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Culinary Lesson #11 - Gravy

Monday, November 12, 2012

Q10:  The last time I made gravy, it turned out quite a bit thinner than I was expecting.  I was able to save it with some Wondra, but for future reference, is there a standard recipe to follow when making gravy?

A10:  The list of ingredients will vary quite a bit depending on how much time you intend to put into your gravy and what you intend to make alongside of it, but for the most part, there are definitely some basic proportions to put into memory.  In general, I typically stick with the following recipe (which serves 3-4), giving you a 1:1:8 proportion.

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low sodium broth
Salt and pepper, to season

Assuming you're limited on time, the above recipe will do the trick by creating a white roux with the melted butter and flour, cooking and whisking for a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste, gradually whisking in the broth, and then finishing with salt and pepper to taste.

But what if you have an extra 30 minutes, some basic vegetables on hand, and some dried or fresh herbs; is it worth going the extra step?  Of course!  The flavor you can get out of a standard mirepoix [meer-PWAH] (carrot, celery, and onion) alongside herbs such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and sage, will elevate your gravy to the next level.

Begin by heating some oil and/or butter and sauteing your mirepoix until soft and caramelized.  If you're using dried herbs, you can add them at this point.  Next, deglaze your pan either with a little white wine (and then broth), or just broth.  All of the caramelized bits from the pan translate into depth and flavor, so be sure to whisk them into the broth.  Let everything simmer for a good 15 minutes, and then strain the mixture using a mesh sieve.  Create a roux just like before, and then slowly incorporate your new-and-improved broth.  If using fresh herbs, chop finely and incorporate into the gravy at this point.  Finish with a splash of cream if desired.

Now what if you're making a roast chicken or turkey, and will essentially be making your own broth?  Why not go even one step further and use all of that fresh, homemade flavor in your gravy?  While your chicken or turkey is resting before being sliced, strain the drippings from your pan, skim off any fat, and follow the general process described above.

Gravy is nothing more than a velouté and can be tuned to your tastes assuming the basic 1:1:8 proportion is followed.  If you're in charge of cooking this Thanksgiving, try adding one ingredient to your gravy that you haven't thought of using in the past (whether it is sauteed mushrooms, shallots, fresh thyme, your favorite white wine, etc.) and enjoy!

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