Dutch Oven Biscuits with Tomato Gravy

Spooning tomato gravy over a fresh biscuit on a plate.

A Taste of Wild - Gulf Coast

Jon and Aubrey head south to the Gulf Coast to discover the hot, humid bayou country, explore the deep and diverse flavors of Cajun and Creole cooking and share their favorite eats along the way.

Dutch Oven Biscuits and Tomato Gravy

I’m sitting in the captain’s chair and sipping tea early one morning. Jon’s still asleep while I watch the fog dance through the trees of Biloxi, Mississippi. It’s a lazy morning and we had a long drive yesterday. I stand from my chair and turn to the cupboard––it’s the perfect time to make a big breakfast with no interruptions. In honor of our journey south, I decide I’ll make biscuits and gravy.

Traditional biscuits and gravy first appeared in the South because of the region’s strong ties to Scotland. In the 1700s, a large number of Scots began emigrating to the American colonies, bringing their traditional ways of cooking with them. With an emphasis on simple dishes, the Scots were able to take readily available ingredients such as flour, fat and cream, and create lasting, hearty meals—perfect for long days out tending fields.

Achieving the perfect golden, flaky biscuit can be a challenge, even when you’re not cooking them in a dutch oven. Traditional kitchen ovens help regulate and maintain a steady heat—which is sometimes tricky when you’re cooking outside. To help with this, try cooking over coals instead of firewood. Coals get hotter and burn longer and more steadily than wood. Placing hot coals on top of the lid will also help circulate the heat and cook the biscuits more evenly. Feel free to periodically check on the biscuits as well. When they begin to brown on top, you know they’re good to go. (We flipped our biscuits to ensure a perfect golden brown on both sides––rather than potentially scorching the bottoms.)

When you think of biscuits and gravy, you probably aren’t picturing a juicy tomato gravy––but that’s exactly what makes this recipe so delicious. Unlike a typical pasta sauce, this tomato gravy has a much smoother and glossier finish. The base is that of a traditional brown gravy—flour and fat—but the true flavor comes from the onions and bacon. When making the roux for your tomato gravy from flour and fat, using bacon grease gives it a richer taste. The grease helps balance the acid from the tomatoes, rounding out the flavors. Acidic tomatoes don’t play well with cast iron. They can strip the seasoning from the pan and give your gravy a metallic taste. We recommend using a nonstick skillet here to protect your cast iron and the flavor of your gravy.

Lastly, if you think six biscuits won’t be enough to fuel your breakfast party, feel free to double the recipe for a full dozen. That way you can mix and match your toppings—a generous spoonful of tomato gravy for some, a slab of butter and a drizzle of honey for others and a dollop of fresh jam for the rest. 

Dutch Oven Biscuits

Dutch Oven Biscuits

Yield: 5-6 biscuits
Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 12 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 ½ tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cup cold butter, grated
  • 1 ¾ cup buttermilk + 1 ½ tablespoon to brush top

Cooking Tools

Method

  1. Grease and flour dutch oven and set aside.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Working quickly, use your fingers to coat the flakes of cold butter with the flour. 
  3. Mix flour mixture with buttermilk and fold by hand until just combined. 
  4. Using fingers to push the dough into a rectangle ¾-inch thick.
  5. To achieve that ultra fluffy biscuit with lots of layers, practice what the French do to make puff pastry: Fold the dough in thirds, like folding a piece of paper to fit an envelope. Don’t use a rolling pin and don’t overwork the dough, just use your fingertips to push the dough back down to a ¾-inch rectangle. Repeat this step two more times. 
  6. Use a ring cutter or a mason jar to cut out circles from the dough. 
  7. Place the dough circles in your dutch oven, cover with a lid and place on hot coals. 
  8. Not all hot coals are created equal, so bake for 10-12 minutes and check the biscuits as you go. Look for whether the biscuits have risen or begun to brown at the top. Sometimes you might even need to take one out for a taste test… (baker’s privileges.) If the biscuits don’t quite look done, cover with the lid and cook for three more minutes at a time, making sure to check often.
  9. Remove from cast-iron and enjoy with tomato gravy, jam, butter or honey.
Tomato Gravy

Tomato Gravy

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep: 10 minutes Cooking: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces bacon, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons bacon grease or oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (or one 14 oz. can tomatoes, roasted and crushed)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or 2 cups water and 1 chicken bouillon cube)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper 
  • Sugar (optional)

Cooking Tools

  • Non-stick pan (Note: tomatoes don’t do well in cast iron)
  • Mason jar for grease drippings
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Measuring spoons

Method

  1. Fry bacon, remove and set aside. Carefully remove the bacon grease and hold nearby in a mason jar. 
  2. Add four tablespoons of grease back into the pan. (You can also use vegetable oil if you prefer.) It's important to have exactly four tablespoons; you’ll see why below. Add chopped onions to the grease and sauté for 2-3 minutes until slightly translucent.
  3. Add in the flour and stir slowly but constantly to create a roux. Continue stirring for about 2-3 minutes until the flour browns slightly. 
  4. Slowly stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Then add the chicken stock and heat to a boil. Continue to cook the mixture until the liquid has reduced by about a third.
  5. Finish by adding the chopped bacon, heavy cream, butter and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  6. If you’re using store-bought or canned tomatoes, they can be a bit acidic. Add a pinch or two of sugar to help round out the flavor. 
  7. Serve over biscuits. 

Jon and Aubrey used the dutch oven, stove and cutting board from Camp Chef, a brand THOR recommends for easy campground cooking.