Friday, October 8, 2010

160. Gravy, Six Kinds - My Lucky Day

The pre-made gravies sold in jars and packets attest to the fact that many people shy away from making gravy because their attempts have produced a lumpy goo or they think it takes too much effort. The few commercial gravies that I have tasted left a strange after-taste and were overly salty or seasoned. It also seemed like a waste of good money to pay for a product that costs almost nothing to make.

Some people make gravy from scratch but, have not done their cooking homework. The most curious gravy I ever saw fits into this category. It was served at a holiday open house that my husband and I attended. I knew right away what the bowl next to the sliced turkey contained...but, my husband did not...before I could stop him, he asked the hostess, "Is this applesauce?"

It definitely was an I-wish-I-could-sink-through-the-floor moment.

My mother's homemade gravy, on the other hand was always lump-free, tinted the perfect shade of brown and seasoned to give the most wonderful flavors to meat and vegetables. Unfortunately, I had not paid attention when she made gravy and almost had a disaster the day I discovered that fact.

Shortly after my husband and I were married, we had a few friends over for dinner. I had fixed a beautiful pork roast and finally, except for the gravy, my entire meal was ready to be served. I, who planned the meal down to the last olive, had completely forgotten about the gravy. I did not have any idea what to do or where to mind actually went blank as I stood in shock beside my beautiful roast.

Forcing myself to walk into the living room, I had to ask my guests if anyone knew how to make gravy. An angel named Alice stepped forward and my gravy boat was soon filled with a smooth, golden-brown liquid. Everyone should be so lucky! My heroine not only saved the meal, but she let me in on a secret,"Most gravy is just a little grease blended with flour; simmered and thinned with water or stock."

By explaining its basic chemistry, Alice erased my gravy fears...since then, my sauces and gravies have never been lumpy, too thick, or the texture of applesauce. Today, I pass on my gravy recipes and directions for fool-proof results.

Pan Gravy
(Steps are similar to those for making white sauce)

Remove roast or other meat to a platter and keep warm while preparing gravy.
Spoon out fat from pan into a measuring cup.
*Leave browned meat particles in the pan. (see note below regarding pan usage)

Add 4 T fat back to pan

Blend in 4 T flour over low heat

Mix well, scraping up browned bits ,stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly.

Remove pan from heat

Stir in 2 cups of water, meat juices or broth a little at a time; stirring with each addition.
Place pan back on burner and heat to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Stir for 1 minute.
Add 1 T Gravy Master for beef gravy.
Season with salt, taste.

*Note: In the olden days, gravies were made right in the pan that was used to roast the meat. This still works and assures that all the flavorful meat juices and browned meat particles will be used, but some pans cannot take the heat of a burner. Be sure to see if your roasting pan is made out of heavy-gauge metal. If not, transfer ingredients to a saucepan and proceed.

*What to do with lumps: If, for some reason, you wind up with a few lumps, pour the gravy through a sieve to extract the smooth liquid and serve. No one will ever know!

Mushroom Gravy

Cook and stir 1 cup of clean, sliced mushrooms in the 4 T fat drippings, (or margarine), until light brown. **Continue with addition of the flour step above. Add 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce instead of the Gravy Master. Taste before adding salt and pepper. (A half cup of chopped onions can be sauteed with the onions for many dishes where onions would be applicable).

Cream Gravy

Make as above, but substitute milk for half of the liquid.

Pot Roast Gravy 
(Used when there is more liquid and not much fat)

Skim excess fat from juices in the pot after the meat has been removed. Add water to pot juices to measure 1 1/2 cup total liquid. Put 1/2 cup cold water in a cup, add 1/4 cup flour slowly to cold water and stir with a fork or whisk until well blended. Add back to pot and heat until gravy is thick and bubbly. Add a few drops of Gravy Master. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 2 cups.

Sour Cream Gravy

Remove pot roast from pan. Skim fat from pan, leaving juices. Measure juice to make 1 1/2 cups; add water if necessary. Blend in 1 C sour cream and 3 T flour. Gradually stir in juices. Return to pan and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Do not boil. Season to taste. Makes 3 cups.

Grandma's No-Fat Chicken Gravy

(When you want gravy and have no chicken fat)

In a small saucepan, whisk 1 can evaporated, skim milk, 2 T flour and 1 T chicken bouillon granules. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken. Cook and whisk for 2 more minutes. Do not burn. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

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