Meatless Monday: Biscuits and vegetarian red eye gravy
Adapted from 'The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook,' this red eye gravy gets its umami-rich, sausage-like flavor and texture from mushrooms, herbs and spices. Paired with easy-to-make drop biscuits, it creates an iconic Southern breakfast.
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You can make the gravy first and let it sit on the stove while you make the biscuits, gently reheating it while they bake. Regarding the biscuits, my recipe is simple and delicious, but make whatever biscuits you like, including canned.Skip to next paragraph
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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For the gravy
3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1-1/2 cups diced portobello mushrooms (see Kitchen Notes)
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (see Kitchen Notes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup strong black coffee
1-1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
For the biscuits
Makes 8 to 9 biscuits (this recipe owes a great deal to America’s Test Kitchen)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1. Make the gravy. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add diced mushrooms and toss to coat with butter. Add fennel seeds, thyme and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and black pepper, being generous with the pepper. Toss to combine and cook mushrooms, stirring frequently, until browned, tender and slightly cooked down in volume, about 5 minutes. Add coffee and cook until almost evaporated, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Transfer mushroom mixture to bowl and set aside. Do NOT wipe skillet. Melt remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons of butter in skillet and sprinkle in flour. Cook, whisking continuously, until flour and butter combine and flour browns slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Stir in milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until gravy thickens, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes. A skin will occasionally form on the top of the gravy as it thickens; just stir it back into the gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings. You want the gravy on the salty side and with plenty of pepper, so don’t skimp here. When biscuits are ready, split one (or more) open on each plate and spoon gravy over.
4. Make the biscuits. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or else lightly grease a baking sheet). Melt butter in a small saucepan, then transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly. Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
5. Pour chilled buttermilk into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add melted butter and stir until clumps form. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture with a rubber spatula just until the ingredients are incorporated. At first, it may seem as if you need more liquid. You don’t. Just keep scraping the bottom of the bowl until you’ve worked all the flour into the dough.
6. Using a greased 1/3-cup measure, scoop mounds of dough and drop them onto baking sheet, spacing about 1-1/2 inches apart. Press on them with your fingers to slightly flatten and form into a biscuit shape. Bake biscuits until the tops are golden brown, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes.
Meaty mushrooms. Portobellos really are a great choice here. You’ll need two decent-sized ones to get the 1-1/2 cups diced mushrooms needed for this recipe. If the stems are fresh and tender, by all means use them as well. If they’re on the tough side, freeze them for use in making a stock later, vegetarian or otherwise. If you can’t get portobellos, button mushrooms will also work.
Heat it up. I almost listed the crushed red pepper flakes as optional for this recipe, but they really aren’t. A good sausage gravy needs a little heat. The 1/4 teaspoon of pepper flakes I used gave the gravy a nice kick. You can back it off to 1/8 teaspoon if you’re truly heat averse. And if you absolutely must, you can leave the pepper flakes out altogether. But it won’t be as good and I don’t want to hear about it if you do.
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