Sausage gravy and biscuits: It’s a classic combination that’s hard to improve upon. Unless, of course, you’re craving a bit of spice to go along with the Southern staple. For that, you’ll have to make do with the (hopefully) copious quantity of black pepper featured in most sawmill gravies. Or, you can use my secret weapon for kicking the dish a few notches up on the Scoville scale: Ro-Tel tomatoes.
Ro-Tel gravy was a treat that my father would sometimes bring to the breakfast table on mornings when my mother, who abhors any level of spice, was away from home. It’s a simple way to put a fiery twist on an otherwise mild, but hearty, classic. And it can be adjusted based on the level of heat someone prefers. I tend to go for the hot Ro-Tel or for the cans with green chilies, but mild could be also used for those who only prefer a bit more heat.
To make the gravy, start by browning a pound of loose sausage. I went with hot sausage for mine, but go with whatever spice or flavoring you prefer the most. After you’ve browned the sausage, remove it from the pan, leaving a tablespoon or two of grease if possible. If your sausage was lean and didn’t produce much grease, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil or a tablespoon of butter to your pan. This grease will provide the base for your roux, which will create the gravy itself.
Once your grease, oil, or butter has been warmed over medium heat, add a few spoons of flour to the pan. Whisk constantly to make sure the flour is fully incorporated into the fat. While stirring, continue to cook the flour and grease mixture for two or three minutes until it browns. Then, slowly add a cup of milk to the pan, continuing to stir, in order to prevent any clumping. As the liquid is incorporated into the roux, the mixture will thicken and create a sawmill gravy. Be sure to pepper and salt your roux mixture, and continue to add black pepper as you incorporate the milk until the gravy is seasoned to taste. If the gravy is too thick, add a little more milk until it reaches the consistency you desire. After the gravy reaches your desired thickness, add your sausage back in.
Finally, it’s time to add the star of your dish. Grab your Ro-Tel can, drain off the excess water, and stir in those glorious tomatoes. Once you have the can fully incorporated, you’re ready to serve over freshly baked biscuits.
The spicy, rich flavor of Ro-Tel gravy is just different enough from the classic sawmill recipe to wow your family and friends. And since Ro-Tel usually sells for about $1 a can, it’s a cheap way to mix up your weekend morning routine. Once this tomato and sausage-filled breakfast option is tucked in your cookbook, run-of-the-mill sausage and gravy mornings won’t be the same.