When looking back fondly about trying a particular dish for the first time, I’m sure most of you would not include Hardee’s restaurant in that memory. Clearly you are not me.
The first time I recall ever eating biscuits and gravy was during the summer of 1993, while visiting my aunt, uncle and cousins on a road trip with my family to Missouri. One Sunday morning after church, we stopped at a Hardee’s to have a quick breakfast, which is where I first witnessed the wonder that is biscuits and gravy. For sure they were not the ideal version of the dish, but to my 9 year old brain, they were delicious. For a kid whose breakfasts usually consisted of microwave oatmeal or cold cereal before school, and waffles, pancakes, and scrambled eggs on the weekend, biscuits and gravy was new, decadent territory.
Since that first helping, I think I’ve really only eaten biscuits and gravy a handful of times. Maybe I don’t want to spoil the nostalgia? Either way, I decided to whip up a batch recently and they had all the same wonder as that first forkful in 1993 — only way better because I wasn’t eating them in a rural Midwestern Hardee’s.
classic biscuits + sausage gravy
(makes about 6 servings)
2 1/4 c (318 g) all purpose flour
1 Tbs + scant 1/2 tsp (16 g) baking powder
Rounded 1/2 tsp (3 g) baking soda
1 Tbs + scant 1/2 tsp (16 g) sugar
1 1/8 tsp (7 g) salt
4 oz (113 g / 1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
3/4 c + 2 Tbs (214 g) buttermilk, cold
16 oz pork breakfast sausage
2 Tbs (32 g) vegetable oil
3 Tbs (27 g) flour
2 c (485 g) whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbs sour cream
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
For the biscuits: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter and work in with your hands, squeezing and mixing, until the mixture is crumbly with tiny bits of butter throughout. Pour in the buttermilk and stir together with a spoon just until the biscuit dough comes together in clumps.
Dump out onto a floured surface and pat out to about 1/2 to 1 inch thickness. Cut out using a 3 1/2 inch round cutter; gather the scraps and repeat. Place the biscuits onto the parchment lined pan. In a small dish, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of honey and stir til smooth. Brush over the tops of the unbaked biscuits.
Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 6 minutes. Turn the pan, and bake for another 3-4 minutes, until the biscuits are puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and make the gravy!
For the sausage gravy: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, until the meat is cooked through and getting some nice brown color. Scoop out the meat to a medium sized bowl.
Pour the oil in to the skillet, and sprinkle on the flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture becomes golden brown and bubbly. Whisk in half the milk until no lumps remain, and then add the rest of the milk. Cook until bubbling and thickened. Stir in the salt, pepper, sour cream, and cayenne pepper. Add back the cooked sausage and stir to combine. Turn heat to low to keep warm.
To serve, ladle a hefty scoop of gravy on top of a hot, fresh biscuit. Sprinkle with a little parsley if you’re feeling fancy. I find that a nice big helping of fresh fruit salad (with lots of tangy pineapple to cut through the gravy’s richness) is the perfect side to this super decadent breakfast. That original Hardee’s breakfast from decades ago still lives in my memory, but this homemade rendition totally kicks the ass of anything ever served in that fast food restaurant!