Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.
I think everything is better with gravy, and I usually have some of this country-style milk gravy made with ground pork in my refrigerator so I can spoon it over rice, beans, greens, hash browns, eggs, and, occasionally, biscuits.
In Portland Monthly a couple of years ago, Heather Arndt Anderson made the case that biscuits and gravy is the city’s signature dish. You might not agree, but creamy, meat-studded sauce over a soft, buttery biscuit is very tasty.
I didn’t grow up eating biscuits, so I don’t have any deep-seated taste memories for the flaky quick breads. I’ve known the folks at Pine State since they started serving biscuits at the Portland Farmers Market, and if I want biscuits I buy some of theirs. But you don’t need biscuits; this gravy is just as good over a piece of toast.
A distinctively American sauce, this gravy was a staple in the early days of the country, when colonizers often had little more than a bag of flour and a chunk of salt pork for sustenance. Milk was a luxurious addition if you had a cow. Salt and lots of black pepper add flavor, and I like to add a little thyme.
You can throw it together before breakfast. I like to use a shallot, since it adds lots of flavor without as much volume as an onion. But if I don’t have one, I’ll use half an onion instead. Chickpea flour makes it thick, but the traditional gravy would use a wheat flour roux. Either way makes a tasty gravy.
Country Gravy with Pork
1 pound ground pork
1 medium shallot (bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme, optional
1/4 cup chickpea flour*
1 cup water
1 cup milk, half-and-half, or cream
*Substitute wheat flour
Press the ground pork into a heavy skillet and cook it over medium high without disturbing it for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom develops a nice brown crust. Add olive oil, shallot, salt, and pepper and break up the pork with a spatula while it cooks for another few minutes and loses any pink color.
Stir in thyme and chickpea flour. (If using wheat flour, add it, stir well, and cook for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.) Add the water, stir well, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes, then add milk or cream and simmer gently to thicken.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper. The gravy will last four-to-five days in the refrigerator if you don’t eat it all right away.