(Dave Jones of Frontier Ruckus)
Classic biscuits and gravy (recipe at bottom of post)
ABOUT THE ARTIST
I don’t think I can say anything about Frontier Ruckus that I haven’t said before in other places, but in case you’re not familiar, they’re a Michigan band that writes lyrical folk rock songs about the suburbs, with guitar, banjo, drums, singing saw, melodica … It’s creative Americana music that hits so close to home and will always remind me of college (most of them went to my alma mater). They’re also just really great guys, and Dave Jones, who plays banjo in Frontier Ruckus, was generous enough to share his infamous biscuits & gravy recipe (more on that below). The song above is from Deadmalls & Nightfalls, the incredible record they released last year on the amazing Ramseur Records (home to the likes of Samantha Crain and Langhorne Slim; formerly home to the Avett Brothers).
I should note that I didn’t actually make this recipe because I don’t eat meat (if you couldn’t figure it out from the other recipes from the last two months), but it looks really easy!
A NOTE FROM THE BAND
A WARNING: Biscuits and gravy is neither healthy nor is it a delicate combination of eclectic flavors. It gets its flavor from the not-so-subtle blend of salt, pepper, pork sausage and rendered fat (from the sausage). The dish arose in the American South as a means to maximize the amount of sustenance that can be gleaned from meat and some type of bread. As a result of this philosophy, B&G is incredibly filling and quite cheap to make — it is perfect if you’re feeding a troupe of touring musicians and their kind, gracious hosts. This is why I’ve made it dozens of times on tour; from California to London (where I was forced to improvise and use croissants instead of biscuits). It always seems to please, and introducing the recipe to people can almost become a cultural experience, especially in a foreign country.
I rarely have the time to make biscuits from scratch — it’s a process that can be very involved and has quite a few idiosyncrasies I haven’t yet learned. For the purposes of this recipe, you can use store-bought biscuits if you’d like. They’re usually tasty enough, albeit lacking a certain authenticity. I apologize to any foodies reading this! — Dave Jones, Frontier Ruckus
1 lb. pork breakfast sausage (sage-flavored is the best, though the spicy variety works well too)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6-8 tbsp all-purpose flour (more or less depending on desired consistency of gravy)
Salt and pepper
4-6 cups whole milk (also depends on desired consistency)
Seems pretty simple, right? Keep in mind here: I almost completely made up the quantities above. I mostly cook by sight and in the case of gravy, there are too many factors to ever settle on quantities of ingredients. It all depends on the number of people you are cooking for and how thick you’d like the gravy. I’ll try and justify that flexibility throughout the rest of this recipe, if possible.
Start off by browning the sausage in a medium-large frying pan. You can choose whether you’d like it cut into patties or crumbled into medium-sized bits. Make sure to get it good and brown — almost crispy — for the best flavor and texture in the finished gravy. After it is browned, remove it from the pan and strain the drippings, leaving them in the pan. Set aside the sausage for later.
Now — this is where the real work starts — you have to begin making the roux. The roux is a combination of rendered fat and flour. It is used to thicken whatever liquid base you’re using to make gravy or sauce (in this case you’re using milk) and it is incredibly important to get it right for good gravy. Start by turning the heat down to medium-low and adding two or three tablespoons of flour to the drippings. Add the salt and a bit of pepper at this point, too. Whisk this mixture and let it brown for a minute or so. The two most important things to get right at this point are:
1. The total amount of roux
2. The overall consistency and thickness of the roux
These two things dictate the amount of milk you can add to the finished roux. If there is too little roux (or if it is not thick enough) and you add too much milk, you’ll end up with gravy that is too thin. You can always try and simmer the milk for longer to thicken it, but in my experience this can lead to bad results. So, a good general rule to follow is that the consistency of your roux should resemble the desired consistency of your finished gravy. After you’ve added the initial 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the drippings, judge whether it needs to be thinned or thickened. If it needs to be thinned, add a small amount of vegetable oil. If it needs to be thickened, add a small amount of flour. Do this until you have what looks like a satisfactory roux. ALWAYS make sure that whatever flour you’ve added to the roux is completely browned before you add the milk. If you don’t, you’ll get gravy that just tastes like uncooked
Now that your roux is ready (this is usually when I put the biscuits in the oven!), make sure the heat is medium-low and slowly start adding milk. Add it cup by cup, whisking constantly as you add. The milk will bubble and froth as you add it; it will also immediately start to thicken. Keep adding milk until the gravy is slightly thinner than you’d like the finished product (as it will thicken over time). Now add the sausage back and simmer for a few minutes. This is the time to taste the gravy and add any other spices you’d like. Simmer it until it looks and tastes right to you; ladle it over the biscuits and enjoy!