The Art of Gravy
by Patricia Mitchell
Cooks in years past didn't possess any particular secrets that led to consistently good gravy. The main thing they had going for them is that they made gravy all the time. It was the final step in preparing almost every meal. Actually, the cook started making the gravy after hollering, "Supper's ready," and by the time everybody got to the table, the gravy was ready. Done right, it's a quick process.
First of all, gravy is based upon the drippings of cooked meat, and it stands to reason that the better the meat, the better the gravy. Added to the drippings are additional liquids (water, broth, milk), a thickener (usually flour), and spices. No rocket science here.
Pan gravies are prepared quickly and served hot. They are made after the meat is cooked and removed from the pan. Red-Eye Gravy, Sawmill (or sausage) Gravy, Cream Gravy and Brown Gravy fall into this category of quick-fix gravies. Specific recipes are listed below, but we'll start with the basics.
Basic Pan Gravy
Sprinkle the flour over the heated drippings, and stir it constantly so that the flour "cooks" for about a minute. Then gradually add the liquid, stirring constantly, until the gravy begins to thicken and bubble. Add the salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat, pour the gravy into your prettiest gravy boat, and you're done.
"But," you moan, "I've tried that before and it was a disaster." Well, you probably tried it once and never tried it again, or you waited too long before your second attempt. I cannot emphasize enough that perfect gravy comes with the knowledge and skill born of frequent practice. But here are some tips:
Red-Eye GravyThis flavorful ham gravy contains no flour, so lumps are never a problem.
Over low heat, stir the brown sugar into the pan juices, stirring constantly until it dissolves. Stir in the coffee and simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Makes 5 or 6 servings.
I've heard good things about Red-Eye Gravy made with Coca-Cola, but I've never tried it, myself. You omit the brown sugar and coffee altogether, and substitute ½ cup of Coke. Anyone trying it is urged to let me know how it turns out.
Sawmill GravyA breakfast of sausage, biscuits and Sawmill Gravy is hard to beat.
Over low to medium heat, add the flour to the pan drippings, stirring constantly so that the flour "cooks" for about a minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened. Stir in the pepper and cooked, crumbled sausage, and cook until mixture is hot. Serve over biscuits.Chicken-Fried Steak or Fried Chicken. Or anything. A little practice will have you dishing up perfect cream gravy in a few minutes.
Return 3 tablespoons of the pan drippings to your skillet, keeping as many as possible of the browned, crusty bits in the pan. Over low to medium heat, add the flour to the pan drippings, stirring constantly so that the flour "cooks" for about a minute.
Gradually add the liquid, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened. Stir in the salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Serve hot.
Texans don't always fry their food. Suppose your delectable pot roast is done, and you want to turn its pot liquor into gravy. Or it's Thanksgiving, and you know that means Giblet Gravy. Read on.
Pot Roast Gravy (from Grandma's Pot Roast with Vegatables and Gravy)
More Gravy & Stocks:The Giblets: I use just the liver and pieces off the neck (I give the gizzard to the cat, and my husband eats the heart.) I always cook the neck with the turkey -- tuck it down in a corner of the pan. You can cook the liver the same way: submerge it in the broth about 40 minutes before you expect the turkey to be done, or you can put it in a small saucepan, cover with a cup or so of water and simmer it for 40 minutes. Since burner space is at a premium when preparing a Holiday meal, I usually opt for the cook-it-with-the-turkey method.
Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan until it is bubbly, sprinkle in the flour and stir quickly for a minute or so to cook the flour. Slowly stir in the turkey drippings and chicken stock, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the gravy is smooth and thickened. (Note about lumps: Lumps are nothing to be embarrassed about. They happen. If you've got some lumps and want to get rid of them, strain the gravy now because you won't be able to after you add the giblets.)
Reduce heat to low, and check the seasonings. Add salt and pepper only if you think it is necessary. Some people (me) like to add a tablespoon or two of sherry at this point. It adds a wonderful, mellow flavor. Just use regular, dry sherry -- not sweet sherry, and definitely not cooking sherry. Then, add the giblets and simmer for about 10 minutes.
You can make your gravy early, keep it warm, and heat it back up a bit just before serving, if you like.
I'll admit that the title of this article, "The Art of Gravy," is somewhat misleading. It suggests that the talent for gravy-making is something one is born with and not learned. That's not true. Making consistently good gravy, however, does require a little practice, the ability to make some quick moves, and good taste buds. But don't let me scare you. There's a very good chance you'll get it right the first time.
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