Wednesday, March 12, 2014
When I posted on Facebook a photo of the sausage gravy and eggs that I had at the newly reopened Porthole it generated a lot of snarky comments from friends, each with a smart remark about the way the dish looked. But the best one was striking, saying, “It “looked like opossum innards.”
The Portlhole's sausage gravy with pork belly over biscuits topped with poached eggs
I’m not so sure about that since I’ve never seen one up close. As for the Porthole’s version, it was a stick-to-the ribs rendition--OK but not outstanding. For me it lacked an assertive, interesting sausage flavor. The accompanying pork belly wedges, however, were delicious.
I’ve never made my own sausage gravy though it’s a simple, straightforward dish to prepare. There are two important and obvious ingredients that make or break it: the quality and intensity of the sausage meat and the biscuit.
Homemade biscuits are a treat (see recipe below)
Sausage gravy is very much a southern dish. It’s often paired with grits, shrimp and accompaniments like fried green tomatoes and sautéed apples. I poured through my southern cookbooks and found two very apt recipes for it, both pretty much the same but using a slightly different technique to put it all together.
As for the sausage you need a good country-style breakfast sausage. Locally Mailhot’s Downeast Breakfast Sausage from Lewiston sold in bulk by the pound has great flavor. Hannaford carries it, and I used it in the following recipe. As for the biscuit, make your favorite or serve the gravy over toast points.
Granted, sausage gravy is not the prettiest looking dish but it sure tastes great
For an easy biscuit recipe , whisk together 1 ½ cps all-purpose flour, 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon baking soda and salt. Add ¼ cup leaf lard or shortening and pinch the flour and fat together with thumb and forefinger until little crumbs are the size of peas , leaving some somewhat larger.. Add ½ cup (or slightly more) local buttermilk, stirring it gently until you have a sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured board; knead a few times gently until smooth; cut with a 2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter and put on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 12 minutes. Brush with melted butter when done.
Biscuits and gravy!
1 pound Mailhot’s Downeast Breakfast Sausage
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk, warmed slightly
Salt and pepper, to taste
Morton’s Nature’s Season Salt (available at Hannaford), a pinch or two
Put the sausage meat into a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven over low heat and brown slowly, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon and breaking up the sausage meat. Sauté for at least 15 minutes until fully cooked and browned.
Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir, until all the flour is absorbed. If you don’t think the sausage has rendered enough fat, add a tablespoon or more of butter. Cook the flour for about two minutes, stirring.
Gradually add the warmed milk, stirring to incorporate, starting with about 1 cup of milk and adding ½ cup increments, stirring until the sauce thickens and absorbs the milk. Use up all the milk, adding more if you want a thinner sauce. Season with salt, pepper and the seasoned salt, stirring well.
Cut the biscuits in half and arrange on a plate. Spoon the sauce over and add a poached egg over the sauce. Serve immediately.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.