By Charles Ferruzza
About a decade ago, I was eating breakfast in a diner – including a half-order of flaky biscuits and sausage gravy – and a complete stranger, one of those know-it-all spoil sport types (crotchety and somewhere between his first heart attack and death) stopped by my table to announce:
“Enjoy that breakfast, young man,” the older man hissed at me. “It’s filled with fats and carbohydrates. You won’t be allowed to eat something like that in a few years.”
A few years? It was more like a few minutes. But I’m thrilled that I got to enjoy as many fine plates of biscuits and gravy as I did before the hammer fell and the dish – which dates back to the American Revolution – became added to the danger list (with those other treasured all-American dishes like fried chicken, double cheeseburgers, tater tots and chocolate cream pie).
Biscuits and gravy – a filling and inexpensive farm dish that can be whipped up without a lot of fuss – is one of those iconic dishes that gets a national food holiday this month: Tuesday, February 21, which is the only time of year that I allow myself to indulge in the delicacy.
In an earlier incarnation of my life, I worked the line in a kitchen of a national restaurant chain that served their version of biscuits and gravy, using a recipe that calls for so much flour, I never knew if I was mixing up something to eat…or wallpaper paste.
There are nuances to biscuits and gravy: the gravy can’t be too think, too thick, too peppery. It can’t have too much sausage – which will make the finished product greasy – or too little. The biscuits can’t be too dry, God forbid, or too soft, which might make them disappointingly chewy.
Some of the best examples I’ve had on the Kansas side of the metro have been at the Big Biscuit in Overland Park and Prairie Village (I’m thinking, in particular, of the location at Nall Hills Shopping Center, 5400 West 95th Street) which serves breakfast all day.
Restaurateur Kozeta Kreka’s namesake Cozy’s Café at 6740 West 75th Street in Overland Park evokes the kind of comfortable, unfussy small-town diner that Duncan Hines (the food critic, 1880-1959 and not the mid-century cake mixes) would champion in his heyday. Good solid food, big portions, modest prices. Kreka’s biscuits and gravy are among the very best in town.
Another venerable old school diner is the Santa Fe Café at 9946 W 87th Street in Overland Park where the kitchen has a deft hand with sausage gravy – smooth and comforting — and the coffee is good and strong.
I’m still trying to decide where to throw all caution to the wind next Tuesday and have my annual plate of biscuits and gravy. Any suggestions from Shawnee Mission Post readers would be greatly appreciated. After all, when you limit yourself to a classic once a year, you want to make it a memorable affair.