Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Recipe: Biscuits and Mushroom Gravy

I'm often tempted to get biscuits and gravy. I love biscuits, I love gravy, I love sausage; and yet, it always makes me queasy, I always pay for it in the end. I don't know if it's a grease factor or what, but it's always a mistake when I get it, so for the last decade or so, I've just avoided it altogether. And that makes me sad. Terribly, Terriblly sad.

Last week, I was kicking around in Oregon. At the Wandering Goat coffeehouse in Eugene, they have biscuits and mushroom gravy. A'ha! I thought. It hits all the notes that you want from biscuits and gravy -- the bite of the pepper, the creaminess of the gravy and, of course, the sublime fluffy, chewy goodness of the biscuits.

Thus inspired, yesterday, I marched my butt down to the Strip District and purchased a bounty of mushrooms (pictured above) from the mushroom guy at the farmer's market at the Firehouse. I got a mix of oyster mushrooms, shitakes, some king trumpets (I think) and a fourth variety I cannot even find on any mushroom charts. [It was weird and really woodsy, almost funky, even -- just a really strong mushroom flavor, compared with, say, the clean smell of the oyster mushrooms.] If you have a mushroom guy or gal, or if you have access to a good farmer's market, you may want to go that route. But most big supermarkets have shitakes, if not oyster mushrooms and you could easily make this with a mix of creminis and shitakes, or whatever you have at hand. Heck, I like plain old button mushrooms, and while I haven't tried to make it that way, I'm sure that would be plenty tasty. This gravy is so tasty, I think you could put it on an old pizza box and it would be good. I think I'm going to serve it with a roasted chicken one night in the fall. Onward.

You will need (for the gravy):
mushrooms (again, whatever varieties are available and you like) -- I had about 2 c. when they were chopped up. (I really finely diced them. I didn't want any big chunks, just little bits of earthy goodness)
5 tbsp of butter
1/2 sweet onion
4 tbsp flour
2 c. stock (I used chicken stock, but if you want to make it properly vegetarian, you can use veg. stock)
thyme bundle
a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg
1 shot of sherry
1 shot of cream or half & half
salt and black pepper (lots)

You will need (for the biscuits):
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) cold butter (cut into small pieces, no bigger than a pea; I just cut mine into tiny cubes)
a little less than 3/4 of milk, cream or half n half, whichever you have. Buttermilk would be good too, but I never have that handy.

The Prep:
First, make yourself a good cup of coffee. Then get to work. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees for the biscuits, then start the gravy.

Finely dice the onion and the mushrooms. In deep sautee pain, melt 4 tbsp of butter and add the diced onion and pinch of salt. Sweat the onion until it's soft. Add the diced mushrooms to the sautee pan with a pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper. As you're doing that, heat the stock in a small soup pot. [You're going to be adding this and you don't want to add it cold.] Once the mushrooms have released their moisture and then reabsorbed it, add the last tbsp. of butter and melt that, then add the flour to make a roux. You want to cook the flour taste out of it, but I really let my flour brown. Then add the hot stock, a shot of sherry and toss in the thyme bundle. Grate some nutmeg. If you don't have whole nutmeg, give it a little sprinkle from the can, but nutmeg loses so much flavor after it's ground. It's worth it to buy the whole nuts (beans?) and grind the nutmeg fresh as you need it. Bring it all to a boil (it should do this quickly if your stock is good and hot) and reduce to a low simmer and get to work on the biscuits.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the biscuits (flour, baking soda and salt). Add the cubed butter and the milk and mix that together with a fork. Gently kneed that together a couple of times on a clean, floured surface, then roll out about 3/4 in thick. I used a pilsner glass to cut them into rounds and reroll scraps if necessary.

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly brush the tops with the reserved tbsp of cream. Bake for 16 minutes or until cooked through and golden. You might want to set your timer for about 14 minutes and check them -- every oven is different.

At this point, test your gravy. Does it need more salt? More pepper? If your gravy is too thick, thin it by adding a bit more warmed stock.

When the biscuits are done, let them cool for a minute. Turn the heat off the gravy, add a wee shot of cream or half & half and stir that in. After that, all you have to do pour some gravy over your biscuits and eat. Come and get it, y'all.



  1. Wait, you were in Oregon last week? The Pacific Northwest?? I feel like I should've just KNOWN, somehow.

    If and when you make it up as far as Seattle, let me know and if it is humanly possible to meet you there I will.

  2. Just made these for xmas breakfast. They were a huge hit! Thanks so much!

    1. Fantastic. They are not something in regular rotation in my house, but what a treat!