heart attack?

OK, I have to admit that it probably is a valid concern and I suppose that it is a bit of an over-the-top dish for someone who has a coronary history to be eating. But, fear not, my faithful friends and readers... This decadent, (traditionally Southern) country style breakfast dish, was 1) prepared for Easter brunch and 2) I didn't even get any this year! Can you imagine? I slaved over a hot stove all morning, but by the time I got to the buffet, it was G-O-N-E! Hmpfff.

And... there's an awesome twist to this recipe! You see, being the crazy lady that I am, it's not unusual for me to take a bit of a culinary leap of faith, even when I've literally got a house full of guests just waiting to be fed. So, that very morning, I decided to try lightening up the fat and calories in the sausage gravy and do it without compromising the rich, savory flavor that the classic is so well known (and loved) for.

And guess what? I did it! Yup. I figured out a way to prepare this dish in a way that is less calorie and fat-laden and not nearly as bad for you as the original. But I promise you this... it's absolutely just as delicious as it would be if I'd made it the traditional way. Yeah. I promise. Furrealz. Anywhooo, let's get on with this, shall we?

We'll start with the biscuits. The recipe is from my friend Betty at Betty's Kitchen on Youtube. I honestly wouldn't have believed this would work if I hadn't seen Betty make them herself. But this slightly "off the beaten path" recipe makes what I think you'll agree are some truly lovely biscuits!

Betty's Magical Mayonnaise Biscuits
  • 2 C Self Rising Flour
  • 1 C Milk
  • 3 Tbls Mayonnaise
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Do not over-stir or the biscuits will be tough.

Using an ice cream scoop fill a greased muffin tin about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 12 to 14 minutes on the center rack of the oven.

You might need to turn on the broiler at the end of the cooking time for a minute or two, in order to brown the tops ~ my personal notes: you generally don't need to do this if you brush tops with melted butter before going in the oven. Oh, and you can also just drop them on a cookie sheet if you prefer a more traditional free-formed biscuit.

And lest I forget, please do yourselves a favor and go and check out Betty's channel on Youtube. She has literally hundreds (I think over a thousand, actually) of awesome recipes, plus she's a true Southern sweetheart of a lady to boot. Her soft-spoken Southern gentleman of a husband, Rick, is her videographer and official taste tester, too. As much as I enjoy her recipe videos, she also posts lovely little field trips with Rick and often with their daughter, son-in-law and adorable grandson, Carter. Her blooper reels are always a hoot too! You can just click right HERE to go visit Betty's Kitchen! Believe me when I tell you that you won't regret it! And be sure to tell her I said "Hey!" :)

I wish that I'd had the opportunity to take a few photos of these super easy and very tasty biscuits when they first came out of the oven, but these pics are from my annual Easter Brunch and it gets a wee bit hectic in the kitchen when the time comes to get all of the food out onto the buffet table. Sorry.
Mary's "Lighter" Sausage Gravy
  • 1Lb Lean Ground Pork Breakfast Sausage (or, turkey sausage for a result that's even lower in fat)
  • 1 Tsp Bacon Grease, heaping (just for flavor and totally optional)
  • 2 Tbls Butter (only if your sausage is as super lean as mine was)
  • 3 Tbls All Purpose Flour
  • 3 Cups Lower Sodium Chicken Stock or Broth
  • 1 Cup Milk (I used 2%)
  • Kosher Salt 
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1) Brown the sausage (with the optional heaping Tsp of bacon grease, if using) in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spatula or wooden spoon as you go. Add a pinch of salt (about 1/2 tsp) and a good grinding of black pepper (about 1 tsp) to it as it cooks. The sausage is done when it is a rich golden brown and there are no traces of pink left in any of the meat.

2) Now... If your sausage is as crazy lean as mine was and there are absolutely no drippings left in the pan, this is where you would need to add the 2 Tablespoons of butter. The thing is... You have to have some fat in the pan, in order for the flour to have something to absorb into and create a roux. The roux is what will give your gravy the thickness and richness that makes a sausage gravy... well, umm... a sausage gravy! I suppose you could use margarine or some kind of "butter substitute", if that's what you prefer and as long as it actually melts, but we just never use the stuff.  In our house, it's the real deal or nuthin'. LOL My dad was a dairy farmer, after all! ;)

3) If your sausage is not as lean as mine was, then before it begins to cool down too much, remove 2 Tbls of the drippings/grease from the pan and set it aside, while you drain the rest off. Once the grease has been fully drained, place the skillet back on the heat, add the meat back in and spread it out a bit to the sides of the pan, leaving a small space in the middle. Add the reserved 2 Tbls of drippings (or the butter) back into that open spot and give it a good stir with a whisk to make it into a loose paste consistency.

4) Stir the roux and the cooked sausage over medium to medium-high heat, so that the meat becomes thoroughly coated with the roux. Keep cooking it like this for another couple of minutes, stirring continuously, until you see the roux turning a little darker. Not too dark, mind you. Just a nice deep golden brown. Remember... All of that lovely golden brown equals flavor!

5) At this point, add in about 1/2 of your chicken stock/broth and stir very well. It will start to thicken pretty quickly and as this happens, start adding in the remaining stock/broth a bit at a time, until you get to a consistency that's slightly thicker than you want the finished gravy to be. (see the 6th photo below where the spatula is creating a "path" in the mixture for reference) This is when you add in your milk and stir it again, just until it's all incorporated and bubbly and hot. 

6) Taste for seasoning at this point and add more salt and/or pepper, if desired. I always end up adding in the same amounts of both salt and pepper that I used while the sausage was cooking.

7) If you're going to be putting your gravy on a buffet table, pour it into a bowl with a nice tight fitting lid or a small crock pot (also with a lid) set on low. You want this type of gravy to remain nice and hot until everyone has been served, because the more it cools down, the thicker it will get. If there's anything that drives me batty, it's sausage gravy that is as thick as oatmeal. Yuck! To me, a really good sausage gravy should be no thicker than the consistency of a finished creamed soup. (say... cream of broccoli or maybe a creamy tomato bisque) Serve this luscious silky gravy with your fresh out of the oven Betty's biscuits and enjoy!
8) If you're not serving this to a crowd in a buffet type of setting, then go right ahead and ladle out a nice portion over the hot biscuits that you've cut in half (and buttered, of course) and serve it up right away.

(Please don't ask for the calorie count per serving, because I'm kinda lazy and I'm definitely not a science major, so I have no idea how to calculate it. I'm humbly asking you to trust me that based on the ingredient changes that I've made, this recipe will give you a finished dish that is approx 20% to 25% lower in fat and calories... possibly even a bit lower if your sausage is extra lean)

Oscar's Smokehouse is a local, family-owned business and they make some of the most awesome smoked meats, cheeses and other products that you'll ever taste! I am not just saying that to get you to order from them and I'm not being compensated for, nor was I asked to say anything about them. I truly mean it. They also happen to be one of celebrity cooking show host and cookbook author Rachael Ray's favorite places to go and stock up when she comes up from the city. (Yeah, she's a hometown gal, raised just up the road a piece from me. No, I don't know her personally.) The best part about Oscar's?? They ship, too! You can (and you should) check out their website HERE.

See how little grease there is in the pan? I promise you that this is the true result after cooking this sausage. And, by the way, even as lean as it was, the flavor was amazing! I'd always believed that sausage (or pretty much any pork product for that matter) had to have a fair amount of fat in order to have any real flavor. Boy, was I wrong! Oscar's really knows what they're doing!
See that nice golden brown color on the meat? That, my fellow foodies, is pure flavor right there!
Mix the flour up a good bit with the butter (or reserved sausage drippings) before stirring the sausage into the mix. The roux will coat the little crumbles and brown up a bit as you continue to cook it over medium to medium-high heat, adding yet another layer of rich flavor to the finished dish. That flour scoop, by the way, belonged to my grandmother and is over 100 years old! And there's not a ding or a loose rivet in it. Isn't it just awesome!?
This is a good shot of how much more the meat has browned up, after being coated with the roux.
This is a bit too thick, but you'll be adding in some milk and that will thin it out to the right consistency for pouring over those fluffy biscuits.
I used 2% milk because that's what we always have on hand in the house, but you can even use skim milk and still get the same rich delicious gravy. I'm sure that you never thought you'd hear this coming from little ol' moi, but this is one of the very few times where I would not recommend using half and half or anything heavier than whole milk.
It will seem a little too thin again, but only for just a bit after you add your milk. This will thicken up more as it cooks those last two to three minutes. As soon as it reaches that perfect pourable consistency, turn the heat off right away and remove the pan from the burner.
I wish I had been able to get a photo of the gravy in the bowl that I served it in, but unfortunately, my family waits for no man (or blog post) when it comes to digging in! LOL
As you can see by the photo, the finished gravy is thick and rich, but not so thick that there isn't plenty to soak into those hot buttery biscuits. Be sure to pour on enough to sop up with the top of that biscuit!!


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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Giveaway Package Number Two!

The Go Ahead... Take A Bite! Summer 2014 Giveaway!

Prize Package No. 2
16+ Piece "Red-y" To Go Kitchen Set

Phew! Didn't think I was ever going to get this up! Not gonna go into why it's taken so long. Most of you already know how bizarre my life can get sometimes, so I won't bore you with the details.

Let's just get on with the goodies, shall we?

Drum roll, please.........

This 2nd prize package contains...

  • 1 Red Canvas Storage Bin (w/clear vinyl ID slot and canvas handles)
  • 1 Black & Decker Wide (2) Slot Toaster in Red
  • 1 Quilted Oven Mitt
  • 2 Quilted Pot Holders
  • 4 White Porcelain Gratin Dishes by Oneida
  • 1 Cast Iron Napkin Holder by Better Homes & Gardens
  • 1 Set Silicone Spatulas
  • 1 Pair Kuhn Rikon Salt/Pepper Mills
  • 1 Kuhn Rikon All Purpose Kitchen Snippers
  • 2 Cotton Terry Kitchen Towels
  • 1 Mary Lake-Thompson 30"x 30" Four Sack Towel

All that's left now is for me to put together the photos of the 3rd and final prize package and I promise you, that they will be done and posted, along with the details and entry instructions for the giveaway by the end of next week. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, here's a little closer look at the items in this package. (If you missed the first package preview, just click HERE.

Keep an eye out for the 3rd and final package next week, along with entry details and instructions! Also, feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your blog or any other social media! There is a "Pin It" button on each photo in the upper corners... and for fellow bloggers, there's a "grab button" in the side column on this page for each one of the first two packages, in case you'd like to let your readers know about the giveaway!

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