Friday, September 14, 2012

Ham with Red Eye Gravy – Something From Nothing is Something

In this age of cutting back on fat whenever and wherever we can (and by “we” I mean “you”), we forget that throughout most of history, this was the complete opposite. Fat was a concentrated, powerful fuel that literally kept people going, and this red eye gravy is a little taste of those times.

The challenge in tough times is to make those greasy pan drippings more palatable, more interesting, and more delicious. It’s not like families struggling through the depression had pots of demiglace reducing on the stove, or bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon sitting around to deglaze their cast iron skillets – heck, they probably didn’t even have a decent Merlot. So they used what they had; like a splash of leftover coffee.

Is this a recipe that would have been developed based solely on how awesome it tastes? Probably not, but that’s not to say it isn’t still very tasty. It is. The way the bitter coffee marries with the sweet, smoky fat is far from unpleasant, and infinitely better than simply pouring the pan drippings over your food.

By the way, the name apparently comes from the fact that when the sauce is poured in a bowl and brought to the table, the fat and coffee separate, it takes on the appearance of a big, reddish eye. Of course there’s another legend about how General Andrew Jackson told a hung-over cook to make a gravy for his ham that was as red as his bloodshot eyes.

I’m pretty sure whoever made up that story also had very red eyes, but not from whiskey. Anyway, like I said in the video, I did this as more of a culinary experiment than a “you have to try this” recipe, but regardless, I think it’s an interesting dish, and one I’d be interested in hearing about if you do try. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 portions:
1/2 cup of chopped fatty ham scraps
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 thick slices of ham
1 tsp flour
about 2/3 cup black coffee
black pepper and cayenne to taste

View the complete recipe

19 comments:

Rita said...

i guess, a day old coffee will do? something new and an interesting recipe to try!

EvilBetty said...

Not sure how many southern rednecks you have following your blog but, it would not be considered odd in the least to have this gravy served over a beautifully fried or grilled inch-thick bologna steak. Thanks for the homage to my back woods roots.

inchrisin said...

I'm not sure why you're trying to talk me out of making this dish. Serve it up with some mashed potatoes and dressing and you're livin' the good life.

Gin said...

Thank you for qualifying your the recipe by saying that flour isn't traditionally used in redeye gravy BECAUSE IT ISN'T!!!! Also, the fat is poured off into the serving bowl, then the coffee is poured into the skillet, stirred until the drippings are dissolved, then this is poured into the bowl with the fat. Please believe me. I'm a Southern cook who raised hogs for 25 years.

Chris K. said...

Serve your ham & redeye gravy with some fried eggs and buttermilk biscuits. You've got a classic Southern breakfast, packed with enough calories to plow the back forty.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chef, any recipe about the thai food pad thai?? Im a big fan of this noodle!

Anonymous said...

Looks great to me, with grits of course--and a pot of coffee, and a couple cigarettes afterwards (haven't smoked since 91, but urge never really leaves.)

Anonymous said...

Delicious! Served it today with some homemade spaetzli and Swiss chard from the garden. Word of advice to those who drink "European strength" coffee - dilute the coffee! European coffee tends to be stronger than that served in the US. ANd I am not even talking about espresso, ristrette, renversé or GC's Nespresso - just plain percolated coffee for the morning!
As I said, delicious, and luckily went on a 3 1/2 - 4 hour walk with friends after this delicious lunch to work it off!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was "red-eye" because the coffee keeps you awake

Dinda Nizka said...

Wow... It's new for me. I have to try to cook it. New recipe from other country. I will try ;)

averagebetty said...

"Heck, they probably didn't even have a decent Merlot."

Your blog posts are just as entertaining as your videos :)

Chef John said...

Thanks Sara!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

"Far from unpleasant?" Sounds like someone was holding a gun to your head.

Having just returned from Alabama, the red eye gravy capital of the universe, I'm not sure I'd even go that far.

Red eye gravy and boiled peanuts. Enduring Southern mysteries.

Chef John said...

They said not to mention the gun.

Jiah said...

This is brilliant Chef. Thanks for sharing your culinary expert with us!!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Gin, red eye gravy is a traditional christmas morning item in our family and I've never even heard of anyone putting flour in it. And I can't imagine that it would taste good that way.

Stacey Beck said...

Next time I buy an italissima ham I'm going to have to try this. It looks delicious! We always serve turkey and ham on thanksgiving so maybe I will try it then.

cookinmom said...

I had a decent merlot and it was pretty good! Didn't know what to do with my leftovers, so "Chef John to the rescue"!

Billy Rodriguez said...

This made me wonder if anyone had tried a bacon stout, and apparently, someone has! I might have to see about obtaining said stout...