Southerners take their biscuits and sausage seriously. Add gravy to the mix, and you’ll have yourself a very satisfying Southern meal. I know this because I ate the hell out of biscuits and sausage gravy as a kid. If you could have been around when sausage and I parted ways in 1997, you would have heard a mourning song that went something like this.
For several years, vegetarianism felt like deprivation in service to political advocacy. It wasn’t until I moved to China in the early 2000s that I learned of a world of flavor to be had without the need for meat. (Chinese cuisine features meat like you wouldn’t believe, but in south China, I fell in love with the flavorful vegetable and tofu meals on offer for a pittance.) While I eat seafood occasionally now, vegetarian and vegan recipes in America have finally caught up with the omnivorous cool kids, and I rarely think about the meaty recipes of my Southern youth. Until this month, that is. My primal itch for a platter of BBQ ribs, fried chicken gizzards, and bacon cheeseburgers is at an all-time high. Fortunately, Kristy Turner’s But I Could Never Go Vegan! cookbook has saved the day (and more than a few innocent animals, no doubt).
Last weekend she helped me bring biscuits with sausage and gravy to the dinner table without harming any of my farmyard friends. Her vegan version of a Southern classic seemed an impossible feat until I poured the “sausage” gravy over a few hot biscuits and chowed down. I’m not going to lie. I prefer biscuits cut with plenty of butter and gravy creamy with whole milk, but I also don’t need those ingredients in a meal to survive. Besides, this recipe pays attention to seasoning and oil, so you’re not denied flavor just because you steer clear of animal products. Served warm from the stove, this meal satisfied my need for comfort food and inspired me to try to minimize the amount of animal products I consume. You don’t have to be “vegan” to include vegan meals in your diet, and if you pick the right recipes that emphasize complex flavors, you won’t worry about what you’re missing because you’ll be too busy scrambling for seconds.
Southern Biscuits with Sausage and Gravy
(adapted from a But I Could Never Go Vegan! recipe)
– 1 cup non-dairy milk
– 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
– 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 TBS baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/3 cup vegan butter, kept very cold (You can put it in the freezer.)
– 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
– 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
– 3 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond milk.)
– 1/2 tsp dried sage
– 1/2 tsp dried thyme
– 1/2 tsp black pepper
– A few dashes of nutmeg
– 1 TBS nutritional yeast, optional
– Salt to taste
– 1 TBS non-dairy milk (I used almond milk.)
– 1 TBS vegan butter, melted
– 1 batch Sunflower Sausage crumbles, cooked (I’ll post the recipe tomorrow.)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Which together the non-dairy milk and vinegar in a small bowl; place in the refrigerator.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the very cold vegan butter, and use a pastry cutter butter knife to very quickly cut the butter into the flour until it is the consistency of bread crumbs.
3. Add the milk mixture, and mix with a spoon until just combined. Turn it onto a floured surface and knead for a couple minutes into a pliable dough. Use your hands to flatten the dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Fold it in half widthwise, then again to make a square. Repeat two to three more times. Flatten and stretch the dough into a 3/4-inch thick round.
4. Use a biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass to cut out biscuits; place them on the baking sheet. When you can’t cut any more, roll up the dough, flatten out, and cut more biscuits. Repeat until there is no dough left. Set the sheet aside in a cool area.
5. To make the gravy, heat the oil in a large shallow saucepan (I used my 1.75 quart saucepan, and it worked fine.) over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion just starts to become translucent. Ass the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the flour turns golden.
6. Slowly whisk in the 3 cups of non-dairy milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and add the sage, thyme, pepper, and nutmeg. Simmer, whisking frequently, for 15 minutes, or until the milk has reduced by about 1/3 and has thickened. Add the nutritional yeast, taste, and add salt. Turn the heat down to low to keep warm until ready to serve. If the gravy thickens too much, stir in a couple tablespoons of milk.
7. To finish the biscuits, use your thumb to make a tiny well on top of each. In a small bowl, mix the 1 TBS non-dairy milk and the melted vegan butter. Use a pastry brush to brush on top of each biscuit. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are golden.
8. Serve hot, topped with the sunflower sausage and gravy. (I mixed the sausage into the gravy before serving.)