Texans love cream gravy (sometimes called “pan gravy” or “country gravy”). Cream gravy is famously served with chicken fried steak, but it’s also served with biscuits, potatoes, fried chicken, veal, sausages, ham, fish, doves, quail, and even rattlesnake.
Cream gravy is made from the drippings of the meat left in a pan, combined with flour, milk (or cream), and some water. Cream gravy appeared in print by about 1850. “Fine as cream gravy” is a popular Texas expression.
Texas-Style Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy
It is hard to get much more Texan than Chicken Fried Steak.
After the cutlets are removed from the pan, pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of oil, keeping as many as possible of the browned bits in the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat until hot.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons flour (use the left-over flour from the chicken fried steak recipe) in the hot oil. Stir with a wooden spoon, quickly, to brown the flour.
Gradually stir in 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup water, mixed together, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon and mashing out any lumps. Lower heat, and gravy will begin to thicken. Continue cooking and stirring a few minutes until gravy reaches desired thickness. Check seasonings and add more salt and pepper according to your taste.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Cream of the gravy crop
OK, class. Before we begin today’s lesson in Texan cooking, we’re going to take a little pop quiz:
1. In Texas, what is the correct topping for mashed potatoes?
2. In Texas, what is the correct topping for biscuits, besides butter, honey or jam?
3. In Texas, what is the correct topping for chicken fried steak?
4. In Texas, what is the correct topping for any other piece of meat, fish or sausage and/or any other vegetable?
5. What did my great-grandmother Blanche feed her dog, Rover?
Did you answer “cream gravy” for all five questions? Fantastic, here’s a gold star! Otherwise, let me explain.
While chili gravy is the essence of Tex-Mex, one of the hallmarks of Tex-Tex is cream gravy. This thick, peppery and creamy sauce is poured over everything, as you can see by the above questions. It’s a simple concoction, made with pan drippings, flour, milk and cracked black pepper. But while it may appear plain, it’s infinitely delicious. Sometimes it goes by the name country gravy or white gravy, but in Texas we always call it cream gravy. Or better yet—just gravy because in Texas there really is no other kind.
The history of cream gravy goes back hundreds of years with its origins springing from limited means. People didn’t have the ingredients to make complex meat-stock gravies, but there was always flour, milk and pepper on hand to add to the pan drippings.
(Dictionary of American Regional English)
cream gravy n chiefly Sth, S Midl.
a gravy made with animal fat, flour, and milk or cream.
1932 (1946) Hibben Amer. Regional Cookery 152 VA, Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy and Mush.
1942 Rawling Cross Creek Cookery 136 FL, Turn out all but two tablespoons if the [bacon] fat, and to the two tablespoons add one and one-half tablespoons of flour. Stir until browned. Add one cup of milk, salt and pepper to taste…Dot the dish of potatoes and cream gravy with butter.
20Ozarks, Cream gravy...Gravy made in a skillet with grease left from frying by addition of flour, water, milk. Staple diet of the growing pioneer child…(Still common).
The Hills of the Shatemuc
by Susan Warner
New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company
“Cream gravy!—with what?”
“Fresh lamb,—mutton, I would say.”
The Home Messenger Book of Tested Receipts
by Isabella G. D. Stewart, Sally B. Sill, and Mary B. Duffield
Detroit, MI: E. B. Smith & Company
Young Chickens, sauted with Cream Gravy.
24 January 1880, New Haven (CT) Evening Register, pg. 3:
There was ham and eggs, corn-cakes and maple syrup, some canned peaches and boss fried potatoes and cream gravy.
Juliet Corson’s New Family Cook Book
by Juliet Corson
New York, NY: G. Munro
The Maryland fried chicken is always served with cream gravy and fried hominy.
CREAM GRAVY FOR MARYLAND FRIED CHICKEN.
Health in the Household, Or, Hygienic Cookery
by Susanna Way Dobbs
New York, NY: Fowler & Wells
Good gravy is made by stirring into meat liquor enough browned flour to thicken moderately, and then bringing it to a boil; there must be no lumps. If a cream gravy is wanted, stir the flour into half a cup (more of less) of cream, then add it to the meat liquor, and boil up a moment.
5 June 1886, Weekly Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), “An Old Virginia Cook,” pg. 4:
It consisted of plenty of fried chicken, with cream gravy and corn meal batter;...
26 September 1888, Humeston (Iowa) New Era, pg. 5, col. 2:
Fried Chicken and Macaroni.—Cut chicken in pieces, fry in hot butter, make cream gravy, season with a sprig of parsley, a small head of garlic, a little pepper and salt; pour over the fried chicken and let simmer twenty minutes;...
26 December 1889, Jackson Sentinel (Maquoketa, Iowa), “His Fried Chicken,” pg. 7, col. 8:
It is a startling statement, and yet it is said to be true, than an important crisis in the American Revolution was passed in safety by the help of a dish of fried chicken! The tradition is kept in the Walker family in Virginia.
In 1781 the Virginia legislature adjourned from Richmond to Charlottesville. The British Gen. Tarlston started to capture ot with a large force of cavalry and infantry. He stopped for breakfast at the plantation of Dr. Joseph Walker, distant twenty miles from Charlottesville. Rations were distributed among the men, and the cook made haste to prepare a real Virginia breakfast for the general and his staff.
Meantime a messenger from the village rode on in hot haste to warn the legislature and Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia, who was at his home at Monticello, outside of Charlottesville.
Twice the cook prepared a delicious dish of fried chicken and cream gravy, and twice, when her back was turned, some of the hungry British soldiers dashed into the kitchen and carried it off.
20 May 1895, Minneapolis (MN) Journal, “Menus for Wednesday,” pg. 5:
Pork Chops, with Cream Gravy—Place pork chops in a hot pan and let fry in their own fat until a good brown. Remove part of the grease, add some water and steam until tender. When the water is cooked down remove the chops, pour in milk, saeson and then thicken with butter and flour as for fried chicken.
3 October 1895, Morning Telegram (Eau Claire, WI), pg. 6, col. 5:
MARYLAND FRIED CHICKEN.—Cover the bottom of the dish with a rich cream gravy, and arrange neatly on the same a breaded and fried chicken, with two corn fritters and two strips of bacon.
6 December 1895, Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer, pg. 3, cols. 3-4:
Fried Chicken With Cream Gravy.
In the first place, select a young and tender chicken, cut it up as if for fricassee and season each piece with salt and pepper and dredge it very lightly with flour. Melt 2 tablespoonfuls of butter in a hot frying pan and lay in pieces of chicken enough to cover the bottom. Cover the chicken and let it fry until it is a rich golden brown on one side. It will take 5 or 6 minutes or even longer. Then turn it, add more butter if necessary, and let the chicken fry on the other side. When the chicken is cooked, lay it in a low, somewhat pyramidal, heap on a hot platter and stir a heaping spoonful of flour in the butter left in the frying pan. Add 3 cups of rich milk or cream to the frying pan and when it boils up strain this sauce into a saucepan in which a tablespoonful of minced parsley has been put. Let the sauce boil up once more and turn it around the chicken on the platter or serve it in a boat with the chicken. The latter is the old fashioned way of serving cream sauce and fried chicken and in some ways the most satisfactory.
31 July 1896, New Oxford (PA) Item, pg. 3, col. 3:
Southern fried chicken is famed, and here is a recipe that may well make the mouth water. Cut up two drawn and picked chickens in this manner: Lay them on a board, remove the feet, then cut off the wings and legs, and last divide the breasts and backs in halves. Roll thes pieces in flour and dredge with pepper and salt. Have ready a frying pan half full of boiling lard and into this drop the portions of chicken. Fry a nice brown. Take up on a heated platter and set to keep warm while a cream gravy is prepared. Pour a teacupful of cream or rich milk into the frying pan and thicken with a tablespoonful of flour and butter blended. Season with salt, pepper and a tablespoonful of minced parsley. Allow it to come to a boil and pour over the poultry. Garnish with sprigs of curled parsley. Fried mush is often served with this dish.
14 March 1897, Fort Worth (TX) Register, pg. 8 ad:
Roast beef with cream gravy.
7 September 1897, Syracuse (NY) Evening Herald, pg. 5, col. 5:
Canteloupes buried in cracked ice are first served; then a delicious dish of old-fashioned country fried chicken, with cream gravy, with which are served French fried potatoes, tomato farcie, and delicious Parker House rolls and cream butter.
10 December 1904, Frederick (MD) News, pg. 4, col. 1:
If desired, use the drippings that come from the sausage to make a cream gravy to go with the sausage and potato, or serve without.
22 February 1908, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 2, col. 1:
Sunday Dinner at The American.
Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy.
6 September 1908, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 19, col. 1:
The following menu was served: Fried chicken with cream gravy,...
1 December 1908, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 7, col. 6:
Serve hot with tomato sauce or cream gravy.
19 December 1908, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 3, col. 1:
Fold the biscuit like a Parker house roll, and bake in a moderate oven about 35 minutes. Serve with a thickened cream gravy. These can be warmed over for breakfast.
24 January 1909, Fort Worth (TX) Telegram, part 1, pg. 11 ad:
Fried Chicken, Country Style, Cream Gravy
24 May 1909, Fort Worth (TX)
, pg. 4:
...chicken fried with cream gravy,...
25 October 1909, Ada (OK) Evening News, pg. 3, col. 2:
WITH CREAM GRAVY
Cowboys Bake Supper Off One.
“Tastes Just Like Fried Chicken,”
7 September 1913, Dallas (TX) Morning News, part 2, pg. 4:
How to Prepare Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy.
Select broiling chickens and cut in joints. Rinse the pieces and wipe dry, season slightly and roll each piece in flour. Cook a half pound of salt pork cut in thin slices, until it is a pale brown. Fry the pieces of chicken in the fat from the pork until they are nice and brown. Drain on paper and lay on a hot dish. Keep warm while you make the gravy as follows:
Pour a cup of milk into the frying pan from which you have removed the chicken; let come to a boil and thicken with half a tablespoon of flour rubbed smooth with a tablespoon of milk. Stir till thick and pour over the chicken.
12 August 1917, Idaho Daily Statesman, “Boys at Boise Barracks Eat at Cost of 41.54 Cents per Day,” pg. 3:
2 February 1919, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 4A:
1003 Grand Avenue, Downstairs
Chicken Fried Steak, Pan Gravy…$.11
24 September 1920, Kansas City (MO) Times, pg. 18 ad:
Chicken Fried Steak, Cream Gravy, Potatoes and Coffee…25c
2 April 1922, Fort Wayne (IN) Journal-Gazette, section 4, pg. 5, col. 6 ad:
Veal Steak, Cream Gravy, 20c
28 July 1929, Abilene (TX) Morning Reporter-News, pg. 6, col. 2:
...dinner, chicken fried steak with cream gravy, mashed potatoes, sliced pickles and onions, fruit pudding, iced tea;...
21 April 1930, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 12, col. 4 ad:
Chicken Fried Steak, natural cream gravy ... 25c
23 June 1935, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. D9, cols. 4-5:
Fried Chicken Cream Gravy
To make the gravy, add 4 tablespoons flour to drippings left in pan. Mix well and add 1 cup water and 1/2 cup cream. Cook until thick creamy mixture forms. Stir constantly. Add 1/8 cup more cream, mix and serve.
4 March 1938, Hammond (LA) Times, pg. 23, cols. 2-3:
Griddles cakes or waffles are natural accompaniments to sausage at breakfast or lunch. A cream gravy may be made with some of the sausage fat. In eastern Pennsylvania sausage with cream gravy is known by the old fashioned term “sausage and sop.” You may serve as well or instead of syrup, honey, or sugar mixed with cinnamon. Tender waffles and griddle cakes and well cooked link sausage—and you can have a real breakfast.
Cook sausages according to directions shown, drain on soft paper and keep in a warm place while making gravy. Pour off all but one-quarter of a cup of the sausage fat and add an equal amount of flour. Stir until well blended, add two cups of milk gradually, while stirring over a low fire. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth and thick, and let boil half a minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with sausage.
6 August 1974, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Wild Hickory Nuts in the Cream Gravy” by Frank X. Tolbert, section A, pg. 15:
For this was “wild hickory nut cream gravy,” the culinary creation, I was told by Deibel, of a prominent Athenian, Jack Yarbrough Hardee. Mr. Hardee, a lawyer, was not among the pea celebrants Saturday but off in Las Vegas, I hope spreading the gospel of wild hickory nut cream gravy.
I don’t have Mr. Hardee’s recipe now but I was told that the barrister often creates the wild hickory nut cream gravy with quail or dove dinners.
12 December 1974, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Here’s Wild Hickory Nut Gravy Formula!” by Frank X. Tolbert, section A, pg. 27:
TO START with you require a large black skillet in which quail or any other game, or chicken or sausage has been fried. Remove all the grease or drippings except for one and one fourth cup, leaving the crusty bits that have fallen from the game, chicken or sausage in the cooking.
Add one cup of flour, two tablespoons of cornstarch, and cook until brown and bubbly.
Then to the mixture add one 13-ounce can of condensed milk and one cup of hot water. Stir constantly until the gravy is smooth and of the right consistency.
NEXT COME the wild hickory nuts! To the gravy add one cup of crushed wild hickory nuts, one quart of homogenized milk, half a can of beer, one tablespoon of lemon pepper, two tablespoons of coarsely ground black pepper, and salt to taste.
Continuously stir the gravy over a low fire until the mixture is complete and the result suits your taste. Always serve the gravy out of the skillet or iron pot in which it has been composed.
Texas Highways Cookbook
by Joanne Smith
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
“But to make chicken-fried authentic, cream gravy is essential.”
(Texas food author Mary Faulk Koock—ed.)
Cooking Texas Style:Tenth Anniversary Edition
by Candy Wagner and Sandra Marquez
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
This is really southern-style gravy. It is probably known best as the finishing touch on Chicken-Fried Steak (Chapter 4) and mashed potatoes. However, split open a hot biscuit and spoon on the gravy and you will be enjoying an eating tradition from the olden days. Cream Gravy and biscuits were almost always on the frontier table and could make a meal stretch if unexpected guests arrived for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.