Give Your Taste Buds a Sweet Surprise with Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy
What? Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy. That sounds like something a devious 6-year-old would make up, doesn’t it? Tender, buttery biscuits enrobed in dark, rich rivulets of creamy, chocolate gravy. Yes, it may sound very Willy Wonka-inspired, but Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy is actually a very old-school traditional breakfast of the Upland South.
People talk about Southern food as if it’s one cuisine, when in actuality it has many variations and subtleties, often region by region. The South can be subdivided into two principal larger areas: the Upper South and the Lower, or Deep, South.
The Upper, or Upland, South is the northern border of what we define as the South in the United States. It runs from Virginia and North Carolina westward through West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, dipping into the northern realms of Alabama and Georgia. The Upland South doesn’t conform neatly to state lines, but instead is influenced by the terrain, history and culture. It’s the landscape of a diverse society and what could generally be defined as Appalachia, an area at once both incredibly poor and culturally rich.
Chocolate gravy is shocking not only in name but also in taste and flavor. Meat gravy is most often brown. Pot roast gravy is brown. Fried chicken gravy is brown. Country-fried steak gravy is brown. Pork chop gravy is brown. Gravy is serious down-home comfort. Biscuits are a natural accompaniment to a steaming pool of hot gravy. Biscuits are meant for sopping. Gravy is good, but biscuits and gravy are great. Your eyes see biscuits and gravy and your mouth expects salty, savory, meaty goodness. Your mouth is met with sweet, milky chocolate sauce.
There’s a supposition that this mountain specialty came from Spanish traders based in Louisiana while they were traveling and selling into the Tennessee Valley. Some consideration is also given to the fact it may have come about along the same time that Hershey’s cocoa became popular.
The origins of chocolate gravy are lost to history. Maybe it was a mama trying to satisfy a devious 6-year-old. Maybe there are vestiges of the DNA of Mexican breakfast chocolate brought to the hollers of Kentucky and Tennessee. The truth is that chocolate gravy came into being in a time and place where recipes weren’t recorded or written down. I’m not sure, but I do know that if you take one bite of this indulgent down-home mountain comfort, you’ll be happy you did.
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Get the Recipe: Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy
Georgia-born, French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has cooked lapin Normandie with Julia Child in France, prepared lunch for President Clinton and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. A Southern food authority, she is the author of Bon Appétit, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, among others. Follow her continuing exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.