Friday, November 6, 2009

Southern Supper

There's another Southern cook in my life, my pal NamasteNancy, who leaves thoughtful comments from time to time on my blog. Nancy and I share an interest in art and cooking, and we both come from Navy families; we've bonded over lunches, art exhibits and sea stories about the Navy.

When I wrote about Shrimp and Grits, she weighed in with a recipe for red eye gravy, a southern specialty that goes well with cheesy grits and ham steaks. I had some grits left over, so the ham and red eye gravy seemed almost inevitable.

Nancy found this recipe for red eye gravy from the late lamented Gourmet magazine and left me this comment as encouragement to try it:

Red eye gravy is another subject of much controversy; some people make it with coffee and some with chicory or even Cola-Cola! The recipe that I found from Gourmet uses butter but my family used bacon drippings (the better to raise your cholesterol level with, my dear), We also added paprika but that’s not traditional either. You can also add a dash of pepper sauce - it doesn't make it too spicy, honest!

Ham and Red-Eye Gravy

Recipe Courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

Prep Time:
10 min
Inactive Prep Time:
0 min
Cook Time:
10 min

4 servings


* 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
* 1 1/2 pounds baked Virginia ham, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
* 1/4 cup brewed coffee
* 1/2 cup boiling water
* Hot pepper sauce to taste
* Spoon bread or buttered cooked grits as an accompaniment if desired


In a large skillet heat the butter over moderately high heat until the foam subsides and in it sauté the ham in batches, turning it once, for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until it is browned, and transfer it to a platter. Into the skillet pour the coffee and 1/2 cup boiling water and cook the mixture over high heat, scraping up the browned bits, for 2 minutes. Season the gravy with the hot pepper sauce and pepper and pour it over the ham slices. (If desired, strain the gravy before pouring it over the ham.) Serve ham and gravy with spoon bread or grits.

A bit of the history:"

I followed these directions with few changes (I used a 1-to-1 coffee to water ratio; butter as I didn't have bacon drippings on hand; and a dash of sriracha for the heat. I also don't know where to get the real-deal Virginia ham in California, so I used a Niman ranch uncured ham sliced to the desired thickness) and was surprised that the result was a thin, coffee-flavored and milky coffee-colored juice that we poured over our ham steaks - I admit to a hint of skepticism and trepidation when I made the first pour.

I needn't have worried - it was really good. The slightly bitter coffee cut wonderfully through the richness of the ham steaks and complimented surprisingly well the cheesy grits. Nodding and raising eyebrows in that "Who knew?" way, My Beloved and I enjoyed every bite.

I can't imagine how this would taste if the red eye gravy was made with Coca-Cola - and I shudder to think - but we did drink a glass of iced Coke with this southern supper. It just seemed fittin'.

Thanks, Nancy!


Blogger Kailyn said...

Sounds perfectly normal to use Coca Cola because if you had gotten your hands on some real Virginia ham, you would have wanted to cook it in 7-Up. It can be too salty if you don't.

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger namastenancy said...

Your recipe sounds utterly delicious! I think that Kailyn is right; Coca Cola would have fit in with the very salty Smithfield ham and I know that some Southerners like that sweet taste - look at the deserts. Pecan Pie! Ambrosia Salad! Now, I've never had it made with Coca Cola because my grandmother would have pitched a hissy fit but I am sure that she would have approved of your version.

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger Kailyn said...

Nancy, you are so right about the sweets. My aunts always felt that a holiday meal needed ambrosia. And red velvet cake. And sock-it-to-me cake.

Now we're entering the season of sweet potato pie and mincemeat pie. Nation's carries the latter in November and December.

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I've never had red eye gravy. Can't stand the name, or the fact that coffee is an ingredient. (I know. I should try it.)
I'm such a Yankee, I put mustard on my ham.

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger namastenancy said...

Now, cookiecrumb, darlin'. Ya'all just should try it one time. Don't be put off by any d*&m Yankee ideas. I read that it got the name "red eye" because it was a way to wake up after a night spend ..well, doing some things that you just shouldn't outter. probably in combination with drinking moonshine. Coffee, grease and grits!

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Nancy: You might be surprised to know I'm gaga over grits. And most Southern cooking.
(Still haven't gotten around to making the Turkish Delight. Darn.)

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

I'm with Cookie, mustard for ham, French mustard, with seeds.

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger Kailyn said...

Mustard? Now I love mustard. Keep at least four kinds on hand. But on ham? Doesn't it overpower the taste of the ham?

Friday, November 06, 2009  
Blogger namastenancy said...

I don't want to hijack Zoomie's blog; after all, she has been more than gracious. But Elizabeth David has a delicious recipe for a creamy mustard sauce to serve with ham. I'm sure that my grandmother would have approved.

Saturday, November 07, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Not to worry, Nancy, I'm enjoying the interplay.

Saturday, November 07, 2009  

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