Cold weather often brings with it hearty appetites and this was clearly the case this past Sunday morning at our cozy little lake cottage in the middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin. The waking temps were in the low teens and the season’s first layers of ice made their appearance on our small lake’s surface, outside. I was flying solo with three boys while Scott was holding down the fort in town with the other three. I’m not certain what the town part of the tribe had for breakfast on that weekend morning but I can’t believe it that it topped these buttermilk biscuits and sausage with gravy that I served to the cottage crew.
I spent many years of my life in the south. I’m not talking Florida, one of my “home” states; everyone who knows anything about the US realizes that Florida is not truly a part of the south. No, I’m speaking of the Carolinas where I spent six years of my life split between the grandeur of Charleston’s majestic oaks wrapped in their Spanish moss and the flat tobacco fields that rub up against the shores of eastern North Carolina, among the tar heels.
In those parts, there are a few standards among regional fare. Principle among them: Barbecue, sweet tea, and something that seems as common on the breakfast tables as the “y’alls” and “m’ams” are to the local vernacular, Sausage and Biscuits.
For the majority of my tenure in the south, I shied away from this breakfast standard. My good friend Barry, a native of Marietta, Georgia ordered it almost routinely. I think I stuck to eggs and grits in part because I had an instinctual fear of this dish. When I made it for the first time last weekend for my boys, my suspicions were quickly confirmed. It would be appropriate for this breakfast item to come with a warning of sorts. Something along the lines of “Warning: This Breakfast May be the Best Thing You’ve Ever Eaten in Your Life.” Or, “Proceed with Caution, Highly Addictive Food Before You.”
Be clear, I didn’t serve this with any warnings but rather some silent anticipation on my part, wondering about the boys’ opinions – the ultimate litmus tests in my kitchen. I wasn’t disappointed by their reactions, in fact I broke my futile vow to not partake of this breakfast because of their full-fledged endorsements. My first bite confirmed I would have been foolish to pass this one up, it was plate licking good (don’t judge me.) I hope you will give this one a try, it will give you a good idea of just what I was missing all those years of living in Dixie. Happy fall to all of you and stay warm; this breakfast will be a good starter for both of those wishes. -Dan
for the biscuits
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter 1 stick, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup cold buttermilk
for the gravy
- 3-4 tablespoons butter
- 12 ounces uncooked breakfast sausage casings removed
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground peppercorn or to taste
- 1 pinch paprika
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 1/2 cups milk
for the biscuits
- Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Whisk together the measured flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl to aerate and combine.
- Add the butter pieces and toss to just coat them in the flour mixture. Place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes.
- Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, and working quickly so as not to soften the butter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it’s in pea-size pieces.
- Drizzle in the buttermilk and stir just until a moist, shaggy dough comes together.
- Generously dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough out onto the surface and dust the top with more flour. Using floured hands, gently pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick circle.
- Using a 2-1/2-inch round cutter (a drinking glass works well) dipped in flour, cut out as many biscuits as possible.
- Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet prepared with non-stick coating. Space them at least 1 inch apart.
- Gather the scraps into a ball, pat it into a 1-inch-thick circle, and cut out more biscuits.
- Repeat as needed until you have 8 total.
- Bake until the biscuits have risen and are golden brown on top, about 15 to 16 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the gravy.
for the gravy
- Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until foaming.
- Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink and is starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Sprinkle the sausage with the flour, salt and pepper, and.
- Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
- Gradually stir in both milks, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Continue simmering, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 1 minute more (the gravy will continue to thicken as it sits). Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm.
- To serve, split the biscuits in half horizontally and top with the sausage gravy.
- Garnish with paprika.