Who needs Presidents' Day, especially since I don't even get the day off??? (Don't get it officially anyway; but the 10" of snow we got, after a prediction of 2-3", is at least now giving me the morning to myself.)
But even better, today is also National Biscuits 'n' Gravy Day ... now, that's a holiday that just makes a girl want to smile ... :)
Except that this girl is now living (quite peacefully and contentedly, too, I might add) in a kosher home with a vegetarian kitchen. Hmmm .... This poses a bit of a dilemma, doesn't it???
I could invite myself to a friend's house -- an offer to make sausage gravy and homemade biscuits should naturally endear me to anyone! But there's not a lot of adventure in that, is there? Nah!
So, let's do it ... let's try a new project: make biscuits 'n' gravy with no pork, no mixing of meat and dairy, no lard, none of the usual ingredients. Today's challenge, then, was to make a vegetarian version of this traditional Southern favorite.
Are ya with me??? C'mon!
Now, the first order of business was to find a bulk vegetarian sausage. Did that, opened it up with a bit of trepidation, found that it smelled kinda sorta like sausage ... okay, off to a good start.
Then I tried to brown the "sausage." Pork sausage breaks up readily when pushed with a spoon; soy protein wasn't quite so cooperative. A little pushing, a little shoving, a bit of force, a few threats, and finally the stuff broke down into crumbles instead of huge chunks ... oy. A little flour, some skim milk, a sprinkle of seasonings, and I actually had something that looked remarkably like the original! I let it sit in the refrigerator overnight for the flavors to blend.
The next day, I placed the gravy back into a saucepan and had to thin it out after it had thickened considerably. As I reheated that part of dinner, I set about making some good ol'-fashioned wholesome biscuits.
Half whole wheat flour, half white flour ... a bit of baking powder and some salt. I cut in the butter and found that it wasn't turning into the mealy mixture it's supposed to. (Remember, I didn't have my usual recipe to work with since most of my possessions are still in boxes at Jeremy's place.) The mixture was much too dry. So, rather than adding more butter, I added a bit of yogurt and then finished it off by adding milk. I kneaded it just a couple of times to bring the dough together, then cut it and baked it.
And boy, were those some gorgeous biscuits! Huge, thick, rustic-looking, warm, fragrant ... just perfection ... :) This recipe will definitely have encores with lots of applause.
So then everything was ready to serve. I split open a biscuit, poured some gravy over it, and ... it was okay. Can't say it was good, can't say it was bad. Tom said, when he first tried the gravy as it was warming up: "It's passable!" Hmmmm ... not much of an endorsement, especially from a former vegetarian and vegan.
But lo and behold, as I picked at the biscuit and simply didn't finish dinner, Tom ate two helpings. And he took the leftover gravy home, happy to get another couple of meals out of it. So there!
If I had been served this version of biscuits 'n' gravy at someone else's home, I'm sure I would have eaten it readily. I just couldn't really bring myself to eat it here, where I knew what was in it and the difference between this and the classic original was fairly apparent.
If you're a vegetarian you'll probably love this dish. If you're being put on a low-fat or low-cholesterol diet, you could eat this and not miss the beloved traditional version too much. But I can't give it a 100% wholehearted endorsement, although it certainly was a fun and entertaining experiment.
Whichever version of this classic dish you choose to make, just be sure you celebrate today, okay???
Sausage Gravy 'n' Biscuits
1 pound soy protein "sausage" or pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup water
3 generous tablespoons flour
3-1/3 cups skim milk, divided
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash of Tabasco sauce
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
In a large frying pan, brown the sausage, breaking it up into crumbles. Add the onion and red pepper flakes; cook for 2 minutes. Add the water, continuing to break up the sausage. Stir in the flour, then slowly add 2 cups milk; stir until it turns into gravy. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and mustard; refrigerate overnight.
Reheat the gravy over medium heat, slowly stirring in the rest of the milk, until bubbly.
Meanwhile, make the biscuits.
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached flour
2 generous teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter, in small pieces
1/2 cup yogurt
3/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt. Using your fingers, blend the butter into the flour.
Stir in the yogurt, then mix in the milk to form a dough.
Turn out onto a floured countertop and press into a rectangle about 8" square. Cut into 9 biscuits -- don't twist the biscuit cutter or knife, but rather just make a forceful cut down and then quickly up; this helps the biscuits to rise better.
Place the dough onto the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until nicely browned.
Split a biscuit, pour some gravy over it, and serve hot.