When Dolly Parton cooks breakfast for her husband of 54 years, Carl Dean, she often turns to her tried-and-true milk gravy recipe.
In an interview with RuPaul for Marie Claire in December 2020, Parton shared she loves waking up early and starting her day in the kitchen with Dean, and yes, she cooks while wearing her trademark high heels.
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"Well, this morning I made breakfast for my husband and me," she said in the interview. "I made some sausage patties, and I baked some biscuits, and I made some milk gravy. He likes that once in a while. Now, I can’t eat like that all the time, but I enjoy eating it when I do."
What is milk gravy?
TODAY Food turned to chef Art Smith, a James Beard Award winner and sixth generation Floridian who knows a thing or two about Southern cooking, to get some background on the gravy, which is made from milk, cream, flour and spices.
Smith, who serves up Southern staples at his restaurant Homecomin' Florida Kitchen, said milk gravy is a simple dish that can showcase a chef's skills in the kitchen.
"All Southern gravies separate good cooks from great ones," said Smith, "There should never be a mix involved. Gravies are not convenience food — the recipes are rich in memories and soul."
"At its core, a milk gravy is sublime in its simplicity," he added. "It's the melding of technique and tradition."
Making Dolly's recipe
Parton shared her own milk gravy recipe with TODAY, so I decided to give it a try this morning.
After gathering the simple ingredients, I tossed some store-bought biscuits into my oven and cooked a few sausage patties to go with the gravy. Parton instructs aspiring gravy-makers to combine dry ingredients first, then whisk in the milk and cream, so after creating a bowl full of gravy goodness, I tossed it into a pan to come to a boil.
The gravy thickened quickly, and smelled amazing from the thyme and pepper. When it was ready a few minutes later, I poured some on top of my biscuits and served it with sausage patties on the side.
Parton's milk gravy was a hit in my house and brought back some Southern breakfast memories for me: Growing up, my dad would make a similar dish, and after he passed away, I realized I wasn't sure what the gravy was called or how to make it. It was a nice blast from the past to be reunited with a breakfast treat from my youth.
The simple, flavorful gravy was incredibly easy to make and will definitely make more appearances on my breakfast table in the future.
After all, you can't argue with Dolly Parton.