Cooking Lesson #522: San Jacinto Inn Buttermilk Baking Powder Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
…from the Perspectives’ Kitchen
How you doin’? Every meal provider’s recipe box needs a simple go-to biscuit. Here’s mine. These are light, buttery and ready in no time. This recipe was given to me by Ethel, the San Jacinto Inn’s head cook. Ethel was a tough old bird… she made me wash dishes for an hour to get the recipe. Later I learned I could have just bought her cookbook. The dishpan hands were worth it though… I got to work with Ethel!
The San Jacinto Inn was famous for its seafood and chicken dinners—it wasn’t just a meal, but a dining and working experience. Jack and Bertha Sanders established the restaurant in 1916 near the Lynchburg Ferry on the Houston Ship Channel. Originally a small lunch counter, the menu included fresh seafood caught by the Sanders’ served with freshly baked biscuits and homemade preserves. In 1917, the growing restaurant moved to its location in an old dance hall opposite the present location of the Battleship Texas near the San Jacinto Battleground State Park. Soon the popularity of the San Jacinto Inn grew, and dining there became a tradition and an experience) for many Houstonians, their families and me too when I travel to the area.
The dining room featured an all-you-can eat menu, consisting of primarily seafood and chicken. In winter, the menu included celery, shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell, fried oysters, fried tenderloin of fish, fried chicken, French fried potatoes, and hot biscuits served with strawberry or black cherry preserves, and dessert. The summer menu mirrored its winter counterpart in many ways but featured iced crab and stuffed crab rather than the oyster dishes. In the 1930s and 1940s, patrons not only enjoyed the hefty meal, but also a dance orchestra. During World War II, this live entertainment gave way to a need for more tables to accommodate the restaurant’s growing clientele. In later years, the restaurant seated nearly seven hundred guests and it boasted serving 85,000 pounds of fish, 55,000 chickens, 200,000 pounds of shrimp, 1,700,000 oysters, 50,000 crabs, and 500,000 hot biscuits in an average year.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 12 to 15 minutes
Yield: 16 biscuits
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (see ChefSecret below)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) frozen unsalted butter, shredded on a box grater
1 cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
You can’t have a recipe for biscuits without one for Sausage Gravy from scratch. Just a few simple ingredients are all you’ll need to prepare a delicious breakfast of Sausage Gravy and Biscuits. This quick and easy pan gravy is sure to please all in the family.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1 pound of country-style bulk-packed pork sausage seasoned blend
2 tablespoons of butter or bacon fat
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Place a skillet on the range top over medium heat.
2. Add the pork sausage, break it up with a spoon or fork and let it brown until fully cooked.
3. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked sausage from the skillet. Set aside.
4. Add butter or bacon fat to the skillet, let it melt.
5. Add the flour, one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly to make a roux.
6. Continue stirring while the mixture cooks for a minute or two, don’t let it burn. It will get thick and clumpy.
7. Slowly stir in milk, about a half cup at a time, stirring constantly to work it all together with roux.
8. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Test it for flavor, as you go.
9. Add the cooked sausage back into the pan, stir well.
10.Let the gravy and sausage simmer together for a couple of minutes until it reaches the desired consistency.
11.Serve the hot gravy over biscuits, eggs, hash brown potatoes or that very special fried chicken dinner and mashed potatoes.
ChefSecret: Hold leftovers refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. It’s easy to reheat, just add a little more milk and correct the seasoning to taste.
Quip of the Day: “Recently I had a Zoom appointment with my “shrink.” The doctor told me, don’t worry, life is like a helicopter. That wasn’t comforting… I don’t know how to fly a helicopter either.”
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To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America and/or American Red Cross.
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©Perspectives/The Consulting Group, LLC, 2022
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