BREAKFAST SAUSAGE BISCUIT GRAVY CASSEROLE
I know that you know how it feels, to be nagged by your tireless other half on executing tasks that the difficulty of which, he/she has absolutely no idea of. This is no doubt an important subject that touches the very fabric of the marriage establishment, a possible and perhaps convincing argument made by the anti-commitment party, as one of the many fears that they don’t want to be trapped with. But for the rest of us, I’d like to say I, I know how you feel… To elaborate on such subject more personally, I’m once again, reminded that there’s a crucial member behind Lady and Pups whose profile, you may not have been properly introduced.
Jason, this is everybody. Everybody, Jason my husband.
Jason my husband, who thinks it would be tremendously cool, you know as a side-hobby of this nocturnal creature, to invest every possible weekend-mornings on the driving-range together on his visions to become… the couple who golfs. Jason my husband, who thinks it would be only fitting as our retirement blueprints, for me to finally open and run a restaurant/his personal whisky bar, and simultaneously, without saying of course, raise a whole ranch of organic kettles on the side. Jason who doesn’t cook, but for the life of him, cannot understand why this house doesn’t serve freshly baked bar nuts. Jason who thinks, since I already bake cookies and make pies, why not start producing, from scratch…
… our very own sausages.
THE KIND THAT WOULD TURN MY KITCHEN INTO DEXTER’S WET DREAM,
AND ME, THE THINGS HE STUFFS INTO PLASTIC BAGS.
To be clear, he doesn’t mean meatballs. He means sausages. Full-throttle, meat-splashing-and-grinder-churning-then-feeding-into-a-tube-as-fragile-as-baby’s-bottom kind of sausages. The kind that would turn my kitchen into Dexter’s wet dream, and me, those things he stuff into plastic bags. The kind, well yes, that you can buy from nearly every supermarkets on the planet… HA! Sausages… ooh man……. (long pause) All right, fine, maybe this one, amidst the other long list of lunacies, is not so outrageous. After all, sausages are interesting stuffs. A modest ego. Quiet showmanship. A certain level of obsession and artistry to go into something so unseemly and trivial. I like that.
But before losing more apartment square-footages to storing yet another monster-gadget, and freezer-space on salt-cured intestine lining, I think it’s best advised to try my hands first, on making… naked sausages. You know, just the meat-part. And before you cast judgements, may I remind you, that the meat-part is the real bitch. Everywhere I looked, making sausages pretty much involves freezing everything that it touches except your mother. And perhaps this is amateur talking, but I couldn’t understand why the process of cutting, freezing, grinding, freezing again, grinding again the pork, can’t be streamlined by just using frozen ground pork-butt, which I have almost all the time in the freezer. The borderline-frozen ground pork-butt, crumbled and blended easily under the food-processor blade, harmonizing beautifully with grated apple, maple syrup, crushed fennel seeds and most importantly, iced water, to form a bouncy and elastic emulsion. My first test-drive for homemade breakfast sausage turned out ot be nag-worthy, and only one-or-two-simple-steps more difficult than making meatballs, but texturally and flavour-wise, much more interesting.
But more pressingly notable, is what I used it for.
Because you know, again, as a nocturnal creature, the word “breakfast” sounded rather blinding. So naturally, it turned into a breakfast-for-dinner scenario, then into a it’s-bone-freezing-cold-outside scenario, then into a this-needs-to-come-in-gravy-form scenario… then finally, what’s-sausage-gravy-without-biscuits scenarios, and if you must ask “why casserole?”, you have no love in your heart.
I believe such logic is scientifically sound.
So very different from Jason’s request for meat in tubes, in the best of ways, out of the oven came the hottest and most winter-fitting casserole, I for one, could ever dream of. The initial concern that the buttermilk biscuits would be soggy as a collateral damage, completely shattered by their crunchy edges and flaky buttery interiors, floating on top of the thick gravy, bubbling like a pool of love, sharp with tons of freshly ground black/white pepper, cayenne and Dijon mustard. Then in the midst of this epic biscuit-and-gravy love-making, welcomed of course, came the big chunks of apple and fennel breakfast sausages. Gloriously browned, savoury and mildly sweet, every bite of this flaky-buttery-saucy-meaty orgy was the ultimate December-lust. If you think this is starting to sound like a very dirty dirty dish, you did not misunderstand.
Don’t bring this to people who you don not want to see more of.
But perhaps I got carried away… my point at the end of this reflection is this. As you can see evidently, that there’s an earnest response plus the will for advancement to Jason’s ludicrous nagging for homemade sausages. But my explicit longing on the other hand, for a Paris apartment in the 6th arrondissement, is no where in sight.
It is clear here who is the better spouse.
A few things that may seem bizarre in this recipe. The buttermilk biscuit-dough is for one, on the drier side (but not at all dry to eat) compared to what I’ve made before, and two, must be frozen before baking. That’s because they do need to sit on a puddle of wet gravy during cooking, and we don’t want the bottom or the interior to be too soggy. Then the ground pork shoulder, also, needs to be borderline-frozen before using, because in order to get that “bouncy” texture of sausages (not just “meatballs”), the fat needs to be very cold to prevent melting when being emulsified with protein/meat. It’s science. I did not make this up. And speaking of fat, the ground pork shoulder must be around 30~40% fat, or else the sausages would be sadly woodsy. At this point if you must know, the casserole would be equally delicious if you want to skip to store-bought sausages. It would just be less cool…
The sausage recipe is roughly adapted from Tasting Table.
- 3 cups (395 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/4 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 8 1/2 tbsp (120 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
- 1 cup + 1 tbsp (260 grams) buttermilk, cold
- 14 oz (400 grams) fatty ground pork shoulder/butt, must be 30~40% fat
- 1 small fuji apple, or granny smith apple
- 1 medium shallots
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 4 tbsp ice-cold water
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (732 grams) whole milk
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) chicken stock
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- TO MAKE THE BUTTERMILK BISCUITS: Combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl (or in a food-processor), whisk (or pulse) until mixed evenly. Add the cubed unsalted butter, then with a pastry-cutter (or pulsing the food-processor), cut the unsalted butter into the flour until the largest bits are the size of peas. Now, (if you're using food-processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl) with your hands, roughly squeeze the large bits of butter into flat disks. Add the cold buttermilk and fold the mixture gently together until it forms a dough, whichwill seem slightly on the dry side.
- Gently roll the dough into 1/2" (1.5 cm) thickness. Cut the sheet into 4 slabs, then stack them on top of each other (this is what's gonna create the layers), and roll again into 3/4" (2 cm) thickness. Cut out the as many biscuits you can with a round-cutter, gather the scraps, and cut again. You should have about 9~10 biscuits.
- Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined plate, and freeze for 2 hour until frozen. Can be made the day ahead.
- TO MAKE THE APPLE AND FENNEL BREAKFAST SAUSAGE: Plastic-wrap the fatty ground pork and flash-freeze for 2 hours until extremely cold, hardened but pliable. (this is important if you want to create that "bouncy" texture of sausages).
- Peel the apple then grate through the smallest holes on a cheese grater. Squeeze out all the excess juice, place in a food-processor with shallots and garlic, and run until finely minced. Add the cold fatty ground pork, cornstarch, salt, maple syrup, crushed fennel and ground black/white pepper. Run the food-processor until evenly incorporated, then keep it running while you slowly add in 4 tbsp of iced water, and stop until the mixture is smoothly blended. You may be able to do this by hand by whisking vigorously.
- TO MAKE THE GRAVY: Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over high heat. Cook the sausage with a bit of vegetable oil, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until nicely browned. Leave 1 tbsp of dripping in the skillet, then transfer the sausages to a bowl and set aside. Lower the heat to medium then add 2 tbsp of unsalted butter in the skillet. Cook the diced onion and a pinch of salt until very soft and translucent, approx 10 min. Add the flour and cook for a couple min, then while whisking simultaneously, add the milk and chicken stock. Keep whisking until the mixture has come to a simmer and starts to thicken. Add the browned sausage back to the skillet, along with 1 tbsp of ground black pepper, ground white pepper, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne powder and freshly grated nutmeg. Simmer for 6~8 min and re-season with salt if needed. Can be made hours ahead.
- TO BAKE THE CASSEROLE: Preheat the oven on 500F/250C.
- Bring the gravy back to a simmer if needed (if the gravy seems too thick at this point, loosen with a bit more chicken stock), then mix in the Dijon mustard. Arrange the frozen biscuits over the gravy, and brush the top with egg wash. Bake in the oven for 10 min, then lower the heat down to 430F/220C, and bake for another 15 min until the biscuits are puffed and golden browned (if the biscuits are browning too fast before the end of 15 min, lower the heat down to 400F/200C).
- Serve the casserole immediately with chili flakes and tabasco sauce.