In and around New Orleans, you’re going to find what is called red gravy, which is a usually spicy Italian-style tomato sauce. But in most of the rural inland South, tomato gravy, like sausage gravy, is a variation on what we’ve all come to know as sawmill gravy. When possible, of course you’re going to use fresh, ripe home-grown tomatoes. Second-best are home-canned tomatoes, but you’ll find people using store-bought canned tomatoes, whole, diced, pureed or sauced. Bacon drippings are the traditional fat, and the liquid, in addition to the tomato juice, can be water, stock or milk, or combinations thereof. For instance, Bill Neale’s recipe calls for chicken stock or water, while Robert St. John’s recipe calls for both chicken broth and milk. In both recipes, fresh tomatoes are peeled, seeded and chopped or diced. Traditionally served over buttermilk biscuits, rice or grits, Neale among others also recommends it for fried chicken, and tomato gravy is wonderful for smothered chicken or chops, too.
2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped (can also use a 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes or an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce/tomato puree)
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Cut up tomatoes in bowl, add the salt, pepper, sugar and garlic powder and mix well. Heat bacon drippings in a skillet, add flour and make a roux, pour in tomatoes and water or milk and cook until thickened.