Mother’s Biscuits and Gravy: Biscuits Topped with Sausage Gravy
For the Buttermilk Biscuits:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray a 9-inch X 13-inch baking dish with pan spray. Use a smaller pan if you want to cook some biscuits now and freeze the rest for later. If you can’t find self-rising flour, you can make your own by combining 2 tablespoons baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt for every 4 cups all-purpose flour. In a large bowl, combine the self-rising flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, two knives, or a whisk, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of peas. Alternatively you can combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the butter pieces, and mix first on slow, then on medium-low speed until pieces are the size of peas, about minute.
Combine the buttermilk and heavy cream in a measuring cup. Pour it into the butter-flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until mostly incorporated. Then, using your hands, mix just until incorporated—kneading no more than 3 or 4 times. Or briefly mix on low speed with the mixer, turning it on for a couple seconds then off to scrape the sides of the bowl. Repeat until just combined. Don’t worry that the batter is wet, goopy, and non-uniform. It is OK to have some pockets of flour and chunks of butter. That’s what will make the biscuits flaky and moist. The most important thing is not to over mix! Put the all-purpose flour in another shallow bowl. Using a ⅓ cup measuring cup, scoop out a heaping portion of the batter and drop it into the flour. Sprinkle some of flour on top, pick up the dough, and cup it in the palm of your hand. Gently jiggle the dough in your palm so the excess flour falls away leaving just a light coating, or lightly toss the dough between both hands.
Starting in the corner, arrange the biscuits in a row down the long side of the pan so you have a row of 6. You must start the first one very close to the corner and the next one nearly on top of the first in order for all 6 biscuits to fit. After filling the row, put 2 biscuits across the short side. You should now have 3 across and 6 down. Continue scooping and arranging the remaining dough directly next to each other. If you used a different size baking pan, or aren’t cooking all the biscuits at once, your baking pan may not be filled corner to corner with biscuits. In this case, crumple a piece of foil to fit into the blank spaces to help the biscuits keep their shape during baking. Bake for 10 minutes or until biscuits start to brown, then reduce the heat to 375°F and bake until the biscuits are light brown all over, making sure to rotate the pans now and then so they bake evenly. That should take another 20 to 25 minutes. You’ll know when they’re done when the biscuits start to pull away from each other, they don’t have any bounce when poked, and a knife inserted between some of the biscuits in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter, and let them cool for 10 minutes before cutting into individual biscuits. You could pull them apart, but I like to cut the biscuits along the obvious separations to make them a little straighter and prettier.
For the Country Gravy:
Put a medium 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add the sausage and sauté, stirring occasionally and breaking the meat into small chunks, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Set a metal sieve or strainer over a heat-safe bowl. When sausage is cooked through, scrape the contents of the pan into the strainer and let the fat drip through. Pour the collected fat into a heat-safe measuring cup. If necessary, add melted butter or bacon fat to equal ⅓ cup. Pour the measured fat back into the Dutch oven. Add flour and mix well with a wooden spoon over medium heat to make a roux. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture resembles fine, wet sand, about 5 minutes. Whisk the milk into the roux a little at a time, scraping up the bits of sausage from the bottom of the pot, and allowing the roux to absorb the liquid before adding more. This will help avoid lumps. Slowly whisk in the cream and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Add the sausage, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, thyme and cayenne pepper and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to be sure the bottom does not burn. Add salt and stir well.
To Assemble and Serve:
Heat a large 12- to 14-inch sauté pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Once hot, add butter and tilt pan to melt the butter and coat the pan. Add a Buttermilk Biscuit, cut side down. Cook until biscuit is lightly golden and toasted, about 2 minutes. Alternatively, put the biscuit cut side up in a toaster oven and toast until tops are golden. Remove biscuit from pan or oven and put 2 on a plate. Ladle ½ cup of Country Gravy on top of them. Serve immediately topped with chopped fresh parsley.