I Made It!
Last week, after I made risotto, @plumbob78 inadvertently threw down the gauntlet, saying that “even the best photo of biscuits and gravy won’t make them appetizing to [him]”. Well, I’m not one to shrink from a challenge, so…
Black pepper and bacon biscuits with sausage gravy. Both of which are actually dead simple.
We start with the biscuits, preheating an oven to 475 ºF and melting eight tablespoons of butter (a full stick) in a medium bowl in the microwave in two bursts of thirty seconds. Let the butter cool for about five minutes while you cut six strips of bacon lengthwise, then crosswise into small pieces, and fry it in a ten-inch skillet until crisp, which will take five to seven minutes.
While the bacon fries — stir it occasionally and don’t let it burn, but otherwise leave it be — measure out your dry ingredients into a large bowl: two cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, half a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of sugar, three quarters of a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of coarsely ground fresh black pepper. When the butter has cooled, add a cup of cold buttermilk to the bowl and stir the two together until the butter forms little teeny clumps, which will help lighten the biscuits.
When the bacon is crisp, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels to cool. Save two tablespoons of the bacon drippings and pour the rest off. Then add eight ounces of breakfast sausage — the bulk kind, not the kind in pre-formed patties or links — to the pan. Let it brown, breaking it up into small pieces at first, but otherwise letting it be.
When the bacon is cool, stir it into the dry ingredients, followed by the buttermilk mixture. Stir with a rubber or silicone scraper until the mixture is just incorporated and the batter sticks to itself more than the bowl. Spray a quarter-cup measure with cooking oil and use it to portion out twelve biscuits on a parchment-lined sheet. Bake at 475 ºF for twelve to fourteen minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
By now the sausage should be pretty well browned; add a couple more paper towels to the draining plate and transfer the sausage there, leaving the drippings behind and adding the reserved bacon fat. Add three tablespoons of flour, stirring until blended and the thin mixture starts to bubble. Then start adding a cup and a half of milk, a little at a time. When you first add the milk, the mixture will look like it’s coagulating, almost like scrambled eggs. Just get the milk mixed in and add another splash; by the time you’ve added about a cup it should be pretty smooth again and you can stir the rest of the milk in at a slow trickle. Continue cooking, stirring enough to keep it from setting up and scorching, until it thickens and starts to bubble.
As you cook the gravy, the biscuits will finish; take them out, brush the tops with another two tablespoons of melted butter, and transfer to a wire rack to cool. When the gravy starts bubbling, add back in the sausage along with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne, to taste.
Split the biscuits and smother with the gravy; serve with fresh fruit or tomato to help cut through the heaviness of the gravy.