For all the sausage and pork belly I went through in 2012, I ended the year an amazing ten pounds lighter than I started it. So instead of making the common new year's resolution to shed weight, I'm giving myself free reign to relish in wintertime comforts, which translates to starting the year off with an exploration of hearty southern gravies.
Pepper gravy is a simple base that serves as building block to a whole host of other gravies. In essence, it's merely a bechamel with a strong peppery kick, but substituting bacon grease for butter imparts an underlying salty and meaty flavor that lets it rise above its "white sauce" origins.
To take full advantage of the pepper, it's important to go with fresh, coarsely ground black peppercorns, which create little pockets of intensely sharp heat that contrast with the rich and soothing creaminess, giving this gravy its character.
Pepper gravy is pretty all-purpose—it can go on pork chops, biscuits, mashed potatoes, etc.—but it doesn't get much better than when it's smothered on a chicken fried steak. Now that's how to start a new year!