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Southern Tomato Gravy

If you’re not from the south, you might have never even heard of Tomato Gravy. (I know I hadn’t!) If you’re only accustomed to gravy as something brown served over a hunk of meat, then at first this scarlet version might sound pretty odd. But it turns out to be a most excellent celebration of summer’s sun-ripened bounty and luckily it works for lunch or dinner just as well as it does for breakfast. (Because any time something is this good, it’s nice to have three chances a day to eat it.)

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You might be wondering, “How does this differ from tomato sauce?” And I promise that, at most, they’re distant cousins. See, tomato gravy starts with fat – either butter or bacon drippings or sausage fat – and that fat imparts a silkiness and flavor that lingers far longer on the tongue than the bright flavor of a marinara. Not that this isn’t bright – it is, and it still has that sweet and savory thing going on, but it’s got a little more oomph to it.

Tomato gravy comes from Appalachia, where it likely took the place of sausage gravy when there was no milk to be found but there were plenty of juicy, fresh tomatoes right off the vine. In the late summer months, this is best made with tomatoes just in from the garden, but a can of crushed tomatoes is a perfectly fine substitute when the craving strikes during the colder months of the year.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes, your first step is going to be to cook them down a bit with some chicken stock until their flavor has reduced. If you’re using canned, just go ahead and start with the roux before you dump ’em all in. Either way, the serving options are nearly endless – you can pour it over biscuits or scrambled eggs, grits or rice… even a thick slice of meatloaf. Just be forewarned, they’re all so good that it’s hard to find a favorite.

Southern Tomato Gravy

20 minutes to prepare serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons fat (butter, bacon drippings, or sausage fat work best)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth, plus more as needed
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes OR 2 large tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. If using fresh tomatoes, start by placing chopped tomatoes in a saucepan with the chicken stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tomatoes have broken down. If using canned tomatoes, skip this and start with the next step (the roux).
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter or bacon grease. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly and slightly brown, 3-4 minutes. (It should smell nutty, but don't let it burn.)
  3. Slowly whisk in chicken broth and stir until smooth, followed by the can of undrained tomatoes. (If using fresh tomatoes, add the cooked down tomatoes here, followed by a little more stock or water if too thick.)
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until gravy has thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over buttermilk biscuits, grits, or scrambled eggs. Enjoy!

Adapted from Buy This Cook That.

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