Biscuits and gravy is breakfast done right. It’s also the only saving grace of the entire brunch concept. Cold cereal in milk? Get-outta-here with that overly processed bowl of refined sugars and random grains of sadness. Pancakes? Those sweet cakes used to be only served as a dessert for a reason. Bacon and eggs? Okay, well, those aren’t that bad actually; but it’s still not the wonderfulness that’s biscuits and gravy. The soft, quick bread (yeast isn’t used) and creamy sauce shine as a filling and savory way to start any day.
I’ll admit nostalgia may be swaying my bold stance. I go way back with biscuits and gravy. When I was a kid, I’d spend summers with my grandparents. Every first day of my stay, my grandma would make me the same breakfast. She’d crack open a tube of Pillsbury Dough Boy Biscuits, gently place them on a baking sheet — a masterful display of 80s processed food uniformity –, and pop them in the oven.
I’d watch with anticipation as she’d unwrap fresh breakfast sausages from one of those white styrofoam meat trays from the supermarket and fry up them up in a big old skillet that her dad used to fry bacon in. She’d sneak in a little vegetable oil to amp up the browning. Then she’d set the sausages aside and add in flour with a worn silver spoon. Next came the farm fresh milk that was delivered that morning. She’d stir and stir with that spoon. She’d add salt and fine black pepper, taste and adjust. A bell would ring and the biscuits would appear from the darkness of the oven, all plump and golden. Then she’d cut up the sausages and dump them back into the gravy before ladling the velvety sauce over two biscuits just for me.
Over the decades, biscuits and gravy have become my go-to breakfast order. I’ve eaten them off paper plates after hiking through Redwoods. You better believe I was eating biscuits and gravy at every roadside diner I found in rural Mississippi. When I’d stumble out of an Atlantic City casino at seven in the AM, it was time for biscuits and gravy. That’s what’s great about biscuits and gravy: The dish is literally everywhere in America.
As I charted my own path across the planet, I tried and tried to find something, anything, similar to biscuits and gravy out there. You get close with scones in the U.K. but that sweet nugget is best served with sweet accompaniments (marmalade!) and not a sausage-stuffed white sauce. I found other starch covered in gravy dishes like brown gravy on fries in Canada and the U.K. But that’s potatoes standing in for the biscuits, making it a whole other (delicious) beast.
I came across pav bhaji on the streets of Mumbai. The soft yeast-risen bread with a buttery chickpea gravy is the closest I came to finding a biscuit and gravy dish. The similarity is in form only. That dish is so divergent in flavor that it’s just not the same.
Finally, after all my searching — and eating — I had to give up. The combination of a fast-rising quick bead smothered in a white sauce/béchamel/country gravy made with sausage drippings and sausage meat is, well, singular in this crazy old world. You can’t say that about an omelet, now, can you? Every culture has some riff on the omlet.
Biscuits, as we all know, are exquisite. Fluffy bundles of joy. But forget them for a moment. Let’s talk about gravy. I literally dream about country gravy with sausage some nights. It’s a pretty simple French mother sauce, a béchamel if we really want to pedantic about it. It’s a fat and flour roux that thickens a high-fat milk (preferably cream). Add in a little cracked pepper and maybe some sweated onions. Then as a coup de grâce, you load it up with fried bits of un-cased sausage. That last step takes the simple French béchamel and makes it “motherfuckin’ country gravy.”
This little bit of down-home alchemy creates a silky smooth umami bomb of velvet lusciousness that’s balanced by savory and ever-so-slightly spicy sausage crumbles. On a delicate quick bread biscuit it melds into the perfect balance of soft, dense, savory, meaty, and smooth. It’s fireworks bursting in the black night skies. If your mouth isn’t watering right now, then we might not be able to be friends.
The kicker? It’s dirt cheap. Biscuits and gravy is often the cheapest meal any diner menu. Take a look at menus from Seattle to New Orleans and you’re paying between $4 and $7 for a big, filling meal.
Look, I get it. If you love the sweet stuff for breakfast, go with the pancakes smothered in maple syrup. Enjoy your sugar-covered French toast.
But you know that that saccharine high is going to wear off and bring a big crash within a couple of hours. Nobody wants that. The next time your friends plan a #SundayFunday, don’t even look at the menu. Get the biscuits and gravy. They’ll put a smile on your face, cost you less than the eggs, and fill you up in a way that won’t bring on a diabetic spike and crash.
Everyone will envy you. Trust me. And if you don’t, just ask Marshawn Lynch: