My Gravy Train
October 10, 2014
The Fords may not approve, but I make lots, in advance . . . .
Mayor Rob Ford was always badmouthing “the gravy.” Sorry, Mr. Mayor, sometimes you just gotta have it.
Granted, Ford was talking in clichés about lavish spending. And I'm talking about actual lavish gravy. Savory, velvety gravy that you are tempted to guzzle like soup. Gravy that makes your lips smack. Better than crack, I say.
That kind of gravy doesn’t come out of a package or a can. It is gravy you make yourself. Good news: Even with minimal cooking skills, you, too, can jump on the gravy train. More good news: You can make gravy in advance. You don’t even have to wait for a roast. The best news: Never again will you have to skimp on the gravy.
Summer’s over and, poof, we are suddenly diving into feasting season. The best gravy is made from the drippings of a roast beast or bird. But this is never enough – especially at holiday meals, when everyone at the table is clamouring for a bucket of gravy. No wonder I have started to prepare basic gravy in advance. If I have a roast, I work some magic with the drippings, then supplement with my Hasty Gravy. (I call this combination Land of Plenty Gravy.) If I don’t have a roast, I serve Hasty Gravy impromptu – simple enough to make on a whim. In either scenario, presto, the gravy boat runneth over.
It’s election season as well as feasting season, with the seemingly interminable politicking culminating on Oct. 27. Mayor Rob Ford and The-Man-Who-Would-Be-Mayor Doug Ford don’t approve of lavish amounts of gravy. But who cares about Tweedledum and Tweedledumber? And who cares that we are talking about two different things? This weekend, my mind is on dinner, not politics. So pass the gravy. I want it, and lots of it, for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and just because.
Recipes: Hasty Gravy and Gluten-Free Hasty Gravy; Land of Plenty Gravy; Dripping Gravy and Gluten-Free Dripping Gravy (variation); Hasty Cider Gravy and Gluten-Free Cider Gravy; Hasty Peppery Mushroom Gravy and Gluten-Free Peppery Mushroom Gravy; Hasty Herb Gravy and Gluten-Free Herb Gravy; Hasty Wine & Bacon Gravy, Hasty Red Wine Gravy (variation), Gluten-Free Wine & Bacon Gravy and Gluten-Free Red Wine Gravy (variation); Hasty Mushroom & Port Gravy, Pan Mushroom & Port Gravy (variation) and Gluten-Free Mushroom & Port Gravy,
The Elements of Gravy
Your basic gravy is a mixture of stock (and other liquids), fat and thickener (usually flour or cornstarch), with flavour boosters thrown in.
Stock Etc: In an ideal world, you’d use homemade stock. But don’t let that stop you. Commercial chicken or beef stock (I recommend the low-sodium kind) is an acceptable base for impromptu gravy.
If you have juices from a roast, you can add them. To obtain juices, pour drippings into a gravy separator. The fat will float to the top and can be skimmed separately. Also, to capture more juices, always rest meat, tented with foil, before cutting it on a board with a trough. That way, the flavourful juices won't puddle onto the counter. Add captured juices to your stock of, well, stock for gravy, or simply pour them into finished gravy.
If desired, throw some alcohol into the mix. Dry red or white wine, port, marsala or hard cider are all good choices. Note that acidity weakens the thickening power of flour or cornstarch. If you are adding an acidic ingredient such as wine, set aside some liquid (say 1 tbsp/15 mL per 1 cup/250 mL) at the start of the recipe. Then whisk some or all of that reserved liquid into the finished gravy to obtain the consistency you desire.
To make a super-velvety gravy, replace some of the stock with heavy cream (35%). Use up to 1 tbsp (15 mL) cream per 1 cup (250 mL) total liquid.
A recipe starting with 4 cups (1 L) stock (and other liquids) will make about 4 cups (1 L) gravy.
Fat: Drippings from a roast beef or bird are ideal, if you have them. Otherwise, choose a tasty fat, such as butter, bacon grease, duck fat or schmaltz.
Thickeners: Flour and cornstarch are the two traditional choices. Gravy made with flour is velvety; gravy made with cornstarch is silky. Although cornstarch has its advantages, I prefer to use flour. Cornstarch has more thickening power, and creates gravy that’s lighter and gluten-free. Unfortunately, cornstarch gravy looks gelatinous (especially as it cools) and is less stable (so the gravy loosens and thins as time passes).
The techniques and ratios for gravy prepared with flour vs. cornstarch are slightly different:
Per 4 cups (1 L) stock (and other liquids), use 1/4 cup (60 mL) fat and 1/2 cup (125 mL) flour.
Per 4 cups (1 L) stock (and other liquids), use 1/4 cup (60 mL) fat and 4 to 6 tbsp (60 to 90 mL) cornstarch.
Per 4 cups (1 L) stock (and other liquids), add 1 tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce or worcestershire sauce.
A Few Extra Tips
Submit your comment:
Home - Bio - Blog - Kitchen Secrets - Contact - Recipes - Media page coming soon