I first encountered cream gravy in high school at my boyfriend’s house. Tommy and his highly unorthodox family lived in the middle of an orange grove in Dade City, Florida, about an hour from where we lived in Tampa.
Tommy’s mother and father were divorced, but had never really found a way to live without each other so Mrs. Stevens lived downstairs in the rambling farmhouse and Mr. Stevens lived upstairs. This, of course, absolutely horrified my very Patrician mother. However, in my eyes the Stevens were very bohemian and that was ridiculously attractive to me because my parents were decidedly not.
But I digress and I haven’t even started yet. Cream gravy. One morning, Mrs. Stevens was making it for breakfast. I had not even heard of gravy that was not brown. Mrs. Stevens was mortified that I had somehow gotten entirely through adolescence without eating cream gravy. So she taught me to make it.
Cream gravy is just a country version of a bechamel sauce, which is flour, butter and milk with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg added in. The recipe for a bechamel sauce calls for you to melt the butter and whisk in the flour to cook out the raw taste. Then add a specified amount of warm milk and whisk until it thickens into a sauce.
But I don’t do that. I do it the way Mrs. Stevens taught me. So here you go. No recipe. Just a procedure. And if you substitute bacon grease for butter, it’s even better.
Use equal parts butter and flour. For a small batch just use two tablespoons butter to two tablespoons all-purpose flour. Heat up your skillet and melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk it around for a couple of minutes, but don’t let it brown. Now, get out your whole milk. You don’t have to warm it up. Pour a little in the skillet and start whisking until the sauce is extremely thick and smooth. Add a little more milk. Keep doing this until the sauce is the consistency you like. It should be thick but not paste-like. Remember, you can always add but you can’t take away so don’t add so much milk that the sauce gets runny. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.
Here’s the kicker. Cream gravy is not really cream gravy without bits (or hunks) of sausage in it. So fry up a couple sausage patties, crumble them in the gravy and then – AND THEN – pour the sausage grease into the gravy as well. You will not be sorry, I promise you that.