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Mmmmmm, Choc-late! Chocolate Gravy
It seems that just about every cooking show or magazine these days features a new gourmet recipe that combines bacon with chocolate.
But people in the Southern U.S. have been consuming that smoky, sweet combination for a long time in a very simple home cooked meal: biscuits and chocolate gravy served with sizzling strips of bacon.
According to some Internet sources, chocolate gravy may have originated with Spanish colonists or traders in the U.S., who might have introduced mole, a Mexican sauce made with various ingredients, including chocolate.
Mole, however, is made primarily with chilies and is spicy and savory compared to chocolate gravy, which is sweet like pudding.
My friend Darin Fenger, features editor for the Yuma Sun, first sampled chocolate gravy when he lived in Carlsbad, N.M., and his friend, Elton West, invited him to his family's home to eat chocolate gravy breakfast with them.
Fenger put me in touch with his friend's mother, Carolyn West, who shared her mom's chocolate gravy recipe with me. A lifelong New Mexican, Carolyn grew up eating this sweet delight.
She says: “And then when I met my husband, I found out that he had actually eaten it when he was a kid also. So it's one of our favorite breakfasts, and our kids grew up eating it. We usually have it over hot biscuits with butter, and we like it with bacon. And of course, our grandkids love it, too.”
The recipe was passed down by Carolyn's mother, who taught Carolyn to pour some cold milk into an iron skillet, mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and cocoa) in a separate dish, and then stir that mixture into the milk slowly, to prevent lumps from forming.
Once the ingredients are mixed well in the skillet, she turns the burner on and cooks the mixture slowly over low heat, stirring frequently until the gravy reaches the desired consistency.
“My husband helps me, and he likes to put a little bit of butter on top when it's all done,” she says.
It doesn't take much chocolate gravy to flavor hot biscuits, Carolyn says. “It's just like if you go somewhere and order biscuits. Everyone's got their preference on how much gravy they want on a biscuit. We break up the biscuit and put butter over it while it's warm and put about a tablespoon of gravy on each half, so it's not a lot.”
Still, chocolate is rich, so it's not on her daily breakfast menu. She typically makes it about once a month on Sundays, when she has leisurely time to cook it for up to 30 or 40 minutes, stirring frequently as it thickens. “It's very relaxing,” she says.
Although chocolate gravy might go well with other foods, she has never tried any variations besides peanut butter. “I like to put a teaspoon of peanut butter in mine, and that makes it really rich and hearty,” she says.
She encourages readers to make a batch of chocolate gravy themselves. While warm gravy is great over hot biscuits, she says leftover gravy that has cooled and further thickened in the fridge is also delicious. Two of her grandchildren will only eat the cold version, which they call pudding, she says with a chuckle.
I tried her chocolate gravy recipe on hot biscuits and must say it is absolutely delicious with bacon and coffee.
Being Hispanic, however, I'm tempted to mix my gravy with some chilies, tomatoes, cumin and other ingredients in order to make mole. I think those Spaniards were onto something.
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1/4 cup flour
2-1/2 cups milk
Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Pour cold milk into a large skillet. Slowly add dry ingredients to milk, mixing well. Turn on heat and gradually warm mixture over low heat until dry ingredients dissolve. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. As the milk gets hotter, the mixture becomes thicker. Continue to stir often. When desired thickness has been reached, add 1/2 stick of butter and mix in as it melts. Serve gravy over hot biscuits with bacon.