Arkansas-based chef Matt McClure of The Hive in Bentonville shares his red-eye gravy made with a rich ham hock stock and sweet sorghum syrup: The stock is what gives the smoky richness to the sauce, passing all the salty goodness of the pork knuckle on to the gravy. Be sure to check for seasoning before adding any additional salt (we didn't have to).
The sorghum syrup (made from a grass that grows in large stalks in the South) also adds a hint of smoky sweetness to the gravy. If you have difficulty finding sorghum, feel free to substitute molasses. Once the gravy is done, serve it with your favorite biscuits and enjoy.
To learn more, read "Hock Stock and Two Smoking Biscuits."
Recipe adapted from Matthew McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, AR
Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours and 5 minutes
For the Ham Hock Stock:
2 medium (1½ pounds) ham hocks
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
1 dried guajillo pepper
For the Gravy:
2 tablespoons lard
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups reduced ham hock stock
2 tablespoons sorghum syrup
2 tablespoons espresso
Ham hock meat
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Biscuits, for serving
Fried eggs, for serving
1. Make the stock: In a 4-quart saucepan, combine all the stock ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the hocks are tender, 2 to 2½ hours. Remove the ham hocks and strain the stock. Return the stock to the pan and reduce to 2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, pick the meat off the hocks and set aside, discarding the skin and bones.
2. Make the gravy: In a medium saucepan, melt the lard over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until blond in color, 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the stock and stir until smooth. Add the sorghum syrup and espresso, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved ham hock meat and the vinegar. Season with cayenne.
3. Assemble the dish: Halve the biscuits and divide between plates. Spoon the gravy over top, then top each dish with a fried egg and serve.