GRAVY I WILL DEFEAT YOU

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow USians, both those of you who celebrate its intended spirit and those who regard it as the PR campaign that it is, and also those of you who think of it as National Football & Food Coma Day. Personally I regard it as a day to polish up my cooking skills and test various experiments on hapless guinea pigs friends and family members who dare to eat the results. Already mentioned on Twitter that I would be making rosemary-crusted standing rib roast as the main dish; I’m not a fan of turkey, so when I have control of the menu I tend to make stuff I actually like. This year, however, I am particularly determined to master my nemesis:

…gravy. ::breaks out soapbox::

See, I hate gravy. I believe gravy is something intended to hide dryness and lack of flavor in meats like turkey that are easy to cook badly (though as Tante Marie says, it never really tastes good, so don’t worry about it). Therefore making meat juicy and flavorful obviates the need for gravy. But. Certain members of my Dad family, who Dad shall remain nameless Dad, and are unfortunately Dad locked into Dad unnecessarily conservative Dad and restrictive old-world paradigms Dad, demand gravy every #$@%damned year. So I make it only once a year. Badly, due to the lack of practice. Usually I keep a carton of Trader Joe’s gravy on hand as a backup in case my own goes horribly wrong… and, alas, I usually use it.

But not this year. This year I didn’t buy the TJ gravy. I will make it myself! It will have precisely the right combination of flour or cornstarch or whateverthehell is supposed to be in it. There will be no lumps! It will not solidify into an oatmeal-like mass this time! IT WILL BE GOOD.

::woosah::

Wish me luck.

This is also a chance to see folks I haven’t seen in awhile, so I’m going to be offline most of the day. Hope it’s a good day for you guys too.

9 Responses »

  1. Probably won’t help for today, but there’s a special type of flour called Wondra that is specifically for gravy — it’s very fine and dissolves easily. When I started using that, my gravy problems decreased dramatically.

  2. Gravy = flavour stuff + make thick stuff. When making from scratch your flavour stuff is usually some of the juices from the meat you’ve been cooking that are hanging around in the bottom of the pan. You could also use chicken/beef/veggie stock, herbs, spices, whatever really. The easiest make thick bit comes from corn flour. This next bit is important – never ever add corn flour to hot liquids. It will not stir in properly and you’ll have lumps. Always always add corn flour to room temp liquids. Always. If you need more make thick put some water in a cup, add in the extra corn flour, mix them together, *then* add it to the stuff you’d like thickened. Corn flour helps to make stuff thick once it heats up, so don’t panic if it doesn’t happen straight away.
    If that still doesn’t work, well, I always have great success with inviting the complaining party to do better or sit down, shut up and eat. Good luck!

  3. If it congeals too soon, add in a bit of chicken stock or broth until the right consistency is reached. Easy peasy and it adds flavor. Off to cook now, myself!

  4. I feel unqualified to comment, not being American, but when making sauces that need thickening, by far the easiest way to avoid clumping is to take a bit of flour, mix it up with a bit of warm (not hot) water, and then pour the thickening slowly into whatever needs to be thickened over purely symbolic heat until you achieve the desired consistency.

    On the other hand, in my mind, gravy is what you take from the bottom of the pan after meat of whatever variety has been in the oven, with all the veggies that had been cooked with the meat mashed, so that it thickens from tasty stuff, and not from clumpy stuff. Strained for extra smoothness, and perhaps with some white wine to give it some zing.

  5. You need gravy to put on the mashed potatoes, which are otherwise too dry. Even mashed with butter and milk. (Adding sour cream is cheating.)

    The thing is that beef gravy is thin and disappointing, whereas turkey gravies make themselves. I’ve never used thickening for gravy in my life, but I’ve never cooked beef. Maybe back in the days when beef cuts came with sufficient fat, the gravies were easy too? But if you have a fatty roast you can make Yorkshire pudding instead, which is FOOD OF THE GODS (but only when made with beef drippings) so why waste it on gravy?

  6. I used Alton Brown’s gravy recipe with the pan drippings from my turkey, and it worked almost perfectly. I say almost: the wheat flour lumped up, even with a whisk, so rather than mess with it, I ran it through a coarse strainer, which got the lumps strained out.

    Then it was perfect. And good on sandwich rolls with leftover turkey the next day.

    I suspect if I’d added it more slowly to the original drippings/stock/wine mixture, it would have been better.

  7. For good gravy you need rich drippings – for beef Consider french onion soup.
    seasoning I use pepper, salt garlic, onion, a little hot – like red pepper – bring meat (or can be vege) broth to a simmer

    add water to a jar – like an empty jelly jar ( about an inch) add 1-2 tablespoons of flour top with more water no more than 1/2 full cover jar and shake really well
    slowly pour and whisk flour water into the boiling broth – stir and low boil for 1 minute

    The jar shaken flour and water will eliminate lumps

  8. What Jeanette says. This trick was taught to me by the woman who taught me to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, except that she always used cornstarch. She was a friend of my mother’s and the mother of the family my family had Thanksgiving dinner with every year of my childhood. Then came the year neither mother wanted to cook the turkey, so I stepped up to be initiated. Some of the teachings I have discarded or reworked, but I always think (with thanks) of my teacher as I make the dinner.

    But anyway, if you mix your starch with water (preferably hot) by shaking it up in a little jar before adding it to the drippings/liquid, you should not have any lumps.

  9. Blasphemy! Long live gravy!!!