Thursday, January 25, 2018

Southern Style: Tomato Gravy

Contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food loves the Northwest, its people, its farms, its producers and its food, but he has a special fondness and respect for Southern foodways. Here he shares a favorite recipe for a Southern version of gravy.

This is not Italian-American Sunday gravy, the long-cooked tomato sauce used for the week's pasta dishes. Southern tomato gravy has its roots in Appalachia, where the cold winters meant produce had to be put up when it was ready. Tomatoes in the garden meant canned tomatoes for the pantry. Ronni Lundy, one of the founders of the Southern Foodways Alliance and part of the hillbilly diaspora, says that "tomato gravy is a quick winter fix intended to remind you of the sharp tang of the summer garden."

Love that there are lots of roasted tomatoes put away!

And gravy, traditionally made with flour-thickened drippings from some kind of cooked meat, makes a little something extra from a few scraps, something that any cook can appreciate. Gravy adds flavor to simple, filling foods like rice, grits, biscuits or potatoes. While you could use just olive oil for this tomato gravy, some bacon grease will give it the real flavor of Appalachia. Tomato gravy was traditionally served with cornbread, rice, or biscuits, but it's also great with beans, especially red peas.

Chop an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and cook them with a good pinch of salt in a few tablespoons of bacon grease or extra virgin olive oil (or a mix of both) for a few minutes, preferably in a cast iron skillet. (Sometimes I'll also add a little chopped celery and some kind of pepper, often a seeded and chopped jalapeño.) Sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour into the skillet, stir it in and cook for another minute or two until it just begins to color. Add a 14-oz. can of crushed or diced tomatoes (I like Pomi brand) [You can also use a quart of those tomatoes you roasted this summer. - KB] and a small drizzle of cane syrup or sorghum syrup, if you have any. Add a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper, more salt if needed, and simmer for about 15 minutes. It should be thick, like, well, gravy.

No comments: