The Goddess just realized she has never done a dedicated post to gravy. What was she thinking? She’s teased you with snippets, little bits and pieces of “how-to”, but never really spelled it out…G-R-A-V-Y! If you’re not happy with your gravy, hopefully this post will help you make it perfectly! Gravy is a food group around The Goddess’s table. The Latin Lover and The Sons eat gravy by the “boat” load…I kid you not. It’s what The Goddess refers to as “the mop-effect”. The Sons are moppers. The Eldest One adores using bread like a sponge, to soak up the goodness that is gravy. You do it, too. Now let’s get to down to gravy….
Gravy is simplicity itself. You use pan drippings, you really do need a little bit of fat, some sort of liquid(s), flour (or other thickening agent), heat and some patience. Seriously, it’s that simple. It’s all in knowing how to put it together.
The Goddess believes people need to know why they have to do things a certain way. So, let’s talk roux; the flour and fat combination that is used to thicken many gravies. There are several reasons why you cook the roux. Cooking it adds both flavor and color, but just as importantly, you do this to get rid of the raw flour flavor. You can cook the roux for 2 minutes or 30, but for our purposes, 2-5 minutes is more than enough. The most important reason you need to combine the flour with the fat and cook it, is so each grain of flour is coated with fat, then when the liquid is sloooowly added, you’ll have a smooth, unctuous gravy. No lumps!
It may get pasty, but keep whisking and know that when you slowly add the hot liquid, the planets will fall into alignment, the stars will shine brighter, the boxes in my basement will magically pack themselves, everything will smooth out and all will be right with the gravy! The little bits you see in the gravy are not, I repeat N-O-T lumps, but bits of chicken and shallots…the yummy stuff! This gravy is made from the pan drippings, the fond, left behind by the Cuban-Style Roast Chicken.
Great Boats of Gravy
- 2 tablespoons fat skimmed from the pan drippings
- 1-2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups hot liquid (drippings, water, wine, milk, cream, broth or a combination of)
- pinch of sugar (optional)
- a few drops of lemon juice, cider vinegar or other complimentary acid
This works best if you can use the roasting pan, Dutch oven or skillet that you cooked the meat in. Heat the fat in the pan, add the flour and begin to stir with a wire whisk. This flour/fat mixture is the roux. I may get rather clumpy, but keep whisking to cook the mixture and allow the flour to brown slightly, before adding the liquid. This will ensure a more flavorful and smooth gravy. Make certain you do this over lower heat and scrape as much of the “fond” (that’s the stuff that sticks to the pan during roasting; that’s the flavor!) as possible. Whisk constantly for several minutes.
Now the fun begins—slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the drippings, or whatever hot liquid or combination of liquids you choose, into the pan, whisking furiously. The mixture will thicken quickly, almost seizing. Don’t panic; that’s normal behavior for gravy. Keep adding the liquid, about 1/2 cup at a time, until you’ve added the entire amount. Whisk like crazy during and after each addition. Let the mixture simmer gently for a couple of minutes; whisk in a pinch of sugar, if using. Taste and correct the seasoning by adding salt, pepper and herbs, more sugar and/or an acid. It’s about balance and your taste buds are the best judge of that. This will make about 2 cups of gravy.
Great Boats of Gravy Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
This whole process may take 10 minutes, but probably not even that long. There are a couple of things to think about:
You may want to add some finely minced shallots, onions, leeks, garlic, etc or a combination of these. There may be some of these things in the liquid from your roast. I usually add some shallots, no matter what. I just love them, but you do what you want. I sauté the shallots in the fat for a couple of minutes, then add the flour and proceed with the recipe.
When I make a beef or pork-based gravy, I always add my secret ingredient—2-3 teaspoons ketchup. There, it’s out now…everyone knows my secret. Ketchup fulfills both the sweet and the acid and no one will ever know it’s there. At least they won’t recognize it as ketchup!
Jams, jellies and preserves, even dulce de leche can be used instead of the aforementioned ketchup. So think about your main course and your side dishes when you are choosing your flavoring agents for your gravy. You may use a myriad of liquids, with or instead of broth. Sometimes a combination works best. A little apple cider, 1-4 tablespoons, added to a pork-based gravy is wonderful. It fulfills both the liquid, acid and sweet components. Wine adds a nice touch. Use red wine for beef, pork, lamb and venison gravy and use white wine chicken or turkey gravy. It’s purely aesthetic.
Don’t be afraid to boost the gravy flavor with a small amount of soup base. You can get all sorts of great flavored bases at The Spice Mill. They have a Roasted Garlic Paste that is good added to everything, including gravy.
GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: If you need gluten-free, then you can pour off all the fat, if you wish. The fat does have flavor, but it isn’t necessary to make a nice thick gravy using cornstarch or arrowroot. You’re going to make a slurry, instead of a roux. A slurry combines cold liquid, usually water or wine, with an equal amount of cornstarch or arrowroot. Now many people add this to the skillet, but I prefer to stir the slurry into the hot liquid and then pour the liquid into the pan, whisking furiously, with total abandon, until the mixture thickens. Continue to cook for a minute or two, taste and correct the seasoning, and serve. Remember, do not use arrowroot if you are using dairy, as the mouth feel is a bit funky. It won’t harm you, but it’s a tad unpleasant from a consistency stand point. You can also thicken sauces with potato starch, masa, rice, etc. You can look here for that info. Using arrowroot for things that are freezer-bound is a great option; it does not freeze out and become watery the way cornstarch and flour do. For the sake of honesty, the opening picture is the Beer Gravy from Corned Beef with Beer Gravy and it was thickened with arrowroot. See how shiny it is. That’s a hallmark of arrowroot.
Now, make gravy with abandon, just in time for Thanksgiving. Everyone will be giving thanks for you…and your gravy.