Sunday, August 4, 2019

Biscuits with chocolate a perfect salty-sweet combo

ChocolateGravy3

Here's my latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

A meal of biscuits and gravy is a long-held Appalachian breakfast staple — one that uses up the tasty skillet leftovers to create a delicious, tummy-filling dish.

This simple homemade breakfast can often be an indulgence in and of itself, but consider an even more extravagant kind of gravy to top those fluffy, buttery biscuits: chocolate.

Now, hear me out. You might be thinking that’s gross. But not all gravy has to be made from meat fat and drippings. Rather, a gravy can be roux thickened in a skillet using fat — in this case, butter.

Chocolate gravy is an Appalachian tradition made with cocoa powder, sugar, flour, milk, butter — all whisked smooth and poured over top hot, flaky biscuits.

Commonly found in the mountain South, chocolate gravy may have made its way to the area in the form of Mexican-style breakfast chocolate via trading between Spanish Louisiana and the Tennessee Valley, according to “The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.”

“Another possibility is that the very old population of mixed-race Appalachian Melungeons has preserved the dish from the 16th and 17th century Spanish colonies on the East Coast,” the passage continues.

However it made its way to the mountains, chocolate gravy fits right in. It speaks to the resourcefulness of the people here and making use of pantry staples to create a tasty meal — an indulgence when such luxuries were often difficult to come by.

While chocolate gravy may not be prevalent in the more northern part of Appalachia, it has a beloved place in the southern region — for sweet snacks and special Sunday morning breakfasts. And if you still turn your nose up at the thought, consider how satisfying this dish could be after winter dinners of beans and cornbread or vegetable stew.

For those who have never tasted the spread, think of a chocolate pudding. In fact, the two are so similar you can swap the flour in the chocolate gravy recipe for cornstarch and have a dessert. But poured over hot, buttery homemade biscuits, chocolate gravy becomes a meal. The sweet, rich chocolate mingled with the saltiness of a flaky biscuit is a classic flavor combination.

Think caramel popcorn. Think peanut butter and jelly. Think chocolate-covered pretzels.

While this meal may elicit strange reactions with its name, its flavor will make for salivating taste buds. The dish has been producing this same reaction for decades, with creators sharing the magic with friends and family.

This classic mountain South Appalachian recipe makes use of available ingredients and turns it into something extraordinary — which gets at the heart of what makes Appalachian dishes so special. These are real, authentic dishes that are rooted in our history and continue to be part of our story.

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