Do you want to read a long, drawn-out blog post intro to this recipe before I actually get down to the details? Of course you do!
But I don’t really care to write it. Suffice to say, the first time I ever had biscuits and gravy was at a restaurant somewhere on vacation with my parents when I was about 11 or 12. I loved biscuits and I loved gravy, so I assumed it would be awesome. But I’d never had (or even imagined the existence of) sausage gravy, and since I was at the age where — with food at least — surprise equals disgust, I hated it.
Over time I learned to like biscuits and gravy. But over time I also became a vegetarian. What to do? How about make my own vegetarian version? Of course!
The first thing you need to know is that I am not much of a baker, and my biscuit recipe is almost exactly the biscuit recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, so I suggest before you do anything else, you head over to your favorite bookseller and buy it.
The next thing you need to know is that I am all about making sauces, gravies, béchamels, what-have-you. I have always found that recipes gloss over the trick of it, which is really not hard at all, but if you don’t know it, they turn into a lumpy disaster. So I’ll get to that in time.
First let’s make some biscuits.
Not Exactly Mark Bittman’s Buttermilk Biscuits
This makes somewhere between 10 and 15 biscuits, depending on how thin you roll it out and how careful you are about not wasting any dough.
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder*
1 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp butter
1 c buttermilk
* Mark Bittman says 3 tsp, but since 3 tsp equals 1 tbsp, I don’t know why he does that, other than that baking is a science and maybe saying 3 tsp instead of 1 tbsp will make you be more precise in your measurements. Also make sure you pay attention to the difference between baking powder (which contains baking soda) and baking soda (which does not contain baking powder).
- Preheat oven to 450ºF.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients and stir together well.
- Cut the butter into small pieces — I actually hack away at it with kitchen scissors; you could also grate it with a box grater if it’s cold enough.
- Add the butter pieces into the dry ingredients, and then using your fingers, smoosh the butter together with the flour until there aren’t any big chunks of butter left. (Make the recipe a few times and you’ll probably figure out your own preferred way to do this.)
- Stir the buttermilk into the bowl 1/4 cup at a time, and continue stirring until the dough starts to come together. If your experience is like mine, it never totally does. Just avoid working it too much.
- Scoop the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times, just until it comes together. Again, don’t overwork it.
- Dust a rolling pin with flour, and roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick.
- If you have a biscuit cutter or a circular cookie cutter, awesome. Otherwise, an overturned juice glass supposedly works. You might want to rub some flour around the inside lip of the glass to keep the dough from sticking. Press the cutter/glass down straight through the dough quickly to make circles. Don’t twist.
- Hopefully your dough is dry enough not to stick to the cutter/glass and even more importantly to the counter. Assuming that’s the case, you can transfer the circles of dough to a nonstick baking sheet. Give about an inch between biscuits. They do expand while baking, but not a huge amount.
- If you have leftover dough, smoosh it back together, roll it out again, and cut out a few more biscuits! Then be sure to take the remaining scraps this time, mash them into a grotesque monster biscuit, and put that on the tray too!
- Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. (My oven takes 9.) Just look for the kind of golden brown color on top that you like to see.
- Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool slightly on a cooling rack before serving.
Here are the biscuits I made this morning (minus a couple Sara snagged before I could take a picture). Can you tell which ones I cut out first?
While the biscuits are in the oven, you can get started on the gravy.
Scott’s Vegetarian Sausage Gravy
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/4 c buttermilk
3/4 c vegetable broth
1 c milk
2 vegetarian breakfast sausage patties (e.g. Morningstar Farms)
fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste
- Combine the liquid ingredients in a 2-cup measuring cup. (Should be 2 cups total.)
- Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- While butter is melting, microwave the sausage patties 20-25 seconds, flip, then 20-25 seconds more.
- Add the sausage patties to the saucepan and break into small pieces with a wooden spoon.
- Add the flour and stir well for about 1 minute.
- Here’s the secret to good, smooth gravy/sauce/bechamel: Add the liquid a small amount at a time. By “small amount” I mean about 1/4 cup. Stir until all of the liquid is absorbed and the mixture is a consistent texture, then continue adding liquid 1/4 cup at a time until the overall mixture is more “liquid” than “paste,” then pour in all of the rest of the liquid and stir well.
- Turn the heat up to high and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.
- Continue stirring constantly, making sure to loosen up anything that’s starting to stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Stir in a generous amount of black pepper (fresh ground if you have it). Good sausage gravy has a lot of black pepper in it. I generally use at least 1/2 tbsp to 1 tbsp.
- Continue stirring and simmering until the gravy reaches your desired thickness. Taste and season with salt as needed.
That’s it! Put 2-3 biscuits in a bowl or on a plate, ladle the gravy over and enjoy!