Monday, February 14, 2011

Weenies & Gravy

As hinted at, I am coughing up the sausage gravy recipe to go with biscuits from the last post - not because you deserve it, but because I cannot help myself....I live for the power and the glory I get from sharing my innermost secret recipes. And because a biscuit without gravy is like a day without sunshine, i.e. pretty much any day in Oregon between September 12th and April 23rd. Also, it's Valentines Day, and nothing says "I love you and every single one of your chins" like gravy.

I thought my mom made good gravy - she would bring drippings to a boil, add water if it wasn't enough for the 7 of us (it never was), then mixed together cornstarch and cold water and poured it in, whisking until it became a clear-ish brown stuff (beef) or yellow stuff (chicken) that filled up the hole we had all made in our scoop of instant mashed potatoes. When she went all Health Nazi, she made her own, using brown potatoes and leaving on the vitamin-filled peel - nothing more disgusting than sucking dirty potato peels out of your teeth after dinner, nor more satisfying than spitting them on the back of your brother's crew cut when he was sitting in front of you watching TV. We liked it, didn't know any better, and some of us were adept at making a scoop of mashed potatoes accept an entire cup of gravy by making the bottom and walls so thin the potato dam threatened to buckle and flood your hamburger "steak" or fried chicken and green beans from the can with it's gelatinous oozing-ness.

When we were very small, we lived in St. Johns, and lived in a neighborhood teeming with other rug-rats, carpet-crawlers and curtain-climbers. Once one of my parents (I forget which one) overheard a nearby Mom calling her kids to dinner, and one of them responded with "What are we having?"....the Mom hollered "Weenies and gravy!", which made them forever and with hilarity wonder how you could get gravy out of a hot was Dad's favorite guess when Mom said dinner was ready.

Handsome Stranger grew up on a farm, and if a farm wife doesn't know how to make gravy, she is labeled "progressive" and can only thread needles for the real women at the sewing bee. So he was learned early on how to whip up what can only be described as something very naughty, and that would just make all you women even more jealous that he only has eyes for me....suffice to say, I always have a smile on my face well into the next day when he makes gravy for dinner. My Mom took to saving the drippings until we arrived on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he would make it for her...his sister did the same thing. And it was a far, far better thing that putting a scoop of gravy on your plate, and pouring the mashed potatoes in the hole you made in me, that HAS happened.

Gravy is usually deemed a "You can" or "You can't" kind of undertaking - if you don't understand the science of it, most won't even try - that is why they make jars and packets for poor unfortunate souls without mad gravy skilz. And oh what an insipid and uninspired covering for overcooked pasta, instant mashed potatoes, or burnt toast cubes THAT produces! So start small...sausage gravy is hard to screw up, but I've said that before about lots of things, and there are always droves of people at the ready to prove me wrong...but really, it's not that difficult, so quit whining and get out your frying pan!

Handsome Stranger's Sausage Gravy

Bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4" strips (1/4 lb, or even just bacon grease will help)
Sausage - maybe 1 lb? You can use any mix of the following:
Bulk breakfast (like Jimmy Dean or whatever your meat dept. has)
Brats of any kind, remove casing
Kielbasa (it's harder to smash up)
Brown & Serves (I like mixing these in with others)
Italian or spicy - personal taste
1/3 C. flour
2 C. milk
Half & half or cream or evaporated milk if you like it richer
Salt and FRESH GROUND PEPPER to taste ( I like a little season salt too)

In your large skillet, heat bacon and saute until it starts to get brown around the edges and leaches out a fair amount of bacon fat. Add your sausage, and pulverize it with a potato masher or fork (that will make your hand hurt) so it's broken up quite small. The kielbasa is harder to smash up...if you dice it first it helps, and the brown & serves (maple are our fave) can be microwaved in the box for a minute, then sliced up and THEN smashed. Cook until any sausage that was raw is no longer pink, then sprinkle flour over all and continue to stir and scrape the bottom until flour is absorbed and starts to brown. Add some pepper, a pinch or so of salt, then start adding the milk, whisking as it heats and starts to boil. Add more milk, or the half & half, cream or evaporated milk, alternating with more regular milk depending on how rich and creamy you like it. Boil and whisk, and when it gets really thick, turn heat down and keep stirring and adding milk until it's like pancake batter, then salt and PEPPER to taste. It will thicken as it cools, and sometime seems to never stop taking milk...just season accordingly.

We have two schools of thought in our kitchen - he likes it THICK and FULL of meat, and VERY peppery, I prefer it a little thinner, with less meat and edible. So it's usually thick and full of meat and pepper. You can double the flour, add a lot more dairy, and you will need to bump up the salt and pepper, but go with what you like - if your sausage ends up being too weenie and you end up with bland gravy, that's what you get in restaurants....if you want more flavor, you can punch it up with ham base if you ever got it like I told you...and a pinch of MSG (oh geez, get over yourself - it's in EVERYTHING) will boost the flavor too.

Serve hot over biscuits, eggs, omelets, toast, pancakes, waffles, Krispy Kremes, green beans, jello, ice get the drift, it's good on anything. Except weenies.

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