As I previously mentioned, I’m a huge fan of Ben Sollee. My girlfriend is a huge fan as well. In fact, anyone who has come with me to a show over the past three years that him and I have been friends has been beyond impressed. But luck hadn’t been in our favor until there was a last minute gig cancellation and he was in NYC for an extra day.
When we had a chance to hop on the phone a few days before the session, I asked him what he grew up eating for breakfast, to which he responded, “my mama’s biscuits and gravy.”
To throw a slight curve ball on her delicious recipe, I made three different kinds of biscuits: cheddar, coconut, and maple. As for the gravy, I offered up a vegetarian version as well as lamb bacon white gravy. Both were spectacular.
For a week I practiced making it. The gravy particularly was difficult. Like with risotto, you need to literally stand by the range with a spoon to stir patiently for an hour. While the roux begins to thicken into a deliciously milky gravy.
Mama Sollee’s Biscuit and Gravy Recipe
Preheat oven to 450
2 1/2 cups self rising flour (plus more for coating hands to roll the biscuits and the biscuits themselves)
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
Mix well. On floured waxpaper, dump the biscuit mixture onto the wax paper and dust with flour. When it is stiff enough to roll into a 2 inch thick roll, coat hands with flour, pinch off about a two inch long piece. With cupped hand make a ball. Place on baking sheet then flatten until about 1 inch thick. Repeat until there is no more mixture left. This only makes 9 or 10 biscuits. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the top of the biscuits are lightly brown.
In a large heavy skillet add:
1/4 cup bacon, or sausage drippings. To make the plain gravy, I would use vegetable oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Cook over medium while stirring the flour and oil together until the flour browns beyond golden.
Gradually add 2 cups 2% milk, stirring constantly, and cook until the gravy is smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.
During the filming of the cooking, we were simultaneously trying to find a new location for the performance because it was raining with no end in sight. Luckily my longtime collaborator Eric had a friend who has “couch surfed around the city.” His friend put us in touch with this guy Joe who was completely open hosting. I sent out a last minute email to all our guests to let them know about the last minute change and from there things went completely, but… (there’s always a but)
…the AC was too loud, so we shut it off during the performance, which made everyone (particularly Ben and his drummer Jordon) very very very very very sweaty. However, it was completely worth it because Ben’s acoustic duo sounded amazing. Armed with an octave mandolin and a cello, Ben offered up two 4-song sets of original music. It felt intimate and special for everyone who was there. To quote one of the guests, “it was easily in my Top 5 experiences of the summer.”