Red-eye gravy is a thin sauce often seen in the cuisine of the Southern United States and associated with the country ham of that region.
Other names for this sauce include poor man’s gravy, bird-eye gravy, bottom sop and red ham gravy. Red-eye gravy is made from the drippings of pan-fried country ham, bacon, or other pork, typically mixed with black coffee. The same drippings, when mixed with flour, make the base for Sawmill gravy. Red-eye gravy is often served over ham, cornbread, grits, or biscuits.
A common practice is to dip the inner sides of a split biscuit into the gravy to add flavor and keep the biscuit from being too dry when a piece of country ham is added between the two halves: the Southern “ham biscuit”. Another popular way to serve red-eye gravy, especially in parts of Alabama, is with mustard or ketchup mixed in with the gravy. In Louisiana, Cajun cuisine-style gravy is often made with a roast beef instead of ham. Black coffee is always used, and it is often a strongly brewed chicory coffee.
The gravy is ladled over the meat on a bed of rice, staining the rice a dark brown color. Often, French bread and beans are also served as a side, like butter beans, lima beans, or peas. The Mississippi variation uses red wine in the place of coffee.
Red Eye Gravy’s name comes from its distinct appearance. Prepared traditionally, with coffee and grease combined in the last step, a heterogeneous mixture forms with the water-based coffee sinking to the bottom and the oil-based grease forming the top layer. In a round bowl the mixture looks much like a red human eye.
After the ham has been cooked, the grease is drained from the pan and black coffee is added to deglaze the pan.
What makes red-eye gravy so good? Could it be the coffee? With coffee being the main flavoring for this gravy, some have speculated the term red-eye is most likely making reference to one’s condition on the morning after a night of drinking.
I decided to put a twist on my version of red-eye gravy by adding a cup of BBQ sauce and soda to sweeten to pot or so to speak.
There are so many different recipes for Red-Eye Gravy some call for brown or white sugar. Some recipes suggest using a little vegetable oil to keep the ham from sticking to the pan.
Some recipes suggest that you bring the red-eye gravy to a boil, while others recommend against this. For those who can’t have caffeine you can always use decaffeinated coffee to make your gravy.
So give it a try, and toss your ingredients into a slow cooker, turn it on high and in 6-8 hours you will have a flavorful roast that shreds with a fork, just don’t forget the coffee……
And a hearty appetite!
3-4 pounds chuck steak
3 garlic cloves minced
1 small sweet onion; cut into thin slices
8 oz KC Masterpiece
8 oz Coca-cola
2 cups fresh brewed coffee
Salt & Pepper to season chuck steak
Set slow cooker on high heat for 6-8 hours.
Slice onion in half and then into small slices and put into slow cooker.
Mince garlic and set aside.
Bust out the cast iron skillet and get it screaming hot, then add seasoned chuck steak to hot skillet and sear both sides, each for 3-5 minutes.
Once the chuck steak is seared place into slow cooker.
Add coffee to skillet to deglaze, use a wire whisk to scrape up and bits on the bottom of the skillet and add minced garlic, drop heat to medium and bring to a soft boil.
Add coke and BBQ sauce and mix all liquid thoroughly, then pour over seared meat in slow cooker.
Six to eight hours later you will have a savory fall apart chuck roast with a hint of sweet and the subtle flavor of the south!