One of the posts this week in the food forums was on comfort food and poverty cooking. For a good page or so of posts, people were talking about biscuits, homemade biscuit mix, and even gravy. So, to that note, I share this story.
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When my husband and I were first married, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner. I told him that I would happily make it for him, complete with whatever dessert he wanted.
He was hesitant to reply. Finally, he told me. Biscuits and sausage gravy…and apple pie. He didn't want to tell me about the biscuits and gravy part because I keep a kosher kitchen and he didn't want to cause me extra work.
Now eating kosher, I don't eat pork or shellfish – AT ALL. If I do, it upsets my stomach greatly. Come to find out, I also have a nitrite allergy. Nitrites are prevalent in pork. So, not just for kosher reasons, but for personal nutrition, I don't eat pork or shellfish. It's just not worth the hours of misery.
Also, I've never been a big gravy person. I don't especially like eating fatty emulsions over meat or potatoes. So, I began scouring the internet for gravy recipes, particularly those using sausage….and HOW to do this in such a way that I could match the reputedly "wonderful" taste and "mile-high" height of his mom's biscuits that he so dearly loved.
As life would have it, at the same time I was doing this, my husband happened to be chatting to his mom on the phone. She asked what he wanted for his birthday. He mentioned that I was looking for biscuit & gravy recipes on the internet.
She was appalled. She stated that I should come over and she would teach me how to do biscuits and gravy 'properly'. I let out a sigh that came from the tips of my toes. Lord knows, we had NOT gotten off on the right foot and she hadn't said 'Boo' to me since we were married a month before. Annoying me further was the fact that I was an excellent cook and not only cooked things in a healthy manner but took great joy in doing so. A part of me chafed in this lesson...
So, on a precious weekend day, my husband and I drove 30 minutes north of us to visit his mom and step-dad on his birthday weekend. He repaired something around the house for her while I got my cooking lesson.
We had to go to the store and buy pork sausage. You know, the non-link kind, because those "should be more kosher" (according to her). She cooked the sausage in the skillet, made the biscuits from Low-fat, low-salt boxed Bisquick, and a milk gravy from the pan leavings, using most of the oil from the cooked meat in the process. As I watched her make the gravy, I asked appropriate questions as she gloried in the fact that I didn't cook gravy. (Notice I never said I didn't know how...) I did learn that she heated her milk first. Evidently this makes the flour easier to whisk in.
Upon tasting it, I just about hurled on my mother-in-law and her immaculately clean kitchen floor. It was porky, greasy, and peppery. On top of biscuits, it was even worse. Was this semi-gelatinous porky mass actually supposed to stay on top of the biscuit and not slip off the plate? What added further insult was the fact that I was expected to sit down and partake of this meal with my husband and his step-dad.
I did manage to get the smallest biscuit and ate half the biscuit with jam…it was okay. I did eat a few bites of the pork gravy, enough to be polite. I can appreciate the homey-ness of the creamy-like gravy and the luxury of meat in something which otherwise might have been very blah. I can appreciate the berry jam. What I did not appreciate was having major gut rumbles later as NO amount of digestives helped. It did please my husband that I 'learned' from his mom.
So, when DH's birthday rolled around the next year, I vowed to be a 'good wife' and try this myself. After all, I had a lesson from the person who makes the 'best'.
I bought a pan especially for traif, non-kosher items like pork sausage. Cooked up the sausage (with plenty of ventilation) nice and crisp and patted these nuggets o'porky goodness virtually dry. Made the milk gravy with WAY less fat and Wondra flour. I thickened the gravy and added the meat. I did taste it and added some salt and pepper. I was amazed. This was actually tasty. I could see why people liked it.
I made two types of biscuits, my homemade bisquick and one from scratch. Both types were lovely and full, nicely golden brown. They were thick, flakey, and buttery; everything biscuits should be and no after-taste from preservatives or 'lo-fat' compounds. (DH liked them both but said the homemade bisquik was 'better' for gravy and the 'fresh' was better for jam...he did multiple taste trials!)
I did the math and figured out that I cut almost 80% of fat calories and 40% of the carbs in the gravy. DH did remark on the difference. "Wow, honey, this is way better than my mom's!"
There is indeed justice in the world, for at that moment, his mom called on the phone. She inquired what he wanted for his birthday. I swelled with joy when he told her that I made him biscuits and gravy…but shuddered as he added "….but they're not as greasy as yours, Mom…and it tastes SO good!"
Now, to this day, I adamantly state that I did NOT deliberately set out to insult my mother-in-law. I did not mean to 'take' from her, this special dish my husband enjoys, that she makes for him, and purposefully change it to hack her off. Nor did I intentionally set out to play the one-up-manship game with her when I made it remotely healthy.
I saw a favorite dish of my husband's that could be considerably lightened and did it…surprisingly well, I thought. Now I feel better about feeding it to my diabetic husband. By the way, the apple pie he requested for desert was lo-carb as well. No one could tell. He enjoyed every bite.
However, I did learn, that somehow green salads, green beans, carrots, or plain veggies, just aren't usually paired with biscuits and gravy. Evidently it is a stand-alone meal. No veggies or fruit or anything. Oh well…I tried to add a healthy touch.