“Gravy is the simplest, tastiest most memory-laden dish I know…”
The Unsung Hero of the Holiday Table
This is more a plea than it is an actual essay this week… I am begging you to please make your gravy from scratch. It is so simple and requires only the most basic of ingredients, all of which you most certainly have in your kitchen already. The roast or bird will provide all of the flavour enhancers you will ever need I promise. There are a few simple rules you need to know to produce the most delicious outcome. To say nothing of the terrifically rewarding and inevitable sighs of culinary pleasure from your guests.
I decided to cook a chicken in order to demonstrate the ease with which gravy is made. The fact is that you can use this technique to make a gravy from anything which produces fat during the cooking process. It’s always a good idea to start your bird (or rib roast, or tenderloin or goose or, okay well you get the point) sitting on a bed of aromatics, they add immeasurably to the eventual flavour of your gravy!
When you’re cooking a whole turkey you really have to use the neck and giblets. I don’t have a pic of this for you because as you can see I cooked a chicken… and honestly, they’re not exactly the most gorgeous part of the turkey… but the flavour!
Because the amount of fat created during cooking is going to be different for each and every one of us I won’t be providing exact amounts in a recipe format. I’m going to write the recipe in a point form at the bottom of the post today to hopefully make the steps clear for you.
The basic gist is that you’re trying combine approximately equal parts fat and flour over heat to create a roux. Then add broth and cook until the desired consistency is achieved.
The darker you want your gravy the longer you brown the roux… simple really. Yes a lot of people use colour enhancers, many professional kitchens use it, my Mum (who has always made the BEST gravy going) uses it… I don’t … I don’t know why, I just don’t. It doesn’t seem to need it in my opinion.
I also don’t baste… like honestly almost ever. Slather the bird (chicken, turkey or goose) in a thick coat of mayonnaise. Mayo NOT salad dressing… I kid you not, it’s an old French cuisine trick, although strangely I learned it from a nice Ukranian/Canadian girl about a million years ago. It gives the most wonderful golden finish.
Basically leave the bird alone unless your particular recipe calls for the addition of something mid way through cooking. Opening the oven repeatedly adds an insane amount of extra cooking time which no one wants.
When I think it’s done, it comes out and is given a poke with the thermometer… not 17 pokes with the oven rack half way out, you’re losing all your oven temp. Take it out and close the door, take its temp and when you’re there (165°F in case you’re wondering) place it on your carving surface and tent LOOSELY, you don’t want to coddle the poor thing. Now the magic begins!
Using a slotted spoon, remove the aromatics from your roasting pan and being careful to not burn yourself because you’ve forgotten the thing has been in a rather hot oven (oh wait that’s me …) stir the remaining pan drippings to loosen any deliciousness from the bottom of your pan. This is when you will need to guesstimate the amount of fat in your pan and add ABOUT the same amount of flour and whisk whisk whisk!
I actually use more flour than fat ‘cuz I like a nice thick gravy. This is personal choice, as is straining versus not straining (I don’t if you’re wondering) Beware while seasoning (particularly with salt) too early in the process as it can result in a sort of aggressively salty gravy once it’s reduced. Umami is always a good idea and it can come in many forms… soya sauce, worchestershire sauce or mushrooms perhaps. Worchestershire is my personal fave.
– Remove your cooked bird or roast from the roasting pan and tent loosely.
– Gently remove any aromatics from the pan and loosen what remains.
– Guesstimate the amount of fat in the bottom of the pan (in some unusual instances you may have to augment or remove some, although when is too much gravy a bad thing?)
– Over medium low heat slowly introduce about the same amount of flour as you have fat whisking vigourously all the while to create a roux. The longer you cook the roux the browner it will become. While this is happening it’s a good idea to heat the broth/liquid you will use. I typically have AT LEAST 4 cups of good quality broth heated and ready as well as the giblet cooking water.
– Once all the flour is introduced and combined to a smooth consistency you can slowly start adding your broth (& giblet cooking water if using and I highly recommend you do!) You can also feel free to add a slosh of wine at this point. My wine pairing consultants might heartily disagree with me but I personally go with whatever happens to be open and nearest at hand – it’s not a science.
– As there is a certain amount of reducing going on you will want to hold off on seasoning until near the end of cooking. Add salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce (or other as desired)
– Continue whisking until all your liquid is introduced to ensure you will have no lumps. Reduce heat to minimum and stir frequently, testing for seasoning and to ensure all flour taste has cooked off, until you’ve reached the desired consistency or until ready to serve dinner, heat serving vessel and cover if possible.
Wishing you all the very best over the holidays!
PS. Be Still & Eat is taking the week between Christmas and New Years off. I’ll be back with more Simply.Gorgeous.Food in 2017!