November 11, 2018

Southern Tomato Gravy

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Luscious tomato gravy is one of the hungry South’s great culinary inventions. It is often served with fried chicken or biscuits, but also delicious over grits, with greens and shrimp alongside. In fact, I developed tomato gravy for shrimp in my second cookbook, 200 Best Canned Fish and Seafood Recipes. Southern Tomato Gravy has since become one of my favourites. I have even served it with the festive turkey, to startle and delight in a not-so-traditional way. Need an all-purpose gravy guide? Hop on My Gravy Train.

4 slices bacon, thinly sliced crosswise
About 1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 extra small yellow onion (2 oz/60 g), finely chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) or more kosher salt
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup (30 mL) all-purpose flour (1-1/2 oz/45 g)
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) low-sodium chicken stock, divided
2 cups (500 mL) puréed canned San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy cream (35%)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground black pepper

In medium pan, cook bacon, stirring often, on medium heat 5 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to plate lined with paper towel.

Add enough oil to drippings in pan to equal 1/4 cup (60 mL). Heat on medium-low until shimmery. Add onion and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes, or until golden. Stir in garlic and thyme 20 seconds, or until fragrant. Stir in flour 1 minute, or until clumping.

Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in 1 cup (250 mL) stock, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in tomatoes. Add cream, 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt and pepper. Heat on medium. When mixture starts to simmer, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring often, 5 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Add some or all of remaining 1/4 cup (60 mL) stock to adjust consistency. Adjust salt.

Before serving, stir in bacon.

Makes 3-2/3 cups (900 mL).

Tool Time: Don’t go crazy puréeing the tomatoes, or they will turn pink and frothy. I use a hand-held blender for the task. To stir the gravy, I use a ball whisk, with open tines. Onions don’t get caught in it.

S is for San Marzanos: San Marzanos are top-quality Italian plum tomatoes. The canned ones are packed in thick juices.

Waste Not: I open a 28 oz (796 mL) can of tomatoes, then freeze the unused portion to later add to homemade tomato soup or marinara.