Dish of the Week: Country Ham & Red-Eye Gravy

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re turning south for country-style Red-Eye Gravy.

Also dubbed “poor man's gravy,” “bottom sop,” and “muddy gravy” (among other interesting names), red-eye gravy is a thin gravy made with the pan-drippings of fried ham, bacon, sausage, or other pork. Coffee is also incorporated to deglaze the pan, and the gravy is often served with eggs, biscuits and grits alongside the pan-fried pork to make a traditional Southern breakfast.

The gravy is said to gets its moniker from its appearance, as the coffee and grease form a heterogeneous mixture that resemble a red eye when the coffee hits the pan. Other folklore suggests the name came about when President Andrew Jackson, who was an American General at the time, asked for country ham with some gravy that was "as red as" his cook’s eyes (as the legend goes, the cook had been drinking moonshine the night before). Or it could just be named as such because the coffee present in the sauce will wake you right up.

Regardless, the bold, briny, and slightly bitter gravy packs a punch that's just perfect for an early morning or late night breakfast.

This recipe, from Paula Deen, incorporates sliced country ham, coffee, and a bit of beef bouillon for extra flavor. We suggest adding a pinch of sugar to balance out the bitterness or some hot paprika for spice. And of course, serve it with grits, fried eggs, and home-style biscuits for ultimate satisfaction.


Ingredients serves 4-6
1 (3-pound) country ham, store bought, sliced
2 tablespoons fat from the ham
1/2 cup coffee
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 beef bouillon cube
Optional: pinch of brown or white sugar; hot paprika


Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fat from the ham and render. When the fat is rendered, add the ham steaks and pan-fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove the ham from the pan and set aside on a plate and keep warm.

To the same pan, add the coffee and water and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and the bouillon cube (and if using, sugar and paprika) and stir to incorporate.

Serve the gravy over the ham steaks with fried eggs, grits, and country-style biscuits.

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