You may have thought you knew Southern food, but unless you’ve had chocolate gravy, you really are just a dilletante — which is what I was until I lost my chocolate gravy virginity this morning. For some reason, the gospel of the almight chocolate sauce has not been preached from the Appalachian mountaintops. I’m fairly well-read on Southern food, but until earlier this week, when I was reading the New Encylcopedia of Southern Culture’s volume on Foodways, I read a description of a type of “gravy” common in the Appalachian regions of the South. This flour-thickened sauce is typically served with biscuits for breakfast. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, there are several legends regarding the origin chocolate gravy:”Spanish Louisiana had a trading network in to the Tennessee valley. This trade may have introduced Mexican-style breakfast chocolate to the Appalachians, where it is called ‘chocolate gravy.’ (Another possibility is that the very old population of mixed-race Appalachian Melungeons has preserved the dish from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish colonies on the East Coast.)”
Of course, I had to thoroughly research this sauce. Is it a mole? Is it sweet or savory? Is it just for breakfast? I had lots of questions, and fortunately, chocolate gravy isn’t as uncommon as I would have thought. Search the internet, and you’ll finds hundreds, or even thousands of entries on chocolate gravy. I was getting depressed, as I really didn’t know how I could manage to live 44 years without ever having tried this Southern specialty.
After looking at a bunch of recipes, I decided I needed to choose one that looked right to me. And then I realized, this is just a bechamel with cocoa powder and sugar added. Once I realized that, it was a piece of cake to make the stuff. Melt some butter, add flour, cocoa powder and sugar. Slowly add some milk — just like you might make a meat-based gravy. Finish with vanilla. Wow, it was good and will be a staple at our breakfast table for years to come.
Recipe after the break.
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
4 Tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
Melt butter in skillet. Stir in flour, cocoa powder and sugar and continue to cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk a bit at a time, making sure to incorporate it fully. Once all the milk has been added, cook for another 2 minutes, until thick. Add vanilla off heat. Serve over biscuits, toast or if you really want to be decadent, toasted pound cake. Some people even serve it over eggs, but I’m not quite ready for that yet.