This recipe just makes me smile due to all the goodness it’s brought to me.
I first wrote about Tomato Gravy in September 2010 for the original A Cook and Her Books, my blogspot blog.
This is the headnote I wrote then:
“Before the tomatoes fade for another summer, do yourself a favor and make tomato gravy and biscuits for yourself and your family. This isn’t the kind of “gravy” or “sauce” that you serve with pasta, just a creamy white gravy with chopped tomatoes, cooked up in a cast iron skillet and served over split buttermilk biscuits.
“My mother was a fine cook, but I did not grow up with this dish. I discovered it through other cooks and writers. Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis write about it in “Gift of Southern Cooking,” and if I remember correctly, serve the gravy with fried chicken.
“Cooks can spend a lifetime perfecting their biscuit recipes, and I’ve tried quite a few, but I always go back to the recipe on the back of the bag of White Lily self-rising flour, using whole fat buttermilk, when I can find it, and brushing the tops of the biscuits with melted butter.
“This recipe can be made with bacon fat instead of butter. I usually serve bacon alongside and keep the butter in the gravy.
Food52 Enters the Story
In 2013, I posted the tomato gravy recipe and a truly amateur-ish photo of the dish on a new platform called Food52, where it got very little attention, and so I went about my life.
Then in 2018, out of the blue, a Food52 editor emailed and asked if I could update the story with a new headnote. I was feeling a little extra, as the kids say, and I decided to reach out to Chef Scott Peacock to see if he would talk with me about tomato gravy. To my surprise and delight, he responded to my Facebook message and wrote some lovely notes about the recipe. I felt like I’d made a friend.
The story published on Food52. And then…
I Became a Biscuiteer
The following spring, I became a Biscuiteer when I visited Scott in Marion, Alabama, and learned how to make his buttermilk biscuits. Scott’s recipe is the one I use now. I wouldn’t even think of using the recipe on the back of the bag.
I’ve made two additional pilgrimages to Marion since that first visit. The second, in the fall of 2020 with my friend (and fellow garden writer) Helen Lawson and we learned how to make chicken & dumplings. In fall 2021, my daughter Laura and I returned to the biscuit kitchen for her turn at the biscuit table.
Biscuits Need Gravy
Since I first wrote about tomato gravy more than a decade ago, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit to fit the way I cook. I use a food processor now to chop the tomatoes, and stir the mixture in near the end of cooking. Bacon is no longer a staple in the Mercer kitchen, so we look for chicken or turkey sausage to accompany. It’s still delicious and my family requests it when the tomatoes are plentiful in late summer.
Try this recipe and read Scott’s notes on tomato gravy over on Food52.
You’ll find Scott Peacock’s stellar, definitive buttermilk biscuit recipe here.
Tomato Gravy Recipe
I core the tomatoes and place them in the food processor, pulsing 5 or 6 times to get a good rough chop that’s just shy of a puree. My three large garden tomatoes yielded 2 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes.
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup milk (I use low-fat organic milk)
- In a heavy skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sauté onion until softened. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and cook for another minute. (I start with about a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and maybe 3 turns of the peppermill.)
- Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and cook, stirring well for another couple minutes.
- Slowly add the milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in the chopped tomato and cook for five more minutes. Taste for seasoning, adjust.
- Serve warm with split buttermilk biscuits.