Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy


What comes to mind when you think of a work-related celebration? Yep. Veggie trays. BBQ Meatballs. Ranch dip. Before you start getting angry, I love those things too and they all have their appropriate day in the sun. However, I had something else in mind entirely to mark my transition from the chaotic environs of healthcare management to full-time academia. Flaky buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy. It’s not something I eat all of the time (once or twice a year?), so it would be a real treat to make some French press coffee, pop open a buttery biscuit, ladle on some down home goodness, and saddle up next to my buddies to enjoy the deliciousness in full-mouthed silence.

Now. Some biscuits and gravy are terrible. Dense, dry biscuits paired with pasty, bland gravy makes no man happy. Others are just “meh”, tasting more of pepper than anything else. This joyous duo of recipes for laminated biscuits (what I like to term “The Criscuit”) and flavorful sausage gravy is the bees knees. Seriously, if you need a celebratory meal, really screwed up with the ol’ significant other, or are trying to impress your new beau, make.this.now.  Otherwise, use these laminated biscuits and sausage gravy to induce serious dead-as-a-doornail nappage in others when you need a little peace and quiet ’round the homestead. The resultant food coma makes for a lovely Sunday.

The ingredient list is small, so use quality ingredients. Also, a combination of whole milk and evaporated milk makes for a gravy that in no way resembles Elmer’s glue. No paste allowed! A browned roux and few spices kick up the flavor as well. Pair up a flaky, buttery biscuit with the gravy and you’ll take home the blue ribbon. I won’t bother with nutritional information. I mean, would you look at the nutritional information on cake? Now, go forth in celebration and joy with your biscuits and gravy!


For the Biscuits:


For the Gravy:

  • 2 pounds of high-quality breakfast sausage. I don’t use hot or sage, just normal sausage.
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 12 ounces of evaporated milk
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1/2 tsp dehydrated onion
  • 1/4 tsp cracked pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • pinch cracked peppercorn melange
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 shots (? 1/4 tsp) of Cholula hot sauce

Prepare biscuits up to a day ahead of time. If made ahead, they are better stored in a ziploc bag on the counter after completely cooled. Doing so keeps you from overheating refrigerated biscuits.

Brown the sausage over medium heat, breaking it into fairly large chunks.

sausage gravy

Here we go. It’s like those moments when you’re climbing the big hill on a monster roller coaster…anticipation!

Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a plate. Add the 2 TBSP of flour to the pan and cook until slightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.

biscuits and sausage gravy

Cook up the roux. You can use anywhere from blonde to chestnut.

Lower the pan temperature to medium-low and slowly whisk in the whole milk and evaporated milk. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Bring the gravy to a low simmer and cook until thickened and the gravy coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved sausage to the gravy and stir to combine.

sausage gravy

A match made in heaven.

Add the dehydrated onion, cracked pepper, white pepper, peppercorn melange, bay leaf, and Cholula. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes to meld the flavors.

sausage gravy

Man, that’s looking goooood.

If the gravy thickens too much (remember, no paste!), add water as needed. Prior to serving, salt to taste. Serve with Criscuits. Bask in the goodness.

biscuits and gravy

So good. The perfect little meal with good buddies!




The weather’s starting to cool here a bit and that means it ‘s the perfect, perfect time to set up camp on the back porch and break out all of the barbecuing toys.  And barbecuing toys mean ribs, ribs, and more ribs. Some associate ribs with the sweltering, surface-of-the-sun heat of mid summer, but I much prefer them when the weather starts to turn and football is in gear.  There’s no way to cook ribs quickly, so that lends itself to a few hours of watching football, having some bevvies, and hanging out. Just when everyone’s getting tired of chips and dips and their adult beverages are getting the better of their appetite control…enter the rack o’ ribs.  Started when everyone arrives for festivities, they finish up right when everyone is ready to chow down.

If you do a quick search of The Interwebs, there are hundreds of ways people swear by to get that juicy, tender, fall off the bone rack of ribs. I listened to none of those. Nope. I went straight to the source of the best ribs I’ve ever eaten. Dad. The Hubbs, the dogs, Pam and Dad and I hung out one afternoon and I decided it was time for the Pirate Incarnate to relinquish his secrets. I was terrified I’d mess them up (since we were all there for dinner!), but with the guiding hand of The Pirate Master I learned all I needed to know–and it was surprisingly simple.

It seems there are several keys to good ribs. A good rub. A good sear. A low and slow braise (aka the ‘Texas Crutch’). Time, time, and more time. A little patience (*hums Guns and Roses*). And a good sauce to finish ’em on the grill. It’s not hard and the reward is a tasty, tasty pile o’ meat. Win, win!


Mmmmmmm. Riiiibs.

What you’ll need for some Homer Simpson, lip-smacking, finger-licking ribs:

  • (2) racks of pork ribs
  • Gas grill

For the rub:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup salt
  • 1 TBSP paprika
  • 1 TBSP dried celery
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

For the Eastern North Carolina sauce: (This sauce is fully adjustable and not a science; Adjust to preferences)

  • 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar ( I use Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar)
  • Tomato paste (I use about 1 TBSP–but you may like more or less; Adjust to taste)
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar (use dark if you like a bit of molasses flavor)
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • For more heat, feel free to add hot pepper sauce, like Cholula Hot Sauce)


  • Apple juice, apple cider, beer, or stock for braising (I’ve even used water in a pinch!)


Blend all rub ingredients in a food processor or in batches in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Rub generously into ribs. You should have enough to cover (2) racks of ribs. Let rest at least an hour, covered, on the counter to bring the temperature of the meat up to room temperature. If you’re a good planner, you can cover your rubbed ribs and let them chill in the fridge over night. Just make sure to bring the ribs up to room temp prior to cooking.

In the meantime, mix your sauce ingredients thoroughly and heat to simmering. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat, and cool.

After your ribs come to room temp, heat your grill to Hinges-of-Hades hot. Quickly sear the ribs, about 5 minutes per side. Turn your grill off. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.


Perfectly seared ribs

After searing the ribs, wrap each rack in a double layer of aluminum foil with a quarter cup or so of liquid (apple juice, apple cider, beer, or stock work well).


See the bit of liquid at the edge of the ribs. You just need a bit to effectively braise the ribs.

Close the packets tightly, folding the edges neatly and tightly. You don’t want the steam to escape as we are essentially braising the ribs.


See the neat, tidy folds that close the package? No wadding up of aluminum foil allowed. You don’t want steam to escape and you want to be able to get in and out of the packets quickly to test whether the ribs are tender.

Pop the packets into a preheated 325 degree oven and cook until the meat begins to pull away from the bone a bit and the meat is fork tender but not falling apart.


Ribs after the crutch.


See the meat pulling away from the bone? Yeah…that means melt in your mouth goodness.



When the meat is tender, about 2 hours, remove the packets from the oven at allow to sit (still wrapped) for 10-15 minutes. Heat your grill to approximately 400-500 degrees. When you grill is at temp, unwrap your ribs, and coat with sauce. You can use the North Carolina Vinegar sauce or a sauce of your choosing (Mustard sauce is a favorite in these parts and a good, smoky tomato-based sauce works well too). Place the ribs on the grill and cook 2-3 minutes per side, working only to achieve crusty bits, color, and caramelization of sauces as the ribs are already cooked at this point.


Finish the ribs on the grill for sticky sauce that’s finger-lickin’ good. Eastern North Carolina sauce can be placed prior to the ribs going back on the grill and/or afterward.

Remove your ribs from the grill and allow to rest, loosely covered in aluminum foil, on the counter for 10 minutes. Create some elbow space and grab your brew.  I highly recommend an American Lager with BBQ (hello Pabst Blue Ribbon!). Trust me, it’s better than it sounds!  Commence to digging in!

**Note the conspicuous lack of plated pics. Taking time for plated pics was not an option. I had to get all up in it or there would have been none left!**

Shanghai Red Cooked Pork Belly


I first fell in love with Chinese red cooking when I adapted a red cooked beef finger recipe. It was truly addicting. So much so that I ran, nay sprinted, many blocks, in flood water rains to procure the necessary items to make steamed bao buns.  During the treacherous drive home, my mind had a stroke of genius…if red cooking made beef that tasted like a magical gift from the heavens, what would it do for  my dear and longtime friend, Mr. Pork Belly. If the fatty beef fingers were delectable in the deeply satisfying red-cooked sauce, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mr. Pork Belly would be absolutely divine. So, I sprinted again, through monsoon rains to our local Asian market for a couple of pounds of pork belly…and a cup of hot tea, a bowl of beef Pho, and a cruise around the store to pick up $100 bucks or so of stuff I absolutely needed (quail eggs, new chopsticks, wuyi oolong tea, sake, rice seasoning, etc.).

Like the beef recipe, most pork belly recipes called for blanching the meat prior to braising. Like the recipe for Chinese Red-cooked Beef, I opted to sear the meat to add to the depth of the final dish. I also wanted a bit of the ‘bark’ or crispier edges that searing provides. Again, bao buns were on my mind. Soft pillowy clouds wrapped around crispy, sticky, sweet and salty pork nuggets, all laced with spicy Kimchi. Yes. Please.

The ingredients are identical to my Chinese Red-cooked Beef recipe, but pork belly brings a whole new level of business to the game. Add Kimchi and you are all up in it. All I can say is ‘no leftovers’. What? Yep. No leftovers. I shouldn’t admit it, but we (proudly) took down 2, count them, 2 pounds of pork belly. It took a whole day, but we indeed did it (and made sure a hefty workout was on the books for the next day!). This stuff is like meat candy. You’re gonna want to get on this. Pronto.

Shanghai Pork Belly

  • 2 pounds of pork belly, skin on, in 1.5 to 2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried orange peel (you can substitute fresh zest if necessary)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 red chilies, diced (or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1.5 cups water or pork or vegetable broth (no or low sodium); as much as needed for appropriate liquid level

Caramelize your sugar and make the Sherry-sugar sauce just like in the Chinese Red-cooked Beef recipe.  Next, brown those little nuggets of goodness, or pork belly cubes if you prefer to call them that (*frowns*). Remember, dry your pork nuggets thoroughly, make sure your oil is well heated, allow plenty of room between the nuggets, and allow the pan to come back to temp between batches.  Remove the nuggets and set aside on a plate.


Remember to dry the pork thoroughly, heat your oil well, and leave enough room between pieces so they don’t steam instead of sear.

IMG_2275 2

Golden pork nuggets!

Drain most of the fat from pan.  I know, I know.  I usually display exaggerated disapproving facial expressions at those committing the crime of  ‘fat draining’, but sometimes there are exceptions.  More fat will render during cooking and all will be well. Trust me.  Now, reduce your heat to medium-low, add your dry spices to the pan, and heat them for about 1 minute. This allows the oils in the warmer spices to bloom.  Add your red pepper flakes here if you’re not using fresh chilies. Next, add the soy sauce or liquid aminos. Add the ginger, garlic, and peppers. Deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom with the edge of a wooden spoon. Once all the good bits are worked free from the bottom of the pan add the sugar-sherry mixture. Return your pork nuggets to the pan, placing them in evenly in one layer.


Check out the beautiful mahogany-colored sauce. The scent of star anise, orange, cinnamon, and ginger will fill the house. Commence drooling.

The sugar-sherry liquid level should come up to about 1/2 the level of the top of the meat (we want to braise the meat, not stew it). Add water, pork stock, or chicken stock if needed to achieve the appropriate liquid level.  If you add stock, be sure it is no- or low-sodium as there is plenty of salt to be had otherwise. Bring the pork and liquid mixture to a simmer, place the lid, and tuck it away in your preheated oven. Cook until the meat is fork tender and the fat and connective tissue is dissolved, about 2-3 hours.

Remove the pork from the pan to a plate. Try really hard not to eat it right away. You will need to exercise extreme discipline at this point or perhaps try physical restraint. I am not ashamed to admit I failed (and earned a blister on the roof of my mouth to prove it!).  Remove your star anise from the pan liquid and boil the sauce until it is glossy and reduced to about a cup.


Look. At. That.

Serve meat, drizzled with sauce, over rice or with your favorite steamed or sauteed vegetable. My preference is sticky, salty, sweet pork nuggets tucked into airy Bao Buns, nestled alongside spicy and sour Kimchi, and paired with lightly wilted bok choy.  None better. Broccoli, broccoli rabe, bok choy, kale, or spinach pair well too. Enjoy!


Kimchi is the perfect partner.


Eat it up. Shanghai pork and kimchi ride along perfectly in little puffy bao buns.



Sweet and Savory Bacon Jam


One of my all time favorite ‘sammiches’ with Chevre, braised collards, ripe tomatoes, over-easy egg, and bacon jam. Good and messy!

Bacon…..Jam……Bacon.  Jam.  Bacon Jam! Yes, Bacon Jam. You heard me right. And yes, I’m drooling.  I bet you are too.  It’s a little sweet, a little salty, a little smoky, and a whole lotta magic.  I’ve had several variations of bacon jam and there are an infinite number of recipes on the Interwebs.  The variations are endless–some with brown sugar, espresso, or bourbon. Others with molasses, sorghum, or red chilies. Some include mustard or other spices. I’ve kept this one pretty simple so it can be used in a number of ways and the smoky bacon flavor stands out.  It’s truly a thing to behold for bacon lovers.  Your mind may want to have a slight spasm at the thought of bacon and sweets, but give it a go and I’m just about darn certain sure you’ll fall in love with it. Try it on fried eggs, BLTs, grilled cheese, or crostini. Or a spoon.  Or sneak out into the kitchen in the dead of night, under the pretenses of needing water of course, and just stick your finger right in the jar!

  • 1 pound bacon, cooked crisp, and cut into thin strips, fat reserved
  • 2 sweet onions, sliced thinly, and caramelized
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed, peeled, and minced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TBSP black strap molasses
  • 1/2 tsp crushed rosemary (so they don’t poke you in the mouth and ruin your jam experience)
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Try cooking your bacon on a foil lined jelly roll sheet at 375 degrees on the middle rack. Flip once at about 10 or so minutes and then cook until crisp.

Caramelize your onions.  This is a long and boring process, so get a beverage of choice and a stool or chair.


Get your caramelized onions—they add great flavor to the jam and allow you to use less sugar than some other recipes.

After the onions are caramelized, add 1 TBSP bacon fat, garlic, the crumbled bacon, brown sugar, vinegar, and molasses.


Add your ingredients and let it cook into a delightfully gooey mess!

Stir to melt sugar and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add rosemary, lemon zest, and black pepper (mine didn’t need salt, but check yours as you go). Reduce to a low simmer and let it rip until it’s thick and gooey and coats the back of a spoon. For Pete’s sake, try not to eat it immediately as this stuff is like molten lava and will wreak havoc on the inside of your mouth.  You do want to be able to taste it later, so exercise your best restraint (or have your spouse, friend, or neighbor hold you back).


Look at that! You just licked the screen didn’t you?

Let the BACON JAM–yes, I feel I must scream the phrase because everyone on Planet Earth should know about it–cool for about 10 minutes.  Smooth it out a bit in a food processor or leave it good and chunky–it all depends on your preference or how you want to use the jam.  Your bacon jam is good in the fridge for about a week, but good luck with it lasting that long!


You can leave your bacon jam chunky or smooth it out a bit depending on your preference and what you decide to use the jam for (why everything, of course!).


My goodness, would ya look at that!? Put your bacon jam in a ball jar and you can carry it with you everywhere you go! Just kidding…you can however, stuff it in the back of the fridge for ‘safe keeping’. Enjoy!

Now, go to town. Have fun. Love your bacon jam!  Definitely play with your ingredients—maybe add some coffee, mustard, different herbs, maple syrup, or bourbon!