Monday, December 26, 2011

Tomato Gravy: Southern Ambrosia (and I don't mean that orange/coconut stuff either)

See the lumpy reddish gravy at 6:00 on the plate?  That's tomato gravy, not the prettiest I've made but the first made that the camera was remembered and the process photographed.

I like to think of it as Southern Ambrosia, food of the gods.  Or something very pleasing to taste and smell.  It's a fambly favorite with or without Christmas breakfast.

Christmas breakfast?  Yep.  Breakfast.  Twenty-four years ago Thanksgiving morning in a small one bedroom apartment on Mount Moriah Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee I awoke to smell nothing.  No thing.  It was different, not having smells of anything cooking when holiday memories previously were infused with scents of deliciousness coming from the kitchen.  Most times the smells would hurl me out of bed and to the kitchen where Mama would welcome the help, ignoring the fact the middle pecan missing from the pie was concomitant with my arrival there.   Mama would put the turkey on the top rack early in the morning when the brothers were awakened to go deer hunting, sent out the door with biscuit and link sausage.  Pecan pies would follow fowl into the oven, squash or pumpkin pies took their turn following the nuts, then casseroles and dressing.  The kitchen was rich with love of fambly, the smells coming from it a happy byproduct.

That first Thanksgiving away from home was difficult to salvage.  I was so excited to finally be out of the Deep South - away from everything I knew.  It should have been cookies (notice I didn't say cake - I can do cake).   It should have been a grand adventure.  Except there were no smells to wake up to.  There was nothing cooking in the kitchen.  It was awful.  I was homesick.  Me!  Homesick!  A vow was made that it would never happen again.  It hasn't, either.  Christmas Breakfast was created.

Every Christmas Eve I'll put a ham in the oven to slow roast the entire night.  Years ago, about the time the babies were waking up the ham would be done.  Everybody knows youngsters don't sleep past five Christmas morning.  

This year's breakfast was a little lighter than previous ones although I did find yellow grits at the Pig.

There is always (I know - no such thing as always but really there always has been) tomato gravy, one of everyone's favorite food.  To make it you'll need:

tomatoes - these are home grown, home canned Marglobe tomatoes, two pints
1/2 cup oil or bacon grease
3/4 cup flour
sugar to taste
salt to taste

See the ham to the left and grits on the back right
burner? MMmmmm...

Put the oil and flour in the skillet and turn on medium heat.
 When there's lots of bacon to be cooked
I bake it in the oven.  It turns out
nice and flat and you don't have to 
stand there and fry it.

With the heat up like this it won't take but a few moments for the flour to brown.

Almost there...

Yep!  I hope you've opened the tomatoes already.  If you haven't, take the dark roux off the heat or else it's going to scorch and make a bitter mess of a gravy.

Add the tomatoes and stir.  It really won't take but two or three minutes for them to thicken.

Add salt to taste and sugar to taste.   Home canned tomatoes don't require much sugar to take the acidic edge off.  GranGranny liked anything made with tomatoes to be very sweet.  My fambly enjoys it without all the sweetness.  Add as little or none at all for your family.   I have a half-cup of sugar in the photo.  I actually sweetened the coffee with a shake of it, using probably 1/4 cup in the gravy.

Here you go.  Christmas breakfast.  
 Can you tell?  I like black pepper.  I learned
a long time ago not to add pepper to the pot
or no one else will be able to eat!

Don't keep tomato gravy in reserve just for Christmas.  Our fambly also enjoys breakfast for supper where it requires little more than a pan of biscuits.  Make breakfast for your bunch tonight!

Since Christmas breakfast was actually on Friday this year so the Oldest Fellow could eat with us, I had Youngest Fellow run to the Pig and pick up a pack of bacon for our REAL Christmas day breakfast, which I put in the oven on warm.  It baked perfectly.   I wasn't waking up on Christmas day without smelling anything - not even in my own house!


  1. I've never heard of this! Some of the people up this way, and more in NJ, refer to marinara sauce as "gravy". I'm trying to separate these in my head. Unfortunately, my brain isn't working right now because it's locked into serious stove envy- that is one gorgeous beast of a cooker you have there ma'am! I'll have to give this gravy a try..... :-)

  2. YUM...that's all I can say!

  3. Just read this little gem again. Love it. Reminds me of wonderful Christmases past. Ah, tomato gravy! Great story, great memories, Mary!