Until a few months ago, the only way I could start my day with the most delicious sausage gravy and biscuits I've ever had was to book an overnight stay at Legoland Florida's Legoland Hotel.
Yes, you read that correctly.
One of my favorite breakfasts while traveling is from a theme park hotel, served complimentary to resort guests (prior to COVID-19) at a breakfast buffet, right next to Lego-shaped waffles and scrambled eggs.
But the pandemic has changed lots of things at Legoland Florida, including how this mouthwatering menu item is served. Since Legoland's Pirate Island Hotel opened earlier this year, the dish now appears on the family-style breakfast skillet at Shipwreck Restaurant, nestled into the center of an enormous skillet filled with other breakfast essentials like bacon, pancakes and home fries.
Still complimentary to hotel guests. Still delicious.
I recently visited Jose Aleman, the executive chef of Legoland Florida Resorts, in his kitchen and asked him for some background on this dish. According to Aleman, who shared the recipe for his sausage gravy with TODAY Food, the dish has been around since 2015 when the Legoland Hotel first opened and was a staple for years on the breakfast buffet at Bricks Family Restaurant, located inside the hotel.
When Legoland's Pirate Island Hotel opened in early 2020, Aleman and his staff decided to move the fan-favorite dish to the new Shipwreck Restaurant for its family-style breakfast, served in a pirate-sized skillet.
"The guests love it, so we decided to bring it over to Shipwreck because we knew the guests were going to want it there," said Aleman.
The sausage gravy served with the biscuits is like none I've tasted before — intensely creamy and flavorful — so now it's a staple of my family's Legoland experience.
But what does Legoland do differently to make the traditional Southern breakfast dish stand out?
"If you look at sausage gravy recipes on the internet, you’re going to find that a majority of them use regular milk, but we use heavy cream and half-and-half, which gives you that richness and creaminess," Aleman explained. "It doesn’t come from the flour or cornstarch, it comes from the reduction of the cream."
"And we have that spiciness that comes from the crushed red pepper," he continued. "We use fresh onions that we also sweat during the preparation and then we finish it up with spices.”
Aleman also said that if the gravy gets too thick, they loosen it up a bit after cooking by adding some half-and-half and stirring until it's the right consistency.
The biscuits are solid, but they aren't the most magical part of the dish: Aleman said they're purchased pre-made from the restaurant's grocery provider. We like the biscuit recipe from Callie's Bakeshop in Charleston, South Carolina.
Aleman, who helped design Shipwreck's family-style breakfast skillet, said that adding breakfast classics like scrambled eggs, bacon or fresh fruit can add more to the dish's flavors and presentation, especially when feeding a crowd.
Another essential is the crock, which keeps the gravy from making other breakfast items soggy until it's time to eat and keeps it warm.
“We like to give the guests a nice amount of biscuits," said Aleman, "and we give them a little crock of gravy so they can just help themselves and go back for more, which they often want to do."