A long ago kitchen hack becomes a country breakfast classic
Many Texans begin their day with a breakfast of country ham and red-eye gravy.
Country ham is a cured meat made popular during the 1940s and typically is very salty. Red-eye gravy came about from a skillet-cleaning hack in which coffee was poured into the hot skillet and used to deglaze stuck-on meat particles. Some enterprising soul decided to use that combination of caramelized meat and coffee as a gravy for dunking biscuits. Liking the results, this person began topping his ham, eggs and grits with it. It’s easy to make and if you’ve never had it, do yourself a favor and give it a try.
Country Ham with Red-eye Gravy
1 slice country ham
1 tablespoon butter
¾ cup strong black coffee
1 tablespoon sugar (preferably brown, but granulated sugar will do)
¼ cup water (optional)
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Score ham slice every couple of inches around the edges to prevent curling and fry until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes each. Remove from skillet and keep warm.
Pour coffee into hot skillet. Scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Bring to a simmer. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Reduce slightly. (This will still be a thin gravy.)
Place ham on a plate and pour gravy over the top. For a complete meal, serve with eggs, grits and/or biscuits.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.