The eating season is upon us. Gravy season. That wonderful time of year when a bit of thickened broth, some drippings and the right amount of seasoning can bring you home.
Warning: The following story might be difficult to read for some who are true gravy connoisseurs. It is my hope that I can spread awareness and bring our broth to a better place.
I was at a relative’s house some years back for Thanksgiving…said relative shall remain nameless.
We arrived a bit early and the roasted bird was just coming out of the oven. It glowed in succulent glory as the caramel skin bubbled and spattered oozing turkey infused juices which basted down the bird and collected in the bottom of the tin foil lined pan.
Our hostess carefully removed the bird from the roasting pan and situated the turkey on a beautiful platter. All was as it should be.
Then something terrible happened. Before I could realize the events that were unfolding, the tin foil lining the roasting pan was gathered and crumpled and all the delicious juices were plopped into the garbage. I felt my brain moving in slow motion as I mentally reached for the bits of caramelized skin, roasted onions and herbs and all the flavor that now ran down the side of the waste bin. Such a tragedy. My heart wept, my soul shattered as a CAN of gravy was heated on the stove and several comments made about how tin foil makes clean up a snap…all was lost.
Here’s the thing with gravy, it’s so stinking easy to make! But I know more than a few people who are intimidated by this simple sauce. I think it’s the whole lumpy gravy fear. That somehow the texture of gravy defines us as cooks. But let me tell you, there are worse things in life than lumpy, homemade gravy…things like CANNED gravy which tastes like brown, gelatinous salt, or even worse, those paper envelopes of gravy flavored mystery powder that you mix with water. I see people reach for those in the grocery aisle and I want to take them by the hand and comfort them. “There’s a better way, I can help you.”
So if you’d like to kick the can habit this Thanksgiving, here is an easy, fool proof, lump proof gravy.
Gravy is essentially a broth with condensed flavors and then thickened. Some people use cornstarch as a thickener. My mom does in fact, and we go around and around about this every holiday. I prefer to use a roux. Roux is a simple mixture of flour and butter cooked on the stove top and used as a thickener. The butter lends flavor, but it also lubricates the flour as it’s cooked. Flour alone can be used to thicken sauces, but the result is a raw, doughy flavor. You want the flour to brown ever so slightly which will not only thicken your gravy, but give it a subtle nutty flavor.
5 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp flour
While the turkey/chicken is roasting make the roux. In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium low.
When butter is melted, whisk in 1 tbsp of flour at a time, making sure each is smoothly incorporated. Continue to heat the flour and butter whisking often until the color turns slightly golden about 8 minutes. It will foam and bubble and start to smell nutty. You can set this aside until the turkey is done.
Remove the bird from the roasting pan. Set it on a platter and cover with tin foil to keep it warm. The great thing about making gravy is that it always happens after the meat is cooked so it allows the meat to rest, thus sealing in juices. Win win!
Gravy can be made in a tin foil lined pan, but you get more flavor if it’s not lined because you can scrape the bits of caramelized cracklings off the pan and they will flavor your gravy. You also basically “clean” the pan as you make the gravy so there shouldn’t be too much of a mess.
Place the roasting pan on the stove top. If you have a large pan you can place it on two burners set to low. Gauge the amount of juice in the pan and add chicken stock until you think you have about 4-5 cups. (more or less is fine) You can also add a 1/2 cup of white wine which really makes things delicious!!! (For a delicious broth recipe check out my post 48 Hour Bone Broth)
Cook the liquid on low scraping all the bits off the pan with a wooden spoon. Continue until the liquid has reduced by about a third.
Set a strainer over a medium pot and carefully pour the hot liquid through to get a nice clear broth.
With the burner on low add a bit of the hot stock to your roux pot and whisk to revive the flour. Now slowly add the thinned roux a little at a time back to the stock whisking after each addition until the gravy is the desired consistency. Taste the gravy to check for seasoning, it might need a pinch of salt. And viola!
Wonderful delicious gravy!