Enjoy this quintessential breakfast classic with wild, upland bird sausage
In my opinion, a good breakfast or brunch spot is rated on two very distinct and important factors: the coffee (served black) and the biscuits and gravy. I can endure lackluster coffee, but the moment I bite into a boring plate of biscuits of gravy that was obviously made from a box mix, I scratch that diner off the list (unless the coffee was really good).
Sadly, few breakfast diners stick out in my mind in regard to their biscuits and gravy. There was one place in Sandpoint, Idaho, that my wife and I visited several years ago, but I believe it may have closed. After many years of living between Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, and Kansas, and finding myself disappointed in most plates of biscuits and gravy, I decided to ultimately take matters into my own hands.
I am very objective when it comes to my cooking, but this recipe is by far one of my favorites. The keys are of course the homemade sausage and, perhaps unexpectedly, the champagne (yes, there will be plenty left over for mimosas). For the pork fat, you will likely need to visit a local butcher. Just tell the butcher you are making your own sausage and need pork fat; if you are asked to specify, “pork back fat” should suffice.
You will need a grinder, which I suggest owning anyway since it opens up so many recipe possibilities. You can either spend $20 on Amazon for a hand-crank model or invest in an electric unit, which may run you upwards of $100. I’ve been using MEAT!’s 500-watt grinder for a lot of small game and upland grinding and have found it works swimmingly.
For the biscuits, I opted to a buy a can of Pillsbury Grands. Baking is not my specialty, and sometimes I do like to cut down on kitchen mess. Of course, you are welcome to pair a family biscuit recipe with this gravy. Let me know if you put this recipe to work with your own biscuit recipe. I’d love to hear how they work together.
Lastly, a note on the mushrooms: they aren’t essential, so if you or someone in your household doesn’t like mushrooms, feel free to leave them out.
Ingredients for four servings
10 ounces upland bird meat, ground
6 ounces pork fat, ground
1 tablespoon freshly minced sage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salted butter
4 ounces sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion, finely minced
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup flour
1 cup dry champagne
1½ teaspoons freshly minced garlic
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, mixed use
1 can Pillsbury Grands! Flaky Layer Biscuits (16.3 ounces / 8 count)
- Cut upland bird meat and pork fat into chunks and add to large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon freshly minced sage, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon allspice, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.
- Place mixing bowl with spiced meat in freezer half an hour prior to grinding.
- Put meat through fine grinding plate and mix with spatula or other kitchen utensil (ideally not hands) after grinding. Place in fridge until ready to cook.
- To make gravy, in a large, deep cast-iron skillet heated on medium-low, add 1 tablespoon salted butter followed by one finely minced yellow onion. Lightly salt and pepper. Brown onions and, once fairly soft, add 1½ teaspoons freshly minced garlic.
- Stir garlic and onions for a few minutes while aroma releases. Rinse 4 ounces sliced baby portobello mushrooms ahead of time, then add to skillet. Stir for a few minutes more then deglaze with 1 cup dry champagne.
- Allow mushrooms, onions, and garlic to simmer for 5 minutes, then add 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups heavy whipping cream. At this point, if you find your skillet isn’t big enough, transfer contents to a larger pot.
- Keep liquids on a low simmer, stirring often and allowing not to burn. In a separate (preferably cast-iron) skillet heated on medium-high, add breakfast sausage mix and sear first side, then second, then break into small bits.
- After liquids have simmered for 15 minutes, add ½ cup flour and mix in to thicken gravy while continuing to simmer. Lumps may appear, but as liquids continue to simmer, you can stir and use spatula to work out lumps.
- After adding flour and mixing in thoroughly to thicken gravy, add fully cooked breakfast sausage.
- Follow directions on biscuit can (or bake your own). When biscuits are finished, top with gravy. If gravy isn’t thick enough for your liking, sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, stirring in thoroughly before adding another tablespoon, until desired thickness is reached.
Jack Hennessy grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and didn't start hunting until he attended graduate school in Spokane, Washington, at the age of 26. Hennessy began work in professional kitchens in high school but didn't start writing wild game recipes until he joined the Spokesman-Review in 2014. Since then, his recipes have appeared with Petersen's Hunting, Backcountry Journal, Gun Dog Magazine, among many others. He now lives with his wife, daughter, and Wirehaired Vizsla, Dudley, in Wichita, Kansas.