Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Gravy Train Stops Here

For the love of god and all that is good and holy, WHY do people insist on destroying gravy? I was lucky enough to dodge bad gravy this season, but I think back on what my father said to my mother the first time he brought her to his family's Thanksgiving, "don't touch the gravy. It's spackle." He was right. Eventually he broke down and chased his aunts out of the kitchen and commandeered the turkey drippings, thus saving gravy for all in attendance.

OK enough of that crap.

What you'll need:
  • a small pot (2 to 4 quarts)
  • a whisk
  • measuring spoons
  • fat separator or pyrex liquid measuring cup (that can hold hot liquids)

  • the drippings from the carcass (can be turkey or chicken)
    • for beef gravy, use "drippings" from beef, lamb, etc...
  • flour
  • animal fat (can use butter)
  • gravy master
  • chicken stock or water
  • salt & pepper to taste

Note: The Lingo
I'll be using words like roux and fond, so here are the definitions.
  1. Roux: a cooked mixture of wheat flour and fat
    • it's part of what makes mac & cheese sooooooo gooooood
  2. Fond: browned and caramelized bits of meat and vegetables stuck to the bottom of a pan after cooking a piece of meat
    • also known as "the goodness" or drippings

Step 1: Hold that turkey pan!
Do NOT let your mother, father, sister, brother, respective in-laws or great Aunt Tilly toss the disposable tin or roasting pan the turkey was occupying. This is the good stuff! This is the FOND! This is what turns so-so into OH YEAH!. Promptly put the tin or roasting pan on the stove and set the heat on about medium-ish. Your goal is to loosen up all that goodness and get it into a fat separator before someone tries to toss it out. As it heats up use some chicken stock or water, whatever you have on hand, to loosen the fond. Use a wooden spoon for this. You don't want to scratch the pan or poke a hole in the tin. Next thing you know you'll be scrubbing down the stove and people will hate you. So will I.

After you got as much loose as you can, put the fat separator in the sink - which SHOULD be empty - and carefully pour everything you have from the tin/pan into the fat separator.

Step 2: Roux you buddy!
I'm hoping you guys figured out that roux (pronounced like roo) is a French word. Love the food, culture & country - HATE the language. I get in a tizzy when there's a silent G in American words, so you can guess how I feel about the French language. However, they are the gold standard when it comes to this kinda thing, so I'll let it go...

Get that smallish pot I was talking about. Start off with 1 tablespoon of the fat that should be floating to the top of your fond. USE A MEASURING SPOON!! It's very important that you have EQUAL parts flour and fat. If you have a big crowd, that likes (your) gravy, use 2 tablespoons. The Container Store has a wonderful set of measuring spoons that have dry & liquid measure and they're magnetic!! Get some for stocking stuffers.

Put the pot on the stove and heat on medium-low for now. If you used 1 tablespoon of fat, use 1 tablespoon of flour. If you used 2 tablespoons of fat, use 2 tablespoons of flour - sensing a pattern here? Good. Whisk this together until the flour and fat are all incorporated. Very carefully pour the fond from the separator spout a little bit at a time and whisk it in until smooth. Don't just dump it all in at once like a ponce, that totally defeats the point of getting a fat separator. It would be better used to separate the fat from your head. You can tell which is which by looking at it. The fat will be much lighter in color and float to the top. That's where you get those sayings: "Cream rises to the top", "Cream of the crop", "Drowning: Easiest way to kill a size 0."

Moving on.

Step 3: 'Tis the seasoning
Bring the gravy to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Make sure you whisk it thoroughly to get our any lumps. Taste it and see how it is. Usually I add about a teaspoon of gravy master for color and flavor - mostly color. If your gravy is too thick, thin it out with some chicken stock or water. Add salt and pepper to your tastes. Remember that not everyone has the same salt tolerance as you, so go easy on the salt. You can add more but you can't take away.

Things to remember:
  • don't mix flour and cold water in a cold bowl and hope for the best
  • fat + flour = roux which = yum
  • never throw away meat or poultry drippings if you want to make gravy
  • whisk out the lumps

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