Friday, May 12, 2017

Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
with Fried Egg on Top
Biscuits and gravy – The all American country breakfast! Crispy biscuits, split to expose their flaky interiors, and then smothered in creamy gravy full of tasty sausage bits. What could be better?

Unfortunately for those on low-so diets, it’s usually a sodium disaster. From the sausage, to the gravy, to the biscuits – there’s no way of getting around it –  a biscuits and gravy breakfast can be prohibitively high in sodium.

But not if you make it yourself. In fact, it’s rather to easy to produce a low sodium version. It just takes a little more time and planning.

First, the sausage.  Everything depends on having flavorful sausage. Start with unseasoned ground pork, turkey, or chicken. But be sure to avoid brined or enhanced meat. Most grocery stores now carry plain, unseasoned ground pork. It’s usually very lean, so you’ll need to add some oil when you brown it. I’m lucky enough to have access to a butcher shop that sells old-fashioned ground pork in one pound packages. Also, my favorite supermarket will grind pork shoulder for me. That’s especially nice when there’s a sale. The downside is that I have to package it up in 1 pound portions myself.

Making Homemade Breakfast Sausage
Lately I’ve been using salt-free Spicely Organic Breakfast Sausage Seasoning. It’s a great product but not available everywhere. Before Spicely, I seasoned ground pork myself. I cobbled together about 2-3 breakfast sausage recipes to create a mixture I’m happy with.
Spicely Salt-Free Breakfast Sausage Seasoning
For the gravy, I use NSA chicken broth for most of the liquid and about ¼ cup cream to finish it off. I like the taste and texture better than using all milk. Another option is using half broth and half milk. I also like to add some finely chopped onion while the sausage is browning. I think it contributes a nice flavor. I leave the sausage chunks fairly large, but that’s just a personal preference. Most of the time, the sausage crumbles in cream gravy are quite small.

Finally, for the biscuits, I use Ann’s recipe from her blog Thibeault’s Table. I like her recipe because it uses milk rather than buttermilk, so I don’t have to worry about dealing with baking soda. I know I could use Ener-G sodium-free baking soda, but I’ve had inconsistent results with it. Not so with Featherweight sodium-free baking powder. It works perfectly for me and no doubling is required. I also use whole wheat pastry flour for half of the flour called for.

When I made biscuits and sausage gravy a few days ago, I shaped the biscuits like scones. I patted the dough into a 6 inch circle and then cut into 8 wedges. It was super easy and a whole lot easier than cutting out rounds of dough.

Put it all together – sausage, gravy, and biscuits – and you’ve got a great tasting breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And low sodium, to boot!
Frying Up Homemade Sausage Crumbles
Breakfast Sausage

  • 1 lb ground pork, turkey, or chicken
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp dried sage, crushed
  • ¼ dried tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • ¼ tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • ⅛  - ¼ tsp coriander
  • ⅛  - ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 - 2 tsp brown sugar
  • ⅛  - ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional or to taste)
  • ⅛  - ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional or to taste)

Thoroughly combine seasonings with ground meat. (I wear vinyl gloves and mix by hand.) Refrigerate meat mixture at least ½ hour to give flavors an opportunity to meld. (Longer is even better.)

Brown meat in a skillet, breaking up chunks to desired size. (Add 1-2 tablespoons oil to skillet if using lean meat.)

Sausage Gravy
Serves 6-8

1 lb homemade low sodium breakfast sausage
½ onion, finely chopped (optional)
4 tbsp flour
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp dried thyme, crushed
⅛ tsp dried sage, crushed
2 - 2½ cups milk (or use part water, NSA chicken broth, or part cream)

In a 12-inch skillet, break up and brown sausage and onion, if using, over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked. Drain fat, if desired.

Sprinkle flour over sausage mixture. Stirring constantly, add pepper, thyme, and sage. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Whisk constantly and slowly add the liquid(s).

Keep whisking while mixture comes to a full boil. Turn heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes to meld flavors and until thickened. Add additional water or broth until you reach desired consistency. Stir and ladle over warm biscuits.
Biscuits Cut into Scone Shapes
Adapted from Thibeault’s Table
(Ann's blog post includes helpful pictures of how she forms biscuits for baking.)

2 cups of flour (I use half AP and half WW pastry)
1 Tablespoon of low sodium baking powder (I use Hain Featherweight)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup of milk or buttermilk
Note: If using buttermilk, add 1/2 teaspoon low sodium baking soda
Optional: Add a little sugar if you prefer slightly sweet rather than savory

Mix the flour with the baking powder. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal. (An easy way to cut the butter into the flour is to use a box grater. The large side of the grater makes the perfect size pieces of butter.) Stir milk into flour mixture. Mix quickly with fork just until dough starts to come together. Tip out onto lightly floured surface. (will look shaggy)   Using hands, gently pat mixture to flatten. Fold dough like an envelope. Turn and fold again.  Do this at least three to four times.  The dough is now ready to pat out. This whole step should only take 30 to 45 seconds.   Do not over-handle.  (Folding forms layers which makes for a very flaky biscuit).

Pat out to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick on a lightly floured board. Cut with biscuit cutters and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Using your thumb push a little dent into the middle of the biscuit. This helps the biscuit rise straight and prevents it from tipping over as it rises. Brush biscuits with a little milk or cream and bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes at 450°F. For extra flavor and to keep the tops soft, dip the biscuits, top side down into melted butter after baking.

Note: Consider adding your favorite dried or fresh herbs or spices to the biscuit dough. Parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, and freshly ground black pepper all contribute extra flavor.

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