In the depths of winter, the last thing you want for breakfast is a bowl of cold cereal. What you crave is something hearty and rib-sticking, with as much comfort as possible.
If you grew up eating meaty breakfasts, you might have deep cravings for foods like biscuits and gravy. Piping hot, tender biscuits, soaking in a rich, chunky sausage gravy is a dish with Southern origins, but it long ago made its way onto the menus of diners, truckstops and even fancy restaurants all over the country.
It’s a heavy, high-fat dish that is genuinely delicious when made meatless. That’s where my Squash Biscuits and Mushroom Gravy comes in.
The original biscuits and gravy came to be during the Revolutionary War as a cheap food to fuel physical labor. Historians trace the origins to Appalachia, where the dish was made with hard, unleavened “beaten biscuits.” The gravy was made from cheap ground pork, milk or water, and pan drippings. Once leavenings such as baking powder became more common, Southern cooks made biscuits into an art form, and turned the scrappy dish into an American breakfast staple.
For my plant-based version, I started with a tender squash biscuit. You’ll have to plan ahead and roast or steam about a pound of squash to purée and make 1 cup. The most important rule in making a tender biscuit is to handle the dough as little as possible, so you don’t activate the gluten and make it tough. I like to use a grater to cut in the margarine or butter, to form evenly sized bits of fat that help make the biscuits more flaky. If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, simply pat out the dough and cut it in squares, for square biscuits.
For the gravy, a food processor makes quick work of mincing the onions and mushrooms, but you can also mince by hand. Sautéing the mushrooms over medium-high heat allows the mushroom bits to give up their liquids and shrink down to a meaty, chewy texture. Then, a simple pan gravy of flour, milk and stock makes a quick meal of it.
If you are really craving sausage, you can add a mock sausage patty or two; there are many brands that do convincing, high-protein faux sausage.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.