Cat-Head Biscuits with Tomato Gravy from 'Around the Southern Table'

[Photograph: Jennifer Davick]

To many cooks, gravy is a sauce best served over Thanksgiving turkey or maybe the occasional roast chicken. In the South, gravy is used to "smother" everything from fried chicken and pork chops to sweet Vidalia onions and the perennial favorite: buttery biscuits. In Around the Southern Table, Rebecca Lang combines salty and rich bacon drippings with diced tomatoes and a slight pour of milk for this gravy.

The tomatoes brighten the whole shebang, but the bacon drippings keep things from getting too virtuous. The biscuits? Lang's are ginormous "cat-heads," made with a dead-simple mixture of self-rising flour, bacon drippings, butter, and buttermilk. Save the bacon from rendering your drippings and you'll have a righteous take on a breakfast sandwich.

Why I picked this recipe: Biscuits and gravy is a classic gut-busting meal that often sits a little too heavy on my stomach to be enjoyable for more than a few bites. This version seemed like the perfect compromise between rich (bacon drippings) and earthy-sweet (tomatoes).

What worked: The combination of rich bacon fat, buttery biscuits, and bright tomatoes made this twist on a classic brunch dish scream breakfast BLT (minus that silly L).

What didn't: Is it just me or is peeling tomatoes a huge pain? Next time, I'll skip that step and just remove the seeds.

Suggested tweaks: Should you want to make this dish vegetarian, you could substitute butter for the bacon drippings in both the gravy and the biscuits. Late winter tomatoes worked just fine here since they're basically cooked to mush, but should you want to skip the produce aisle, a couple cups of drained canned tomatoes would work fine. For 7 tablespoons of bacon drippings, you'll need to cook 12 ounces to a pound of bacon. Self-rising White Lily is the ideal flour to use here, but if you can't find it, any self-rising blend will work fine.

Reprinted from Around The Southern Table: Coming home to comforting meals and treasured memories by Rebecca Lang. Copyright 2012. Published by Oxmoor House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Cat-Head Biscuits with Tomato Gravy from 'Around the Southern Table'

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About This Recipe

Yield:serves 8
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:1 1/2 hours
This recipe appears in: Cat-Head Biscuits with Tomato Gravy from 'Around the Southern Table'

Ingredients

  • Biscuits
  • 5 tablespoons warm bacon drippings
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 cups self-rising soft-wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  •  
  • Tomato Gravy
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 1 cup finely chopped Vidalia onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose soft-wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded, and finely chopped tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk

Procedures

  1. 1

    Make the biscuits: Preheat oven to 375°. Stir together bacon drippings and butter.

  2. 2

    Place flour in a large bowl. Stir in drippings mixture and buttermilk, stirring just until a dough forms.

  3. 3

    Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead twice. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Pat each portion into a 31⁄2-inch round biscuit (about 3/4 inch thick). Arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until tops are very lightly browned.

  4. 4

    Meanwhile, prepare the tomato gravy: Heat bacon drippings in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Sprinkle onion with flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Add tomato and next 3 ingredients. Cook, stirring often, 6 minutes.

  5. 5

    Add milk, and bring to a light boil; reduce heat to a simmer, and cook,
    stirring often, 2 minutes. (If gravy becomes too thick, add more milk for
    desired consistency.) Serve on hot biscuits.

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