Friday Food Porn: Makin’ Gravy!

Published February 13, 2015 by administrator

Gravy

No, children, that is not a euphemism. We’re actually talking about the proper technique for making gravy. I get a lot of questions and comments about it, so I figured I’d go ahead and spill it here for everyone to enjoy. I make gravy three ways, and I do all three quite regularly. Now keep in mind this is a talent not everyone possesses out of the gate, but it can, in fact, be taught. Trust me on that…I used to be a horrible gravy-maker, but I’ve learned how to do it. My mother always said the two hardest things to master in the kitchen are gravy and biscuits. I still haven’t figured out biscuits yet.

So first, let’s talk about the different types of gravy:

VARIATIONS

  • Meat-based milk gravy: made with beef drippings, pork sausage, or fatback grease as a base, it’s by far the unhealthiest (and best tasting) topping of the lot.
  • Poultry gravy: traditionally a holiday staple, poultry gravy is made from chicken or turkey stock and often includes the giblets, eggs, and other goodies.
  • Meatless gravy: for the vegetarian crowd, this gravy uses a butter and oil base with vegetable stock, chunky veggies, and lots of heavy seasoning.

(Yes, it’s possible to make a vegan-style gravy, but in my experience it doesn’t taste very good due to the limited flavor combinations. It’s made similarly to the Poultry Gravy, except you use vegetable stock and load up on the veggies, salt, and fresh herbs. I’m not vegan, so it’s not my preferred method. However, I have done it in the past for others.)

Different gravies are used for different things. The easiest and most common is the first – the meat-based milk gravy. I make this about once a week in some form or another because it goes well with potatoes, rice, and half a dozen other starchy vegetables. Plus it’s an easy way to keep beef from going dry. I’ve made meatless gravy, but being a carnivore, it isn’t my favorite. HOWEVER, I don’t like to leave anyone out and when I have guests who are of the herbivoric persuasion, I like to make sure they can enjoy dinner as well.

Each variation has different ingredients, and different techniques. But they all require the same basic equipment and many of the same ingredients.

The Equipment

The Ingredients

  • Heavy-bottomed sauce pan
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Two large cups
  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Fork
  • Whisk
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Butter and/or oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Bouillon or liquid stock
  • Spices
  • Corn starch
  • Browning liquid
    (like Kitchen Bouquet)

Once you’ve decided what type of gravy you want to make, the next step is to tailor your ingredient list to your dinner. I’ll give you three examples of gravies I’ve made in recent months. Then we’ll talk technique.

Hamburger Steak Gravy

Turkey Gravy

Mushroom Gravy

  • Meat drippings
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp oil or butter
  • 1 cube/teaspoon beef bouillon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • garlic powder, oregano,
    seasoning salt, rosemary
  • Kitchen Bouquet browning
    liquid
  • 3 cups Turkey stock
    (with giblets included)
  • 1 cube/teaspoon chicken
    bouillon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp COLD water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c minced sweet onion
    (or shallots)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 c sliced mushrooms
    (any variety)
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  •  2 tbsp butter, softened

Now let’s talk about how to make a good gravy. The most important step is going to be your stirring. Keep it moving in the pan, otherwise you’re going to have lumpy gravy every time. The mechanics vary a little from gravy to gravy (except Poultry Gravy, but that’s a totally different kettle of catfish), but the basic idea is the same: Just keep stirring!

You always want a big, deep skillet to do this. Mine is a 14″ diameter, 2″ deep Cuisinart pan. The brand doesn’t matter. I just happened to get it for cheap at TJ Maxx a few years back.

There’s also a little bit of math involved. For a good, naturally-thickening gravy, you want your base-to-flour ratio to be fairly even. 3-4 tablespoons of meat drippings/butter combination to 3-4 tablespoons of flour. That also means you’re going to be adding 3-4 cups of liquid once your roux is ready. If the ratio is off too much, chances are your gravy isn’t going to do right.

Here’s how it works:

  • Poultry gravy is easy. Throw everything but the cornstarch and cold water into your pot and cook it for as long as you like. You can continue to add water if it cooks down too much. Five minutes before you serve, turn your fire up to about medium-high. Mix your corn starch and cold water together (add the water to the starch or it does weird things) and pour into your pot.  Stir until it thickens, then serve. (Note: I usually start mine when I put my bird in the oven. Throw everything in and cook it on medium-low to low until the bird is done. Then I pour the critter drippings into the pot and fire it up so it’ll thicken.)
  • For your non-poultry gravies, you want to make sure your base (meat drippings or oil) is good and warm. If you have onions or other veggies you’re using, you’ll want to throw those in now. Cook them over medium-high heat about five minutes, until the onions are translucent. Keep Stirring! You also want to make sure you keep the bottom of the pan scraped down. Those crunchy bits are your flavor.
  • Once your veggies are ready, drop your heat to medium. Add your flour and stir with a whisk. You’re going to be testing your motor skills, so settle in. You want to incorporate all of your flour into the liquid mixture. It’ll turn thick and resemble bubbly custard. Keep stirring until you get a nice reddish-brown color (that’s why we call it a roux). Keep stirring through every bit of this next step or your gravy will go lumpy.
  • Begin adding your liquid. You’ll want to do this slowly and roughly 1/2 cup at a time. The roux will immediately get thick and lumpy, but as you add more liquid and stir, it’ll even out. By the time you’re done you’ll have a thin gravy.
  • Next, add the rest of your ingredients – bouillon, seasonings, extra veggies… that sort of thing. Once it comes to a boil, reduce your heat to medium-low and slide a lid about 3/4 of the way onto the pan. Stir it every few minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan well each time. After about half an hour, you’ll have a nice, rich gravy.
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